discharge tort' and does not 'strongly support'" its expansion).
Finally, we note that our interpretation of the relevant Illinois Supreme Court decisions supports the conclusion that it would not expand the tort's scope to reach principal-agent relationships. Illinois first recognized the tort of retaliatory discharge in Kelsay v. Motorola, 74 Ill. 2d 172, 384 N.E.2d 353, 23 Ill. Dec. 559 (1978). The Kelsay court deemed the tort necessary to provide an employee, who had virtually no bargaining power, with a remedy against his employer who had discharged him in contravention to the state's strong public policy. Kelsay, 384 N.E.2d at 357 (acknowledging that without this cause of action employees would face the "dilemma" of succumbing to an employer's threats or being discharged with no legal recourse); see also Wheeler, 485 N.E.2d at 379 (Moran, J., dissenting) (concluding that the impetus for the recognition of the tort "was the lack of any remedy available to employees in situations where they were discharged" in violation of a clearly mandated public policy) (emphasis added). The Kelsay court, however, did not merely wish to establish any remedy. Rather, it desired an effective remedy. The tort of retaliatory discharge fulfilled this goal by providing employees with the opportunity to recover punitive damages. Kelsay, 384 N.E.2d at 359.
The court's desire for an effective remedy, as opposed to merely any remedy, lead to its decision in Midgett v. Sackett-Chicago, Inc. 105 Ill. 2d 143, 473 N.E.2d 1280, 85 Ill. Dec. 475 (1984), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 909, 88 L. Ed. 2d 242, 54 U.S.L.W. 3253, 106 S. Ct. 278 (1985). In Midgett, the court extended the tort of retaliatory discharge beyond at-will employees. Midgett, 473 N.E.2d at 1283-84. The employees in Midgett were union employees who retained a contractual remedy under their collective bargaining agreement for being discharged without just cause. Id. The court's primary reason for extending the tort was that it deemed the contractual remedy "incomplete." Id. The court found the contractual remedy incomplete, in part, because it believed back pay and reinstatement to be an ineffective deterrent against an employer who violated an important public policy of the State. Id. at 1284. Additionally, the court was aware that the availability of relief under a collective bargaining agreement could be suspect due to a "union's reluctance to arbitrate, or . . . obstacles posed by federal preemption." Lamb v. Briggs Mfg., 700 F.2d 1092, 1096 (7th Cir. 1983). Therefore, due to these inadequacies with the contractual remedy, the court found it appropriate to extend the tort of retaliatory discharge beyond at-will employees.
The two underlying concerns articulated in these above-mentioned cases are not present here. We conclude that Plaintiffs, as agents, have a legal remedy available to them and that this remedy is effective. First, Plaintiffs have a remedy in the form of a breach of contract claim. Indeed, Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that Truckaway's termination was "in violation of the parties' agreement that the agency relationship would remain in full force and effect so long as Plaintiffs complied with lawful company procedures and fulfilled its obligations." Importantly, we note that the availability of a contractual remedy rather than the existence of one in fact is all that is required to find that a sufficient legal remedy exists here. There is no hint of unequal bargaining power between Plaintiffs and Truckaway. Indeed, Plaintiff-James Burke was a sophisticated individual who, among other things, established his own corporation, purchased insurance, hired employees, and bargained over fee schedules. This clearly was not a situation where the two parties did "not stand on equal footing" as in an employment at-will scenario. See Palmateer v. International Harvester Co., 85 Ill. 2d 124, 421 N.E.2d 876, 878, 52 Ill. Dec. 13 (1981). Thus, we conclude that Plaintiffs have an available legal remedy within the meaning of Kelsay, Palmateer, and Midgett whether or not they make good on their breach of contract claim.
Second, we also find Plaintiffs' breach of contract remedy to be an effective one. Agents who are wrongfully discharged by their principals will routinely seek compensatory damages well above those found in employer-employee discharge cases. Plaintiffs are no exception. They have pleaded compensatory damages of $ 275,000. This is far above the cost an employer would incur for back pay and reinstatement and provides a sufficient deterrent against potential indiscretions by a principal. Accordingly, the concern expressed by the Midgett court over the effectiveness of a contractual claim is not applicable. Moreover, unlike the Midgett employees, Plaintiffs' cause of action is not dependent upon a union's decision to pursue the claim. Accordingly, the potential damage award sought by Plaintiffs is effective within the meaning of Kelsay, Palmateer, and Midgett. We, therefore, conclude that neither the tort of retaliatory discharge nor punitive damages are available to Plaintiffs.
We reject Plaintiffs' argument that the tort of retaliatory discharge should be extended because to do so would further the Illinois Supreme Court's interest in protecting Illinois' important public policy. While the court has expressed its interest in protecting the State's public policy in its line of retaliatory discharge cases, to contend that this interest by itself justifies extending the tort represents a misunderstanding of the case law. In these cases, the Supreme Court has established a delicate formula in an attempt to strike the "proper balance" among employers', employees', and the public's interests. Palmateer, 421 N.E.2d at 878. Furthermore, as we noted above, existing legal remedies sufficiently protect the public in principal-agent discharge cases. As such, we reject Truckaway's argument.
In sum, we hold that the Illinois Supreme Court would not permit agents to pursue a claim for retaliatory discharge against their principals. We find support for such a conclusion in existing case law, the general aversion articulated by Illinois courts toward expanding the tort's scope, and our interpretation of the underlying concerns of the Illinois Supreme Court in initially recognizing this tort. We, therefore, find it appropriate to dismiss Plaintiffs' prayer for punitive damages.
For the foregoing reasons, Truckaway's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' prayer for punitive damages is granted.
Charles P. Kocoras
United States District Judge
Dated: December 5, 1991
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