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WHITCHURCH v. APACHE PRODS. CO.

February 21, 1996

WILLIAM WHITCHURCH, Plaintiff,
v.
APACHE PRODUCTS COMPANY, and JAMES BURGESS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO

 Plaintiff William Whitchurch sues defendants Apache Products Company and James Burgess, Apache's Chief Executive Officer, alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. The defendants' motion for summary judgment is presently before the Court.

 RELEVANT FACTS

 At the age of 16, Whitchurch injured his back in a car accident. Id., P 11. Complications from the injury persisted through adulthood and, as a result, Whitchurch was forced to use a cane, leg brace or a walker at different times. Id., P 12. Whitchurch also underwent several back surgeries during his employment at Apache. Id., PP 13, 15, 17. After his last surgery in June of 1992, Whitchurch requested and received a motorized electric cart from Apache which enabled him to move around the plant more easily. Id., P 19.

 In November of 1992, Burgess purchased a 75 foot laminator for the Belvidere plant. Id., P 24. He planned to replace the existing 40 foot laminator, and, in turn, increase the plant's production. Id., P 22, 25. Burgess asked Whitchurch to store the new laminator at the Belvidere plant and to make arrangements for installing the new equipment. Id., PP 27-28.

 Shortly after the new laminator was purchased in December 1992, Whitchurch's 1992 performance evaluation was prepared. Id., P 30. Burgess gave Whitchurch an overall rating of outstanding, commended Whitchurch's accomplishments in the area of cost reduction and control, and stated, "Bill is the best Plant Manager at Apache." Id., PP 30-31; Plaintiff's Rule 12(N) Statement of Additional Facts ("Pl.'s Facts"), P 4. However, Burgess also remarked that Whitchurch needed to work on being a little more flexible and that he was obstinate. Defs.' Facts, P 32.

 After completing plans to install the new laminator, Whitchurch prepared a memo to Burgess dated January 14, 1993, in which he detailed those plans, including the construction of a $ 3 million warehouse in which the new laminator would be installed. Id., P 33. Burgess informed Whitchurch that Apache could not afford to build the proposed new warehouse and suggested that the new laminator should be installed in the space of the existing equipment by reversing the production lines. Id., P 34.

 In response, Whitchurch submitted a second memo to Burgess dated February 8, 1993, stating that Burgess' idea for installing the new laminator by reversing the lines had been considered but the plan was not feasible for several reasons, id., PP 36, 38, including disruption of the plant's operations and the physical limitations of the old building. Whitchurch therefore reiterated his proposal for a new warehouse. Id., P 36. After receiving Whitchurch's second memo, Burgess traveled to the Belvidere plant and investigated the possibility of installing the new laminator in the existing warehouse. Id., P 39. The parties dispute what, if any, specific instructions were given to Whitchurch regarding the installation of the new laminator after Burgess' visit to the Belvidere plant. Whitchurch claims that he never received specific written or oral instructions to install the laminator according to Burgess plan. Apache, conversely, contends that Burgess explicitly directed Whitchurch to install the new laminator in place of the old equipment after Burgess' visit to the Belvidere plant during the late winter of 1993.

 Whitchurch's employment with Apache ended on June 30, 1993. On July 12, 1993, Apache appointed 39 year old Bob Wilson to replaced Whitchurch as the new Belvidere Plant Manager. Id., P 59; Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's 12(N) Statement of Additional Facts ("Defs.' 12(N) Resp."), P 16.

 LEGAL STANDARDS

 Summary judgment is proper only if the record shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A genuine issue for trial exists only when the evidence could allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). The court must view all evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Valley Liquors, Inc. v. Renfield Importers, Ltd., 822 F.2d 656, 659 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 977, 98 L. Ed. 2d 486, 108 S. Ct. 488 (1987), and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Santiago v. Lane, 894 F.2d 218, 221 (7th Cir. 1990). However, if the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Flip Side Prods., Ltd. v. Jam Prods., Ltd., 843 F.2d 1024, 1032 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 909, 102 L. Ed. 2d 249, 109 S. Ct. 261 (1988). In determining whether a genuine issue exists, the court "must view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254. In making its ...


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