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Davis v. Olin Corp.

December 16, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on defendant United Steelworkers of America's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 43), defendant Olin Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 45), and defendants Primex Technology and General Dynamics' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47). Plaintiff Ralph J. Davis has responded to Olin's motion (Doc. 52, and filed a sur-reply, Doc. 54), responded to the United Steelworkers' motion (Doc. 51), and failed to respond to Primex Technology and General Dynamics' motion. Plaintiff's sur-reply is STRICKEN pursuant to S.D. Ill. Local R. 7.1(c). For the following reasons, Defendants' motions for summary judgment will be GRANTED.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. This standard is applied with special scrutiny in cases, such as employment discrimination cases, that often turn on issues of intent and credibility. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.

II. Background

Plaintiff filed this suit, without the benefit of counsel, in state court on December 2, 2004 and Defendants were served December 6. Defendants subsequently removed this action to this Court January 4, 2005. Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, the admissible evidence establishes the following facts.

Plaintiff began his employment with Olin Corporation ("Olin") in August, 1981. While employed at Olin's facility in Marion, Illinois, Plaintiff was a member of the union, the United Steelworkers of America, Local 15009 ("Union"). While working for Olin, he developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which made it impossible for him to continue working. Plaintiff has not worked since September 2, 1992. Olin terminated Plaintiff's employment on March 1, 1996 pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") entered into between the Union and Olin. Under Article VI of the CBA, an employee could be terminated and his seniority broken by, among other things, a medical leave of absence for 36 months. Plaintiff learned of his termination in November or December of 1996. When he learned of his termination, Plaintiff contacted a union representative, who filed a grievance on his behalf and obtained holiday and vacation pay for Davis. Davis did not contact a union representative again until 2000. In December 2000, Davis complained to Dave Dowling, the local union representative, about vacation and holiday benefits he felt he was do. Davis contacted Dowling again with various complaint several times in 2002, and several more times in 2004. Davis has not received a paycheck or any other documentation evidencing continued employment or accrual of seniority from Olin, Primex, or General Dynamics since 1996.

At some point, Davis filed a workers' compensation claim for his work-related injuries.*fn1

Davis settled this claim in the form of an Illinois Industrial Commission Settlement Contract Lump Sum Petition and Order ("Settlement Agreement"). In that Agreement -- signed November 2, 2001, approved November 23, 2001 -- Davis agreed to accept $100,000.00 "as a full, final and complete settlement of any and all claims for disability and lost time benefits pursuant to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act." (Doc. 46, Ex. C). Plaintiff has been paid the money due under the settlement. Complicating matters somewhat here, is the fact that one of the parties to this action no longer exists as a corporate entity. Effective January, 1, 1997, Olin orchestrated a spinoff of its Marion facility, creating Primex Technologies ("Primex"), an independent corporation. Defendant General Dynamics subsequently purchased Primex, and Primex no longer exists as a corporate entity.

III. Analysis

Davis currently receives a pension from Olin, which is based upon the seniority he accrued until his termination in 1996 -- he continued to accrue seniority for pension purposes while he was on medical leave. He claims his termination violated the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act because he was terminated while he had a pending workers' compensation claim. Because he was terminated unlawfully, he claims he should be entitled to a pension benefit calculated as if he continued to work for Olin (then Primex and General Dynamics) until he would have retired -- sometime in 2003. Primex and General Dynamics should be liable for these benefits as well, he maintains, for if he would not have been terminated, he would have become an employee of Primex, then General Dynamics, like the other employees of the Marion facility. For the same reasons, Davis claims he is entitled to holiday and vacation benefits from these companies as well. Davis also claims the Union should be liable for these benefits as a result of its failure to include a provision in the CBA governing workers' compensation claims and its failure to file a grievance on his behalf in response to complaints he lodged with the local Union representative. Olin denies liability in this case for a number of reasons. Principally, Olin maintains it terminated Davis as allowed under the CBA. It denies the IWCA provides for liability under the circumstances, and that even if he could state a claim under the Act, Olin argues that such claim would be barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Further, Olin argues that any claim for additional benefits for his work-related injuries is barred by the settlement of his workers' compensation claim. General Dynamics and Primex claim Plaintiff never became an employee of either company. For this reason, they claim they cannot be held liable for benefits under any theory of wrongful termination. Finally, the Union argues that the only theory under which it could be liable would be for a breach of its duty of fair representation. Any claim under that theory, according to the Union, would be barred by applicable statute of limitations. They maintain that even if the statute of limitations did not bar this action, summary judgment should be entered in their favor because Plaintiff has failed to introduce any evidence showing they acted in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner and that they did not act in bad faith.

A. Davis's Claims against Olin

It appears Davis makes two claims against Olin. First, he contends his termination was in violation of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act because he was terminated while he had a workers' compensation claim. Second, he appears to claim the company should have provided or paid for medical procedures to allow him to return to work. In his pleading entitled "More Definite Statement", Davis explains that if "the company would of fixed me up and let me return back to work I would have had my Life, Liberty, And pursuit of Happiness." He continues, "Because of the Company's Dispute with the Doctors about my injuries, I have lost my Life, Liberty, And Pursuit of Happiness." That these are his two primary claims against Olin was confirmed in his deposition. Davis goes in another direction altogether in his response to ...

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