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Jackson v. United States Steel Corp.

April 3, 2006

JOHN JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is defendant United States Steel Corporation's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6) (Doc. 21.) After removal from Illinois state court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 4.) This court dismissed the case without prejudice for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 19.) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (Doc 20) and Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 21) with supporting memorandum (Doc. 22) and a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 23) with supporting memorandum (Doc. 24).

According to Plaintiff, in 2004, he was employed by Wright Industrial Maintenance, Inc. and Wright Industrial, Inc. ("Wright") as a laborer. (Doc. 20, Count I, ¶ 3, Count II, ¶ 3.) Plaintiff alleges this employment relationship with Wright arose out of and was subject to a collective bargaining agreement between Wright and a local union, of which Plaintiff was a member. (Id. at Count I, ¶¶ 3--4, Count II, ¶ 3.) Plaintiff states that the agreement only allowed Wright to terminate employment when "for cause." (Id. at Count I, ¶ 3, Count II, ¶ 3.) While employed by Wright, Plaintiff worked at Defendant's business in Madison County, Illinois, where Plaintiff allegedly suffered a work-related injury, specifically second degree burns to his legs, shortly prior to June 15, 2004. (Id. at Count I, ¶ 5, Count II, ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that on or about June 15, 2004 Defendant refused to let him return to its premises to work. (Id. at Count I, ¶ 6, Count II, ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff alleges Defendant had knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement between Wright and Plaintiff, a member of the Union, and Defendant was aware that the agreement prohibited Wright from terminating the Plaintiff's employment except "for cause." (Id. at Count I, ¶¶ 7(a)--(b), Count II, ¶ 5.) Allegedly, Defendant was aware that the relationship created by the collective bargaining agreement created an expectation that the relationship would continue in the future. (Id. at Count II, ¶ 5.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was aware that if it prohibited Plaintiff from working on its property, Plaintiff would not work at all for Wright, as Defendant was Wright's largest contract. (Id. at Count I, ¶ 7(d).) As a result, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant induced Wright to breach the contractual relationship that existed between Wright and Plaintiff by terminating him on or about June 15, 2004. (Id. at Count I, ¶¶ 7(c), 10, Count II, ¶¶ 7, 10.) Finally, Plaintiff states he suffered and continues to suffer damages, including wage loss, loss of benefits, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering as a result of Defendant's interference. (Id. at Count I, ¶ 11, Count II, ¶¶ 10--11.)

Count I of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges tortious interference with a contract. (Id. at p. 1.) Count II claims tortious interference with a prospective economic advantages. (Id. at p. 4.) Both counts seek both compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000. (Id. at pp. 3, 5.) Defendant argues that Plaintiff is improperly "alleging a claim for retaliatory discharge against defendant" under the guise of tortious interference claims. (Doc. 22, p. 1.) Therefore, the Court will examine Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint under the appropriate legal standards to determine if Plaintiff has plead a valid claim.

For the reasons addressed below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is DENIED. Accordingly, because Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is based on similar arguments, it is also DENIED.

II. ANALYSIS

A. MOTION TO DISMISS

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted. See FED.R. CIV.P. 12(b)(6). As part of its scrutiny, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff. See Szumny v. Am. Gen. Fin., 246 F.3d 1065, 1067 (7th Cir. 2001) (applying this standard to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion). The purpose of a motion to dismiss is not to decide the merits of the challenged claims but to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Weiler v. Household Fin. Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 524 n. 1 (7th Cir. 1996). Under the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, detailed facts are unnecessary in a complaint. Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 714 (7th Cir. 2006) ("It is enough to name the plaintiff and the defendant, state the nature of the grievance, and give a few tidbits (such as the date) that will let the defendant investigate."). A court will grant a motion to dismiss only if it is impossible for the plaintiff to prevail under any set of facts that could be proven consistent with the allegations. Forseth v. Village of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2000).

B. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

Defendant argues in his Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Docs. 21 & 22.) Defendant claims that Plaintiff alleges a retaliatory discharge claim couched in tortious interference claims, and argues that Plaintiff should be instead suing his employer, Wright, under retaliatory discharge, rather than Defendant. (Doc. 22, p. 1.) However, this is not a retaliatory discharge claim. Instead, Plaintiff sufficiently pleads proper claims for tortious interference with a contract and tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage.

1. Tortious Interference with a Contract

In order to properly plead a claim for tortious interference with a contract,*fn1 Plaintiff must plead the following elements: (1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract; (2) defendant's awareness of the contract; (3) defendant's intentional and unjustified inducement of a breach of the contract; (4) damages. See Cody v. Harris, 409 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing HPI Health Care Serv., Inc. v. Mt. Vernon Hosp., Inc., ...


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