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Graves v. Man Group USA

March 27, 2007

NATHAN GRAVES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAN GROUP USA, INC., A NEW YORK CORPORATION, AND MAN FINANCIAL, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this case, Plaintiff Nathan Graves ("Plaintiff" or "Graves") has brought suit against his former employer alleging defamation per se, defamation per quod,*fn1 interference with a business relationship, and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). Defendants Man Group USA, Inc. and its subsidiary Man Financial, Inc. (collectively "Man" or "Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss, which is currently before me. For the reasons that follow, Man's motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Graves began his employment with Man in around April, 2003. His first position was as an Account Executive. Plaintiff alleges that he brought a client, R.G. Neiderhoffer & Associates Capital Management, Inc. ("RGNCM") with him to Man. At all relevant times, his direct supervisors were John Goldsberry ("Goldsberry") and Steve Monieson ("Monieson").

Periodically during his employment with Man, Plaintiff was treated for alcoholism, which included stints of hospitalization for rehabilitation.

Plaintiff alleges that in June or July of 2005, Monieson contacted Dean Phelps ("Phelps")-an employee of RGNCM-and told him that Plaintiff had threatened to kill Goldsberry and also threatened Monieson. Graves asserts that he never threatened Goldsberry or Monieson. Plaintiff further alleges that between July 6 and July 15, 2005, Peggy Peloso ("Peloso"),*fn2 a human resources representative for Man, allegedly spoke on the telephone with Plaintiff's wife regarding Plaintiff's threats to Goldsberry and others at Man. Plaintiff also alleges that Peloso had more than one telephone conversation with Plaintiff's sister in which Peloso allegedly told her that Graves had threatened Goldsberry and others. In August 2005, a sales trainee for Man Group, allegedly told a friend and business acquaintance of Plaintiff that Plaintiff had been terminated for "threatening a big shot."

Plaintiff further alleges that Man informed the Chicago Police Department of these alleged threats. Plaintiff asserts that these actions caused him to suffer severe fear and humiliation and that they prevented him from attending his grandfather's funeral. Plaintiff was notified of his termination from Man on August 1, 2005, effective later that month.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of a case. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). I should grant Man's motion to dismiss only if Plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Furthermore, I must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences from those facts in Plaintiff's favor. Cleveland v. Rotman, 297 F.3d 569, 571 (7th Cir. 2002). I may grant Man's motion only if "no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

B. Illinois Workers' Compensation Act

Man argues that Plaintiff's IIED, defamation, and tortious interference claims are barred by the exclusivity provision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, 820 ILL. COMP. STAT. 305/1 (2006) ("IWCA").

The IWCA provides the exclusive remedy for accidental injuries occurring in the workplace. Richardson v. County of Cook, 621 N.E.2d 114, 117 (Ill. App. Ct. 1993). To avoid preemption by the IWCA, Plaintiff must demonstrate one of the following: (i) the injury was not accidental; (ii) the injury did not arise from his employment; (iii) the injury was not received during the course of his employment; or (iv) the injury is not compensable under the Act. Meerbrey v. Marshall Field and Co., 564 N.E.2d 1222, 1226 (Ill. 1990); Richardson,621 N.E.2d at 117.

Man agues that Plaintiff's IIED claim is barred by the IWCA because Graves cannot establish any of the four exceptions noted above. Plaintiff counters by noting that at least two exceptions apply. He claims that his injuries were not accidental ...


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