Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stiles v. International BioResources

July 12, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


In this lawsuit, Plaintiff, Patrick Stiles ("Stiles"), alleges that Defendant, International BioResources, LLC ("IBR" or "the company"), violated the Illinois common law tort of retaliatory discharge by terminating his employment in response to his repeated internal complaints that the company was violating safety protocols. The Court has jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint [12] for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, which Defendant brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant's motion maintains that the Illinois Whistleblower Act (740 ILCS 174/1-174/35) ("IWA" or "the Act") preempts the common law tort of retaliatory discharge in whistleblower cases. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion [12] is denied.

I. Background*fn1

In July 2003, IBR hired Stiles to work as a Physician's Substitute at its Aurora, Illinois blood plasma collection center. His employment concluded (for the first time) in February 2004, when IBR closed the Aurora facility. Compl. ¶ 5. In August 2006, after IBR decided to reopen the Aurora location, the company rehired Stiles as the site's Center Manager-a job which came with more responsibilities than his previous position. Compl. ¶ 6.

After he was rehired, Stiles informed IBR that the Aurora facility was violating various safety protocols that apply to blood plasma centers, including protocols promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA"). Compl. ¶ 8. In the latter part of 2006, during a staff meeting in Rockford, Illinois, Stiles complained about violations of FDA-mandated training protocols. Soon thereafter, he sent an e-mail to IBR's Vice President of Operations, Jerome Parnell, stating that members of the Aurora staff lacked proper training and that the Aurora Physician's Substitute did not have corporate approval to perform her duties. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10. Subsequently, Stiles informed IBR management that the company's computerized Donor Maintenance System ("DMS") was outdated. He also informed management that IBR lacked an effective program for segregating the plasma of eligible and ineligible donors, including those who might have serious diseases like HIV. Finally, in May or early June 2007, Stiles told IBR that its Springfield, Illinois facility was accepting donors who were homeless, in violation of FDA protocols. Compl. ¶¶ 11-14.

Soon thereafter, IBR informed Stiles that in July 2007, the FDA would conduct an inspection of the Aurora facility, which needed a passing mark to sell plasma to pharmaceutical firms. Stiles alleges that in preparing for the audit, IBR engaged in unlawful activities, including falsifying documents, hiding files, and instructing Aurora employees to disregard standard operating procedures because the DMS could not generate desired reports. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.

Immediately after the (successful) audit, Stiles told three IBR managers, including Scott Ramsey, IBR Vice President of Unlicensed Centers, that the company had falsified records and deceived the FDA in order to pass inspection. In response, Parnell called Stiles on the telephone. Parnell told Stiles that the company had not lied to the FDA, and he ordered Stiles to apologize to Ramsey for his remarks. Stiles refused; the company fired him. Compl. ¶¶ 17-20.

In his complaint, Stiles alleges that the company terminated him because of his repeated complaints about IBR's alleged safety violations. He claims the company's actions violated public policy, jeopardizing the safety of public by compromising the safety of the blood supply.

II. Legal Standard on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1973 n.14). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563. The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

The federal notice pleading regime applies in federal courts, even when the parties are litigating a state cause of action. Illinois is a fact-pleading jurisdiction, which means that "a plaintiff must allege facts * * * to establish his or her claim as a viable cause of action." Napleton v. Village of Hinsdale, 891 N.E.2d 839, 845 (Ill. 2008) (emphasis added). Accordingly, a plaintiff in Illinois state court must state her allegations with "specificity," by "factually setting forth the elements necessary to state a cause of action." People ex. rel Scott v. Coll. Hills Corp., 435 N.E.2d 463, 467 (Ill. 1982). Not so in federal court: "Rule 8(a)'s notice pleading standard applies to * * * state law claims that are litigated in federal court" (Christensen v. County of Boone, Illinois, 483 F.3d 454,459 (7th Cir. 2007)), because the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to cases filed in federal court. See Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 473 (1965) ("Erie and its offspring cast no doubt on the long-recognized power of Congress to prescribe housekeeping rules for federal courts even though some of those rules will inevitably differ from comparable state rules.").

III. Analysis

In Illinois, the default rule is that an employee serves at the will of her employer, who may discharge her "for any reason, or no reason" at all. Zimmerman v. Buchheit of Sparta, Inc., 645 N.E.2d 877 (Ill. 1994); Fellhauer v. City of Geneva, 568 N.E.2d 870 (Ill. 1991). The common-law tort of retaliatory discharge is a "limited and narrow" exception to employment at-will. Turner v. Mem'l Med. Ctr, 911 N.E.2d 369, 374 (Ill. 2009); Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc., 384 N.E.2d 353, 356-57 (Ill. 1978) (first recognizing the tort of retaliatory discharge); see also Callahan v. Edgewater Care & Rehabilitation, 872 N.E.2d 551, 552 (Ill. App. Ct. 2007) (tracing the development of the tort). To prove retaliatory discharge, an employee must show that (1) the employer discharged the employee, (2) in retaliation for the employee's activities, and (3) that the discharge violates a clear mandate of public policy. Turner, 911 N.E.2d at 374; Fellhauer, 568 N.E.2d at 875; Barr v. Kelso-Burnett Co., 478 N.E.2d 1354, 1356 (Ill. 1985); Palmateer v. Int'l Harvester Co., 421 N.E.2d 876, 879-80 (Ill. 1981). In stating an exception to the general rule of at-will employment, the tort of retaliatory discharge "seeks to achieve 'a proper balance * * * among the employer's interest in operating a business efficiently and profitably, the employee's interest in ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.