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Lincoln v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

March 12, 2018

MARIANNE LINCOLN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

          ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's Motion for Reconsideration. Dkt. 27.

         The Order on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 26) granted dismissal of two claims, Unlawful Retaliation and Hostile Work Environment; granted partial dismissal of one claim, Disparate Treatment (sex and disability discrimination); and denied dismissal of two claims, Disparate Treatment (age discrimination) and Wrongful Discharge. Dkt. 26 at 20. Defendant seeks reconsideration of the ruling on the claim for Wrongful Discharge. Dkt. 27.

         The Order stated:

Although Defendant has requested summary judgment of dismissal for all claims, Defendant's briefing does not directly discuss the wrongful discharge claim. See Dkt. 1-13 at ¶6.4; Dkt. 15 at 20:8-13, 22:16-20, 23:13-16, 24:1-4; Dkt. 24. Wrongful discharge or termination is a distinct and discrete type of claim from a claim for unlawful retaliation. See, e.g, . Blinka v. Wash. State Bar Ass'n, 109 Wn.App. 575 (2001). Whether this omission was strategic or an oversight, Defendant has not met its burden to show summary judgment of dismissal. Defendant's motion should therefore be denied as to this claim.

Dkt. 26 at 18.

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c):

         A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Id. (emphasis added).

         Concededly the phrase “Defendant has not met its burden” (Dkt. 26 at 18) was inartful, because the word “burden” is commonly used and associated with obligation of nonmoving parties when responding to motions for summary judgment. What the Court intended to communicate, consistent with Rule 56(c), was that Defendant only cursorily referenced the Wrongful Discharge claim without “support[ing] the assertion” that there was no genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Dkt. 1-13 at ¶6.4; Dkt. 15 at 20:8-13, 22:16-20, 23:13-16, 24:1-4; Dkt. 24. For example, Defendant did not make the argument now made, Dkt. 35 at 1, that the Wrongful Discharge claim is subsumed by the WLAD Unlawful Retaliation claim. See Dkt. 15.

         Nevertheless, whether there is an issue of material fact as to the claim for Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy has now been squarely raised, and briefed by both parties. The Court turns to the merits of the claim.

         For claims of Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy, there are “four scenarios that . . . will potentially expose the employer to liability.” Rose v. Anderson Hay & Grain Co., 184 Wn.2d 268, 286-87 (2015), citing Gardner v. Loomis Armored Inc., 128 Wn.2d 931, 936 (1996). They are: (1) where the discharge was a result of refusing to commit an illegal act, (2) where the discharge resulted due to the employee performing a public duty of obligation, (3) where the discharge resulted because the ...


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