727 P.2d 1050 (Alaska 1986), S-1096, Rutledge v. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Docket Nº:S-1096, S-1128.
Citation:727 P.2d 1050
Opinion Judge:BURKE, Justice.
Party Name:William J. RUTLEDGE, Appellant and Cross-Appellee, v. ALYESKA PIPELINE SERVICE COMPANY, Appellee and Cross-Appellant.
Attorney:Lee Holen, Johnson and Holen, Anchorage, for appellant and cross-appellee. Lawrence R. Trotter, Robert I. Shoaf, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Kenneth P. Eggers and Sema E. Lederman, Groh, Eggers & Price, Anchorage, for appellee and cross-appellant.
Judge Panel:Before RABINOWITZ, C.J., and BURKE, MATTHEWS, COMPTON and MOORE, JJ.
Case Date:November 14, 1986
Court:Supreme Court of Alaska
 
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Page 1050

727 P.2d 1050 (Alaska 1986)

William J. RUTLEDGE, Appellant and Cross-Appellee,

v.

ALYESKA PIPELINE SERVICE COMPANY, Appellee and Cross-Appellant.

Nos. S-1096, S-1128.

Supreme Court of Alaska

November 14, 1986

Page 1051

Lee Holen, Johnson and Holen, Anchorage, for appellant and cross-appellee.

Lawrence R. Trotter, Robert I. Shoaf, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Kenneth P. Eggers and Sema E. Lederman, Groh, Eggers & Price, Anchorage, for appellee and cross-appellant.

Before RABINOWITZ, C.J., and BURKE, MATTHEWS, COMPTON and MOORE, JJ.

OPINION

BURKE, Justice.

This appeal arises from a wrongful termination action filed by William Rutledge against Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (Alyeska). Rutledge appeals from both the trial court's refusal to allow him to amend

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his complaint, and the grant of directed verdicts to Alyeska on a number of his claims. We affirm the trial court on all issues.

  1. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

    A. Facts

    On October 4, 1982, Rutledge was working the night shift in an Alyeska control room. Rutledge had the window of the control room open, but Crewman Mike Overson closed the window because he was cold. Later, Overson began to light a cigarette. Rutledge told Overson that he could not smoke since he had closed the window, so Overson reopened the window. An argument ensued. Rutledge claims that Overson made a hostile movement toward him and, to defend himself, he put Overson in a restraint hold.

    During the struggle, Overson was thrown to the ground, and he claims he almost passed out twice for lack of oxygen. Overson also claims that Rutledge banged Overson's head into the wall three or four times and forced him to promise not to smoke in the room. Rutledge does not deny that the altercation occurred and that he restrained Overson on the floor.

    After Rutledge released Overson, they exchanged words. Overson then went to another part of the plant and called Supervisor Bill Daley. Daley went to see Overson and heard his story. Overson was writing his version of the incident when Daley arrived. After speaking with Overson, Daley went to see Rutledge. Rutledge did not deny the event and admitted that he lost his temper.

    Daley then met with both Overson and Rutledge. After speaking with them, Daley concluded that a possible solution would be to transfer Rutledge to another shift. This seemed to satisfy both men. Since Daley did not have the authority to order a transfer, he called his supervisor, Larry Planje, to discuss the situation. Daley and Planje had a lengthy conversation concerning possible transfers. Most of that discussion was repeated to Rutledge and Overson by Daley during the course of the telephone conversation. Daley testified that he told Planje during that conversation that Rutledge would not be surprised should other discipline be imposed. Daley then had both men finish their shifts. The crew was at the end of a week on and had a week off before returning to duty. Rutledge left believing that he would be reassigned to another shift when he returned to work the following week.

    The day after the fight, Planje read two reports of the incident, one from Daley and one from Overson. He decided that the altercation was more serious than he originally thought. He took the written reports to the plant's employee relations specialist, Virginia Hatch. Two days after the incident, on October 6, Rutledge was called into the office for a meeting with Planje and Hatch to give his version of the altercation. Overson was also called in to give his version of the event. He had little to add to his written report.

    In addition to recounting the events of October 4, Overson's report also discussed a prior unreported incident between Rutledge and another Alyeska employee, Tom Archer. This was Alyeska's first knowledge of this earlier incident. Hatch and Planje contacted Alyeska's labor relations specialist in Anchorage, Kathleen Carr, to discuss the October 4 altercation and related the information about the earlier incident.

    Hatch and Planje also notified Earl Boling, Alyeska's terminal superintendent, who met with them to discuss the problem. After recommendations from Hatch and Planje, as well as consultations with Carr, Boling decided to terminate Rutledge. On October 8, Boling sent Rutledge a termination letter. In it he indicated that since the investigation had determined that Rutledge was the aggressor in the altercation and since fighting was in violation of Alyeska's published company rules, the company must terminate him.

    Dissatisfied with the termination, Rutledge requested a personal meeting with Boling. Rutledge met with Boling, Planje

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    and Hatch one week after the altercation. At that meeting Rutledge submitted a letter to Boling outlining his complaints regarding the investigation and giving his version of the incident. In the letter, Rutledge protested the change in the discipline imposed from a change in shifts to termination. Rutledge also met with Boling privately after the group meeting concluded. He alleged that the investigation had not been conducted impartially and requested an independent third party investigator. Boling took the matter under advisement and subsequently consulted Carr in Anchorage. No change was made in the termination decision. Rutledge ultimately appealed his dismissal to the president of Alyeska, but he was again...

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