Chen v. Wayne State Univ., Docket No. 283420.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation284 Mich. App. 172,771 N.W.2d 820
Decision Date02 June 2009
Docket NumberDocket No. 283575.,Docket No. 283420.
771 N.W.2d 820
284 Mich. App. 172
Docket No. 283420.
Docket No. 283575.
Court of Appeals of Michigan.
Submitted May 12, 2009, at Detroit.
Decided June 2, 2009, at 9:10 a.m.

[771 N.W.2d 824]

Eisner & Mirer, P.C. (by Jeanne Mirer and Eugene Eisner), for the plaintiff.

Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. (by Donna J. Donati and Megan P. Norris), Detroit, for defendants.

Before: BORRELLO, P.J., and MURPHY and M.J. KELLY, JJ.


In these consolidated appeals, plaintiff Dr. Kuo-Chun Chen appeals by leave

771 N.W.2d 825

granted the trial court's orders granting summary disposition in favor of defendant Wayne State University (the University). In Docket Number 283420, Chen argues that the trial court, which was sitting as the circuit court, erred when it dismissed under MCR 2.116(C)(10) Chen's claims of age and national origin discrimination and retaliation. In Docket Number 283575, Chen argues that the trial court, which was sitting as the Court of Claims, erred when it refused to permit him to amend his complaint to add new parties and new theories of recovery. We conclude that we lack jurisdiction to hear Chen's claims of error in Docket Number 283575 and that the trial court did not err when it dismissed Chen's claims in Docket Number 283420. For these reasons, we dismiss the appeal in Docket Number 283575 and affirm in Docket Number 283420.


This case has its origins in the progression of Chen's career at the University over a period of more than 25 years. Chen is a citizen of the United States, but was born in China and speaks English with a Chinese accent. The University hired Chen as an associate professor for its department of biological sciences in 1968. Chen's field of study is genetics. He became a tenured associate professor in 1971.

Before joining the University's faculty, Chen began the development of a device, which he called the Microwave Guide Exposure System (the Microwave Device), with his former roommate at graduate school. Chen completed the Microwave Device with the help of others after he joined the University. He assigned his patent rights to the University, which obtained a patent for it in 1982. The University released the patent to Chen in 1995.

Chen apparently did not have any serious difficulties at the University until after Dr. Albert Siegel became the department's chairperson in 1972. Dr. John Taylor, who joined the department's faculty in the same year as Chen, testified that Chen apparently did not like Siegel. Taylor said that Siegel treated Chen as though he were a "pseudo molecular biologist" and believed that Chen's courses were "out-of-date or just plain wrong." Indeed, Taylor stated that Siegel and some other faculty members had their graduate students leave Chen's courses. In a memo written some years after Siegel's chairmanship, Taylor stated that Siegel tried to "change [Chen], then isolated him and then gave up." Siegel testified that the problems he had with Chen were related to Chen's ability to get things done on his own. Siegel explained that other professors who had inadequate space worked hard at improving their space, "got their research programs well funded and started right in working and attracting graduate students and did the best they could under the circumstances." Siegel stated that the problem with Chen was that he "was not of that nature. He didn't try to help himself."

Chen testified at his deposition that Taylor was apparently jealous of Chen's achievements and status and alleged that Taylor used his position to impede Chen's efforts at the University. Specifically, Chen noted that Taylor was apparently bothered by the fact that the University hired Chen as an associate professor whereas the University hired Taylor as an assistant professor. Although Chen started

771 N.W.2d 826

as an associate professor, Taylor eventually surpassed Chen and became a full professor. In addition, in 1974, Taylor replaced Siegel as the department's chairperson.

Taylor testified that he was not jealous of Chen and that he and Chen were originally friends. He stated that they spent a significant amount of time together when they first joined the University. Taylor also stated that he supported Chen by acting as an intermediary in the acquisition of devices for Chen's lab. Taylor testified that, after he became the department's chairperson, he met with Chen and recognized that Chen had inadequate lab space. Taylor stated that he tried to help Chen by moving him to a better lab and also tried to obtain funds to modernize Chen's lab. However, he was unable to help Chen because Chen's "tastes were always better than what I could afford" and Chen would not compromise. Taylor stated that he eventually gave up trying to help Chen.

Chen also testified that Taylor was biased against him because of his Chinese national origin, which was shown by the fact that Taylor referred to him as being "Chinese Mafia." Taylor admitted that he had used the phrase "Chinese Mafia," but said that he did not direct it at Chen. Taylor explained that Chen had asked him for assistance in a business matter involving his brother-in-law, who lived in Taiwan. Taylor stated that he referred Chen to a friend who was Chinese for help with the business matter. Taylor said that his friend called him and indicated that Taylor and Chen might want to avoid dealings with Chen's brother-in-law. After that, Taylor stated that he would use the phrase "Chinese Mafia" in connection with discussions concerning Chen's brother-in-law.

Dr. David Adamany, who was the University's president, testified that Taylor was a productive researcher and that he was appointed to chair the department in an effort to strengthen the department's research program. Adamany stated that faculty members who were not active researchers resisted Taylor's efforts. He stated that the relations between Taylor and those faculty members eventually deteriorated to the point that the department was no longer able to make progress on improving research. Dr. Robert Arking testified that he was a full professor in the department and that he had served on various committees. He stated that Taylor had favorites on the faculty and that Chen was not one of them. Arking said that the faculty committee eventually asked Taylor to step down as chairperson because of issues with hiring, the budget, and faculty relations.

About 1980, Chen requested a promotion to full professor. Chen testified that Taylor handled the request and deliberately refused to submit Chen's request to the faculty. Chen admitted that there was an advisory committee that considered his request, but stated that Taylor controlled this committee. Arking testified that it was possible to get promoted without the support of the chairperson, but that it would be more difficult. Taylor stated that the committee considered Chen's promotion to full professor in 1980 and 1981 and decided not to recommend promotion to the faculty in both years. Taylor stated that he did not oppose Chen's promotion.

Chen testified that he also had a condition that caused an irregular heartbeat. According to Chen, starting in about 1980, the stress of his job triggered problems with his condition. Chen stated that this condition sometimes interrupted his work

771 N.W.2d 827

and that he even collapsed once during class and had to be rushed to the hospital. Chen testified that Taylor was aware of his condition. He ultimately had the condition surgically corrected in 1991.

In 1987, Siegel again briefly served as the chairperson for the department. During that time, Siegel wrote a memo to Chen noting that Chen had made a conscious decision to stop researching and advising Chen that, for that reason, he would have to teach more classes. Siegel testified that, after he assigned Chen more classes, there was a constant stream of complaints by undergraduate students concerning the students' ability to understand Chen. On the basis of these complaints, Siegel recommended that Chen seek help at the University's English Language Institute, but Chen refused. Siegel stated that Chen did not acknowledge a problem and blamed the students.

Dr. Stanley Gangwere replaced Siegel as the department's chairperson later in 1987. Gangwere testified that Taylor was a controversial chairperson and, for that reason, he tried to "separate" himself "from any association" with Taylor's policies. Chen testified that Taylor appeared to have a good relationship with Gangwere. Chen further testified that, from the beginning, Gangwere refused to support him and Chen opined that this must have been the result of Taylor's influence over Gangwere. Gangwere stated that Taylor did not advise him and that he had official and unofficial complaints about Chen by students concerning their ability to understand Chen's English.

In 1988, the University began a renovation and construction project. To accommodate the renovations, the department temporarily rearranged the lab and office assignments for the faculty. Gangwere asked Chen to vacate his current lab and office so that Taylor could occupy it along with some adjacent space that Chen had requested earlier. Gangwere temporarily assigned Chen space in the natural sciences building. Because the new lab space was smaller, Gangwere gave Chen, as he did every professor, the option of placing some of his property in storage for the duration of the renovation. Chen elected to have his Microwave Device placed into storage.

Chen disliked the new lab and refused to use it. He indicated that the lab was too small and had large vent fans that made it unacceptable for use as a lab. Arking testified that Chen's new lab was very small, but had adequate utilities and could be used for research. Gangwere testified that almost every professor lost space during the renovation period. Indeed, Dr. Dwight...

To continue reading

Request your trial
64 cases
  • Moody v. Home Owners Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 25 Febrero 2014
    ...and application of both statutes and court rules are questions of law that are reviewed de novo. Id.; Chen v. Wayne State Univ., 284 Mich.App. 172, 191, 771 N.W.2d 820 (2009). We conclude that nothing in MCL 600.8301(1), MCR 2.227(A)(1), or MCR 2.116(C)(4) requires that a court limit its ju......
  • Major v. Vill. of Newberry
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 2 Agosto 2016
    ...adverse employment action in one employment context might not be actionable in another employment context." Chen v. Wayne State Univ., 284 Mich.App. 172, 201, 771 N.W.2d 820 (2009) (citations omitted). " ‘ "[T]ermination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a......
  • Elia Cos. v. Univ. of Mich. Regents
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 21 Enero 2021
    ...of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim seeking money damages. See Chen v. Wayne State Univ. , 284 Mich. App. 172, 197-198, 771 N.W.2d 820 (2009).There appears to be no real dispute that neither of plaintiff's complaints were verified within the meanin......
  • Gibbs v. Voith Indus. Servs., Inc., Case No. 13–cv–13476.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 9 Octubre 2014
    ...discipline. She has not shown that the threat of discipline had any material effect on her employment. See Chen v. Wayne State Univ., 284 Mich.App. 172, 771 N.W.2d 820, 839 (2009) (“[T]here must be an objective basis for demonstrating that the employment action is adverse because a plaintif......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT