Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, No. 97SC821

Docket NºNo. 97SC821
Citation978 P.2d 663
Case DateJanuary 11, 1999
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 663

978 P.2d 663
14 IER Cases 1232, 1999 CJ C.A.R. 155
COORS BREWING COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
David J. FLOYD, Respondent.
No. 97SC821.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
Jan. 11, 1999.

Page 664

Hall & Evans, L.L.C., Daniel R. Satriana, Steven M. Gutierrez, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner

Cheryl Redmond Doyle, Denver, Colorado, Eugene F. Tardy, Lakewood, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent

Arckey & Reha, L.L.C., Thomas J. Arckey, Jeffrey Menter, Littleton, Colorado, Sander N. Karp, Julie Berquist, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association

Justice BENDER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

In this case, we decide whether the court of appeals correctly reversed the trial court's dismissal of two of David Floyd's tort claims against his former employer, the Coors Brewing Company (Coors). We hold that Floyd failed to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress by outrageous conduct because Coors's alleged behavior does not rise to the high level of outrageous conduct required under our case law. We also hold that Floyd failed to state a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy because he did not allege that he refused to participate in the illegal conduct. Therefore, on these two issues, we reverse the court of appeals decision, Floyd v. Coors, 952 P.2d 797 (Colo.App.1997), and we remand this case with instructions that the court of appeals return the case to the trial court for dismissal of these two claims.

I. FACTS

Because this case concerns the adjudication of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, our recitation of the facts is a distillation of the relevant allegations in Floyd's complaint. We emphasize that these "facts" are merely allegations and that by reciting them here, we make no assessment of their truthfulness. Indeed, for the purposes of this case, we are required to accept Floyd's allegations as true.

Floyd worked as an investigator in the Security Department at Coors from March 1977 until October 1992, when he was fired. Beginning in 1984, acting on instructions from senior executives at Coors, Floyd performed surreptitious narcotics investigations of Coors employees. Coors's in-house legal counsel consented to Floyd and other Coors employees undertaking these investigations.

In November 1987, Coors's outside legal counsel advised Coors not to participate in these investigations because of unwarranted legal risks, including the potential for civil rights litigation against Coors. Despite this advice, Coors conspired with its outside legal counsel to continue these investigations and to conceal Coors's involvement in them. Thus, Coors and its outside legal counsel devised a scheme to launder Coors funds to be used in the investigations by means of fraudulent billing for legal services through the law firm. Over the course of several years, some $266,000 was laundered through the law firm for the purposes of funding the investigations. The purpose of this laundering scheme was to circumvent Coors's internal policies and to conceal Coors's disbursement of funds for the investigations.

In November 1987, an attorney from the law firm advised Floyd that the "best" drug investigations for Coors to be involved with were those that could not be traced to Coors. This lawyer and a senior Coors executive directed Floyd to "bury" evidence of the drug investigations.

Page 665

In August 1992, Coors executives met and planned Floyd's termination in order to protect themselves from liability for their orchestration of the drug investigations and related money-laundering scheme. That month, one of these executives, who was also Floyd's supervisor, ordered Floyd to provide an accounting for $288,000 worth of expenses related to investigations that had taken place over a period of seven years. Floyd and another Coors security officer spent an entire week reconstructing the seven years of expenses. The supervisor rejected the accounting provided without explanation.

In October 1992, senior Coors executives fired Floyd for these stated reasons: improprieties with a female employee, failure to account for company funds, and misuse of company funds. Floyd alleges that these reasons were pretextual and that the real reason Coors executives fired him was to cover up their own misconduct by making it appear that Floyd was solely responsible for the illegal investigations. Floyd claims that Coors's actions were intentional and that as a result he suffered substantial and serious emotional distress.

Assuming Floyd's factual allegations to be true, the trial court granted Coors's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim with respect to Floyd's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress by outrageous conduct and his claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.

The court of appeals reversed both rulings. See Floyd, 952 P.2d at 804-05. The court of appeals held that the trial court's dismissal of Floyd's outrageous conduct claim was in error because reasonable people could disagree about whether the series of acts alleged by Floyd was outrageous. See id. at 804. Regarding the public policy claim, the court of appeals ruled that by claiming that his supervisors fired him in order to conceal their own illegal conduct, Floyd stated a cognizable claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. See id. at 805.

We granted certiorari on the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in dismissing Floyd's fifth claim for relief for alleged outrageous conduct based upon the allegations of Floyd's complaint; and (2) whether the trial court erred in dismissing Floyd's sixth claim for relief...

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146 practice notes
  • Gilbert v. U.S. Olympic Comm., Civil Action No. 18-cv-00981-CMA-MEH
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • September 27, 2019
    ...culpability: that [it] ‘intentionally or recklessly caused severe emotional distress.’ " (Id. at 15) (quoting Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd , 978 P.2d 663, 666 (Colo. 1999) ). Defendant USOC is correct that the Magistrate Judge erred by not examining "in the first instance whether reasonable p......
  • Gilbert v. U.S. Olympic Comm., U.S. Taekwondo, Inc., Civil Action No. 18-cv-00981-CMA-MEH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • March 6, 2019
    ...is first the responsibility of a court to determine whether reasonable persons could differ on the question." Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, 978 P.2d 663, 666 (Colo. 1999) (quoting Culpepper, 877 P.2d at 883). Plaintiffs primarily base this claim on SafeSport's decision to reinstate Jean Lopez......
  • Mullen v. S. Denver Rehab., LLC, Civil Action No. 18-cv-01552-MEH
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • May 20, 2020
    ...is first the responsibility of a court to determine whether reasonable persons could differ on the question." Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, 978 P.2d 663, 666 (Colo. 1999) (quoting Culpepper, 877 P.2d at 883). Here, the Court finds summary judgment is not appropriate on Mullen's outrageous con......
  • Raguindin v. Yates, Civil Action No. 15-cv-00635-CMA-KLM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • February 29, 2016
    ...suffer severe emotional distress. Culpepper v. Pearl St. Bldg., Inc., 877 P.2d 877, 882 (Colo. 1994); see also Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, 978 P.2d 663, 665 (Colo. 1999) (describing this tort as "intentional infliction of emotional distress by outrageous conduct"). "Outrageous conduct" is d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
146 cases
  • Gilbert v. U.S. Olympic Comm., Civil Action No. 18-cv-00981-CMA-MEH
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • September 27, 2019
    ...culpability: that [it] ‘intentionally or recklessly caused severe emotional distress.’ " (Id. at 15) (quoting Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd , 978 P.2d 663, 666 (Colo. 1999) ). Defendant USOC is correct that the Magistrate Judge erred by not examining "in the first instance whether reasonable p......
  • Gilbert v. U.S. Olympic Comm., U.S. Taekwondo, Inc., Civil Action No. 18-cv-00981-CMA-MEH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • March 6, 2019
    ...is first the responsibility of a court to determine whether reasonable persons could differ on the question." Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, 978 P.2d 663, 666 (Colo. 1999) (quoting Culpepper, 877 P.2d at 883). Plaintiffs primarily base this claim on SafeSport's decision to reinstate Jean Lopez......
  • Mullen v. S. Denver Rehab., LLC, Civil Action No. 18-cv-01552-MEH
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • May 20, 2020
    ...is first the responsibility of a court to determine whether reasonable persons could differ on the question." Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, 978 P.2d 663, 666 (Colo. 1999) (quoting Culpepper, 877 P.2d at 883). Here, the Court finds summary judgment is not appropriate on Mullen's outrageous con......
  • Raguindin v. Yates, Civil Action No. 15-cv-00635-CMA-KLM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • February 29, 2016
    ...suffer severe emotional distress. Culpepper v. Pearl St. Bldg., Inc., 877 P.2d 877, 882 (Colo. 1994); see also Coors Brewing Co. v. Floyd, 978 P.2d 663, 665 (Colo. 1999) (describing this tort as "intentional infliction of emotional distress by outrageous conduct"). "Outrageous conduct" is d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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