Kirgan v. FCA, LLC

Decision Date19 January 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 10–cv–1392.
Citation838 F.Supp.2d 793
PartiesGeorge A. KIRGAN, Plaintiff, v. FCA, LLC, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of Illinois

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Athena M. Herman, Patricia C. Benassi, Benassi & Benassi PC, Peoria, IL, for Plaintiff.

Brian J. Kurtz, Ford & Harrison LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendant.

ORDER & OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count IV of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Doc. 17). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is DENIED.

Background1

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant between May 1999 and July 20, 2009, when he was discharged. Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a Plant Manager for Defendant's operations within a Caterpillar facility in Mossville, and a manager for another of Defendant's operations in Mossville. In both February and May 2009, Plaintiff was informed by one of Defendant's owners and officers, Jeff Campagna, that his job with Defendant was secure, and that he would have a job there for as long as he wanted. Thereafter, Defendant ceased most of its operations at the Mossville Caterpillar facility, but Plaintiff remained employed by Defendant and Defendant had other available jobs for which Plaintiff was qualified.

On June 14, 2009, Plaintiff suffered a stroke that caused brain damage and impaired his ability to control various muscles, perform manual tasks, lift, and reach. Plaintiff informed Defendant of the stroke and his need to recover. Approximately one week following the stroke, Plaintiff had recovered sufficiently to perform the essential functions of his job.

On July 17, 2009, Campagna informed Plaintiff that his position was being eliminated and his employment would be terminated effective July 20, 2009, but that Plaintiff would be considered for future positions as they arose. Other managerial and/or salaried employees at the Mossville Caterpillar facility had their positions eliminated at the same time, but they were transferred to other facilities and positions, not terminated. Other positions for which Plaintiff would have been qualified have since become available, but Defendant has not offered those positions to Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2010.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court on November 23, 2010, containing four counts alleging that Defendant's conduct violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with DisabilitiesAct of 1990, the Family Medical Leave Act, and Illinois common law. (Doc. 1). Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Count IV, the common law breach of contract and/or promissory estoppel claim, which was granted on May 25, 2011; Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his Complaint to cure the deficiencies found by the Court. (Doc. 13). Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on June 8, 2011. (Doc. 15). The instant Motion to Dismiss again concerns the Amended Complaint's allegations of breach of contract and/or promissory estoppel 2 under Illinois common law, which are found in Count IV. (Doc. 15 at 10–11).

The Court notes that, though Plaintiff's original Complaint was identical to the Amended Complaint except for the added factual details concerning consideration and reliance required by the Court's previous decision, Defendant did not raise any of the other arguments now raised in the instant Motion to Dismiss. If these arguments are appropriate now, it appears that they would have been appropriate on the first attempt to have Count IV dismissed; there is no new basis for these arguments. The Court is inclined to find that Defendant should have raised these arguments in relation to the first Motion to Dismiss, and is barred from doing so now; even if not barred, Defendant's course of conduct is looked upon with disfavor as a waste of the Court's and the parties' time and resources. However, the Court will consider Defendant's various new arguments in an effort to establish the relevant issues more clearly.

Legal Standard

“In ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions, the court must treat all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” In re marchFIRST Inc., 589 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir.2009) (citing Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir.2008)). To survive a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's complaint must “plead some facts that suggest a right to relief that is beyond the ‘speculative level.’ EEOC v. Concentra Health Svcs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776–77 (7th Cir.2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 560–63, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Though detailed factual allegations are not needed, a “formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “The complaint must contain ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ Bissessur v. Indiana University Bd. of Trustees, 581 F.3d 599, 602 (7th Cir.2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955;Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1084).

Discussion

Defendant's Motion to Dismiss challenges the legal sufficiency of Count IV of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which allegesbreach of contract and promissory estoppel under Illinois common law. (Doc. 17). As noted above, Defendant previously sought, and was granted, dismissal of Plaintiff's first attempt at pleading these theories. (Doc. 13). The Court found that Plaintiff had failed to allege sufficient facts regarding consideration and detrimental reliance, as Plaintiff had merely stated that he “assisted FCA in obtaining Caterpillar business, forewent other employment opportunities, made preparations to move to another FCA location, and otherwise detrimentally relied upon FCA's offers and/or promises of employment.” (Doc. 1 at 10).

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is directed toward both of these cited deficiencies, and adds more factual specificity to the allegations regarding Plaintiff's additional work and preparations to relocate. He alleges that in exchange for and in detrimental reliance upon Defendant's promise of secure employment, he performed additional work for Defendant that was not part of his job duties, which resulted in Defendant obtaining new work on behalf of Defendant for Caterpillar in Texas and at Defendant's location in Mossville. In addition, he continued working for Defendant and did not seek other employment, and in preparation to move to another of Defendant's locations, sold cattle from his family farm and rented tillable acreage to a neighboring farmer, which resulted in lost profits. (Doc. 15 at 10–11).

I. Contract

As noted in the Court's Order & Opinion on Defendant's previous Motion to Dismiss, [u]nder Illinois law, a plaintiff looking to state a colorable breach of contract claim must allege four elements: (1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract; (2) substantial performance by the plaintiff; (3) a breach by the defendant; and (4) resultant damages.” Reger Development, LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir.2010) (internal quotations omitted). Because Plaintiff alleges an oral contract, he must “establish that the offer was ‘clear and definite’ and supported by adequate consideration” in order to prevail on his claim. Taylor v. Canteen Corp., 69 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir.1995). Defendant now argues that the allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are insufficient to state a claim for breach of contract, both because they do not allege a sufficiently clear and definite promise, and because they do not allege sufficient consideration.

A. Clear and Definite Promise

Defendant first argues that Plaintiff has not alleged a sufficiently clear and definite promise. Plaintiff responds by arguing that he is not required to allege the precise wording of the alleged promises prior to discovery, pointing out that Defendant's case citations all concern the terms of promises after discovery had taken place, not the allegations of the initial pleadings. Plaintiff relies on Taylor v. Canteen, a Seventh Circuit case in which the court found that an oral offer of permanent employment was sufficiently clear and definite to survive summary judgment.

In Taylor, the plaintiff gave up his union position for a job with the same employer as a maintenance supervisor. 69 F.3d 773. When he was offered the new job, which would entail the loss of his union protections, he expressed concern about job security. He was told on two separate occasions “you have nothing to worry about,” that he should not be concerned because there was no chance the company would fire him as soon as he gave up his union benefits,” that he could work for the employer for “as long as [Taylor] wished,” and that he would hold the job “until he retired or decided he did not want the job anymore.” Id. at 782–83(alteration in original). Plaintiff here alleges Mr. Campagna told him that, though Defendant's ownership was changing, he had nothing to worry about, and that his job was secure for as long as he wanted. Mr. Campagna later told Plaintiff that his employment was secure and he would have a job with Defendant for as long as he wanted, even if Defendant closed the facility where he was currently working.

As Defendant's cited cases show, it may be that after discovery Plaintiff will be unable to support his allegations of a clear and definite promise with evidence, and will thus fail to withstand a motion for summary judgment or a trial. However, Plaintiff pleads the same sort of promises that were alleged and, after discovery, supported by evidence in Taylor, and which was sufficient to support a claimed oral contract for permanent employment. At this point, by alleging the type of promises made in Taylor, Plaintiff has done enough to entitle him to discovery as to the specific words used and their context.

B. Adequate Consideration

Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to allege...

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