Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., No. 94-3013

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtKENNEDY
Citation57 F.3d 484
Decision Date14 June 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-3013
Parties131 Lab.Cas. P 58,061 James R. SNYDER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. AG TRUCKING, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Page 484

57 F.3d 484
131 Lab.Cas. P 58,061
James R. SNYDER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
AG TRUCKING, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 94-3013.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued March 16, 1995.
Decided June 14, 1995.

Page 486

Valita R. Kreiss, Bogin & Patterson, Dayton, OH and Craig T. Matthews (argued and briefed), Yellow Springs, OH, for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert Joseph Brown (argued) and Teresa D. Jones (briefed), Thompson, Hine & Flory, Dayton, OH, for defendants-appellees.

Before: KENNEDY and DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judges; CLELAND, District Judge. *

KENNEDY, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, James R. Snyder, brought this action against defendants, Ag Trucking, Inc. ("Ag") and Timothy Boehlke, contending that his employment was terminated in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 621 et. seq. Plaintiff also made state law claims for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, wrongful discharge, wrongful discharge in violation of a clearly articulated public policy, and defamation. The District Court granted summary judgment on all of the state law claims except breach of contract. At the

Page 487

close of plaintiff's case at trial, the District Court granted judgment as a matter of law to defendants on the claims of breach of contract and willful violation of the ADEA. The jury then returned a verdict in favor of defendants on the remaining ADEA claim. Plaintiff now appeals the District Court's grant of summary judgment and judgment as a matter of law. For the following reasons, the judgment of the District Court is affirmed.

I. Facts

Ag Trucking is an Indiana corporation with its principal place of business in Goshen, Indiana. Ag operates trucking terminals in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio. Plaintiff was hired in December 1989 as manager for a terminal Ag was opening in Sidney, Ohio. The facility was to serve one of Ag's primary customers, Cargill, Inc. In return, Cargill agreed to dedicate at least 75% of its shipments to Ag.

Plaintiff was hired by Timothy Boehlke ("Boehlke"), Ag's president, and Phil Stump ("Stump"), Ag's senior vice president. Plaintiff was 54 years old at the time. As part of plaintiff's employment application, he signed a disclaimer stating "if hired, employment is for no definite period and is terminable at will." Boehlke, Stump and Richard Coil ("Coil"), Ag's Personnel and Safety Director, however, told plaintiff that he could expect to be at Ag until retirement if he performed his job well. During plaintiff's orientation, Coil gave plaintiff a document entitled, "Wages, Benefits, Working Conditions, Company Rules, Disciplinary Procedures" ("employment manual"). Coil told plaintiff that the employment manual applied to everyone at the company. The manual stated that no employee would be terminated without just cause.

In addition to some managerial duties, plaintiff drove trucks until the new terminal was ready for operation. Ag opened a temporary terminal in Sidney in April 1990. On May 21, 1990, Cargill sent Ag a letter outlining complaints about Ag's servicing of Cargill's Sidney plant. Cargill stated that it considered Ag's performance unacceptable, and that Cargill was losing productivity as a result. Plaintiff began dispatching from the new terminal in October 1990, although it was not yet complete. Prior to October 1990, Ag's Goshen dispatcher was responsible for dispatching trucks to Cargill and other Ohio customers. After plaintiff took over dispatching, drivers would occasionally miss a Cargill pick-up or delivery. Once plaintiff dispatched a truck, however, he had no control over the truck because the Goshen dispatcher could override plaintiff's dispatch. On two occasions, plaintiff admittedly failed to dispatch trucks to Cargill.

On March 15, 1991, Cargill sent another letter about Ag's performance. Cargill stated that the letter was the official thirty-day notification of termination of the parties' contractual relationship. Stump and Al Glaser, the salesperson responsible for the Cargill account, immediately arranged to meet with Cargill officials. In response to the letter, Boehlke met with other management personnel and decided to terminate plaintiff's employment.

When Stump and Glaser met with Cargill on March 19, 1991, they informed Cargill that they were going to terminate plaintiff's employment. Stump and Glaser convinced Cargill not to implement the contract termination. Later that day, Boehlke met with plaintiff for the express purpose of terminating his employment. Plaintiff, however, convinced Boehlke not to fire him, and Boehlke agreed to allow him to continue on a probationary basis. Boehlke then sent plaintiff a letter confirming their conversation.

In May 1991, the tank wash at the Sydney facility was near completion. Ag hired Chris Conley ("Conley") to work under plaintiff to wash trucks. Shortly before the tank wash was completed, plaintiff advised Les Hively ("Hively"), the director of maintenance, that the facility lacked a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and other specified safety equipment. Hively initially responded that they did not need the safety equipment. When plaintiff asked again about the first aid kit, Hively said that he would take care of it. Hively, however, told plaintiff that the Sydney facility did not need an eye wash station, a fire extinguisher, or a safety harness and line. During this time period, Boehlke observed

Page 488

plaintiff and Conley cleaning a tank and stated that it was a "pretty rough job for an old, fat, baldheaded man." Plaintiff responded that he could handle the job and Boehlke stated, "you're a tough old fart."

On August 27, 1991, Boehlke came to the Sydney plant and informed plaintiff that he was fired because plaintiff "wasn't managing the place." Within two hours of plaintiff's termination, Boehlke and Hively invited Conley to lunch. During the lunch, Hively stated that Ag was going to hire a "younger man." Shortly thereafter, Ag replaced plaintiff with David Moore, who was 35 years old.

After plaintiff's termination, Boehlke received a letter from plaintiff's attorney. Plaintiff's counsel advised Boehlke that he had investigated plaintiff's termination, and that it appeared that plaintiff was fired because of his age and his insistence on certain safety measures. Counsel further advised Boehlke that he wanted to discuss resolving the case prior to any legal action. On December 21, 1991, Boehlke responded to counsel's letter. Boehlke stated that the reason for plaintiff's termination had nothing to do with plaintiff's age, but was due to poor performance. He explained that since plaintiff's termination, the problems at the terminal had ceased. Boehlke went on to say that "I understand Jim is working for cash while he rides out his unemployment benefits; I sincerely hope he is reporting his cash compensation."

II. Summary Judgment on the Promissory Estoppel and Defamation Claims

A. Standard of Review

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. See Kraus v. Sobel Corrugated Containers, Inc., 915 F.2d 227, 229 (6th Cir.1990). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the evidence must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

B. Promissory Estoppel

In Mers v. Dispatch Printing Company, 19 Ohio St.3d 100, 483 N.E.2d 150, 155 (1985), the Supreme Court of Ohio held that the doctrine of promissory estoppel could modify employment at will relationships if three conditions were met. First, the employer must make a promise that the employer should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance on the part of the employee. Id. Second, the promise must have actually induced action or forbearance that was detrimental to the employee. Id. Third, enforcement of the promise must be necessary to avoid injustice. Id.

The District Court held that even if plaintiff could demonstrate the other elements of promissory estoppel, he could not demonstrate detrimental reliance and, therefore, summary judgment was appropriate. The District Court noted that plaintiff did not discontinue an employment search or decline an offer for a better job based upon defendants' promises. Rather, plaintiff merely declined to look for alternative employment.

Plaintiff argues that defendants' assurances of job security "lulled [him] into inaction and that inaction is just as much reliance to his detriment as if he had started a job search and discontinued it." Plaintiff also argues that he detrimentally relied upon defendants' promises of job security by leaving his former position. Plaintiff is correct that giving up a job and not seeking other employment opportunities may constitute detrimental reliance in certain circumstances. See, e.g., Rogers v. Targot Telemarketing Serv., 70 Ohio App.3d 689, 591 N.E.2d 1332 (1990); Tersigni v. General Tire, Inc., 91

Page 489

Ohio App.3d 757, 633 N.E.2d 1140, 1143 (1993).

We do not need to reach this issue, however, because we conclude that defendants' alleged promise was not sufficiently specific to induce reliance. Plaintiff testified at his deposition that Boehlke, the president, and Stump, the vice president, told him that ...

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  • Garrett v. Fisher Titus Hosp., Case No. 3:02 CV 7562.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • May 24, 2004
    ...privilege "to statements made in a judicial proceeding that are related to the proceeding's purpose." Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 490 (6th Cir.1995); see also Hecht v. Levin, 66 Ohio St.3d 458, 613 N.E.2d 585, 587 (1993). "[A]n affidavit, statement or other information provide......
  • Johnson v. Delphi Corp., No. C-3-02-313.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • March 25, 2003
    ...necessary to avoid injustice. Fisher v. Trinova Corp., ___ F.3d ___,___, 1998 WL 774111 at *9 (6th Cir.1998); Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 488 (6th Cir.1995); Wing v. Anchor Media, Ltd., 59 Ohio St.3d 108, 570 N.E.2d 1095, 1098 (1991); Mers v. Dispatch Printing Co., 19 Ohio St.......
  • Kefgen v. Davidson, Docket No. 209770.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • September 19, 2000
    ...Co. Welfare Ass'n, 237 Nuper. 550, 555-557, 568 A.2d 565 (1990), or made in contemplation of a lawsuit, see Snyder v. AG Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 489-490 (C.A.6, 1995); General Electric Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1125-1128 (C.A.6, 7. We note that the alleged defamatory commu......
  • Elizondo v. Podgorniak, No. 98-10235.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • August 30, 1999
    ...The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 488 (6th Cir. 1995). To meet this burden, the movant may rely on any of the evidentiary sources listed in Rule 56(c). Cox, 53 F.3d at 149. Alternat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
69 cases
  • Garrett v. Fisher Titus Hosp., Case No. 3:02 CV 7562.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • May 24, 2004
    ...privilege "to statements made in a judicial proceeding that are related to the proceeding's purpose." Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 490 (6th Cir.1995); see also Hecht v. Levin, 66 Ohio St.3d 458, 613 N.E.2d 585, 587 (1993). "[A]n affidavit, statement or other information provide......
  • Johnson v. Delphi Corp., No. C-3-02-313.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • March 25, 2003
    ...necessary to avoid injustice. Fisher v. Trinova Corp., ___ F.3d ___,___, 1998 WL 774111 at *9 (6th Cir.1998); Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 488 (6th Cir.1995); Wing v. Anchor Media, Ltd., 59 Ohio St.3d 108, 570 N.E.2d 1095, 1098 (1991); Mers v. Dispatch Printing Co., 19 Ohio St.......
  • Kefgen v. Davidson, Docket No. 209770.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • September 19, 2000
    ...Co. Welfare Ass'n, 237 Nuper. 550, 555-557, 568 A.2d 565 (1990), or made in contemplation of a lawsuit, see Snyder v. AG Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 489-490 (C.A.6, 1995); General Electric Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1125-1128 (C.A.6, 7. We note that the alleged defamatory commu......
  • Elizondo v. Podgorniak, No. 98-10235.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • August 30, 1999
    ...The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Snyder v. Ag Trucking, Inc., 57 F.3d 484, 488 (6th Cir. 1995). To meet this burden, the movant may rely on any of the evidentiary sources listed in Rule 56(c). Cox, 53 F.3d at 149. Alternat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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