Taylor v. Hercules, Inc., 85-1532

Citation780 F.2d 171
Decision Date03 January 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-1532,85-1532
Parties7 Employee Benefits Ca 1022 John M. TAYLOR, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. HERCULES, INC., Defendant, Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)

Ira L. Lipman with whom Lipman & Figman, Brockton, Mass., was on brief for appellants.

Stephen Y. Chow with whom Robert D. Canty, and Gaston Snow & Ely Bartlett, Boston, Mass., were on brief for appellee.

Before CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, BOWNES and TORRUELLA, Circuit Judges.

LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Chief Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant John M. Taylor ("Taylor") appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granting summary judgment to defendant-appellee Hercules, Inc. ("Hercules") in an action for breach of an employment contract. Because we agree there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute, we affirm.

I.

Taylor had been a salaried employee at the Hercules plant in Taunton, Massachusetts, for "many years," 1 when Hercules sold its plant to Haskon Corporation on October 1, 1980. It is undisputed that Hercules' employees were offered continued employment under the new ownership. However, some employees, including Taylor, elected early retirement as of the date of the sale and began receiving payment under Hercules' pension plan.

On March 16, 1984, Taylor brought suit in district court under diversity jurisdiction, purportedly on behalf of a class of 66 present and former salaried employees of Hercules. 2 He sought "severance pay" benefits from Hercules which he asserted were owed to him and the alleged class when the Taunton plant was sold to Haskon and they became "severed" from Hercules. Taylor claimed that he had an "implied in fact contract" which provided for severance pay benefits upon sale of the Taunton plant.

In support of his claim, Taylor submitted a one-page excerpt from an eight-page pamphlet ("Pamphlet") that he had received from Hercules, allegedly sometime in 1974, summarizing the employee benefits offered by the company. In this excerpt, a section entitled "Dismissal Salary Plan" provided in part that,

At some locations, this Plan provides financial assistance in addition to state unemployment compensation. It is designed to aid employees who are unemployed through no fault of their own. It does not apply to those employees who are eligible for retirement under the Hercules Pension Plan.

On the same page, highlighted by a contrasting color background and framed in black, was the following statement:

This brochure is intended to summarize typical benefit plans in effect at most locations. Employees at each location will receive a plan description covering each plan in effect at that location. Should there be any differences in interpretation between any summaries and the formal plan texts or applicable contracts, the formal plan texts or contracts will govern.

Taylor also stated that he received in July 1976 a yellow loose-leaf notebook entitled "Hercules Benefit Handbook," ("Handbook") which was periodically updated with the latest versions of the various employee benefit plans. While he conceded in his affidavit that he received plan descriptions for other benefit plans, including the "Hercules Employee Savings Plan" and "Long Term Disability Insurance Plan for Salaried Employees," Taylor claimed that he never received any section for this Handbook which detailed Hercules' "Dismissal Salary Plan" at the Taunton plant.

On April 19, 1984, Hercules moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or alternatively, for summary judgment. In support of its motion, Hercules submitted what it claimed was the controlling document on the issue of severance pay--a ten-page text entitled "Hercules Dismissal Salary Plan" ("Handbook Plan") that was purportedly designed to be included in the Handbook. According to defendant's affidavit, this Handbook Plan was the only "dismissal salary plan" in effect at the Taunton plant from July 1978 to October 1, 1980, the date the plant was sold.

The Handbook Plan specifically provided that dismissal salary benefits would not be paid to employees who, as Taylor did, "retire and receive immediate retirement benefits," or who "are at a location that has been sold and [ ] are offered employment by the new employer." Hercules argued that these provisions plainly defeat Taylor's claim, as he had elected to take retirement benefits. Hercules also claimed that, in any case, Taylor could not recover, as the Pamphlet failed to set forth a contract and stated besides that the "dismissal salary plan" did not apply to employees eligible for retirement.

On July 6, 1984, Taylor moved for leave to amend his complaint to divide the purported class into one subclass, represented by Taylor, of those who had elected to retire when the plant was sold; and another, represented by Lionel C. Diaz, of those who did not elect retirement. After a hearing on July 9, 1984, the magistrate recommended that summary judgment be granted in favor of Hercules but that plaintiff be given leave to file an amended complaint, although she believed that amendment would be futile.

Thereafter, the district court, without comment, granted summary judgment to Hercules in accordance with the magistrate's recommendations. But the court denied Taylor's motion for leave to amend his complaint. Taylor now appeals.

II.

Before granting summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, a court must find that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." We agree that Hercules successfully met its burden of showing the absence of such a dispute by producing a copy of the Handbook Plan, well supported by an affidavit from Edward Carrington, the Director of Benefits at Hercules. Carrington stated from personal knowledge that the Handbook Plan represented the dismissal salary plan in effect at Taunton when the plant was sold. The provisions of this Plan would, without rebuttal, negate both Taylor's claims and, if relevant, those of the purported class members as well.

Plaintiff then had the burden of showing the "existence of an issue of fact which is both 'genuine' and 'material.' " Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.2d 461, 464 (1st Cir.1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 904, 96 S.Ct. 1495, 47 L.Ed.2d 754 (1976). To be considered "genuine," there must be "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute ... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." First National Bank v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 1592, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968). For a factual dispute to be "material," it must "affect[ ] the outcome of the litigation." Pignons S.A. de Mecanique v. Polaroid Corp., 657 F.2d 482, 486 (1st Cir.1981). Taylor has failed to produce, as the magistrate said, "even a modicum of sufficient evidence" that there is a genuine factual dispute.

Reading the record in the light most favorable to Taylor, see Astra Pharmaceutical Products, Inc. v. Beckman Instruments, Inc., 718 F.2d 1201, 1204 (1st Cir.1983), the only real issue of fact that seems to emerge is whether Taylor and the other employees ever received a copy of the Handbook Plan. Because of this non-receipt, he contends that the Pamphlet, and not the Handbook Plan, should govern. But, as the magistrate pointed out, the determinative issue here is not whether Taylor or members of his alleged class ever received a copy of the Handbook Plan but rather whether that plan was in legal effect at the Taunton plant on the relevant date. Taylor offered nothing to show it was not. He did not submit evidence of some alternative plan, allegedly in effect at the Taunton plant, which might confer dismissal benefits in his case. Rather he relied exclusively on a brief Pamphlet excerpt whose terms complement rather than contradict the Handbook Plan.

The Pamphlet states that it is intended to summarize "typical benefit plans in effect at most locations," that the dismissal salary plan is available only at "some locations," and that a plan description will be received by employees at each location where the dismissal salary plan is in effect. The Handbook Plan appears to be precisely such a "plan description," although Taylor, to be sure, denies ever receiving it. The Handbook Plan goes on to elaborate in detail what is outlined only briefly in the Pamphlet, discussing some matters omitted from the Pamphlet as well as others which the Pamphlet mentions only generally. 3 We can see no basis...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 cases
  • DesRoches v. United States Postal Service, Civ. No. 85-434-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • 2 d3 Abril d3 1986
    ...the litigation" and is genuine if manifested by "substantial" evidence going beyond the allegations of the complaint. Taylor v. Hercules, Inc., 780 F.2d 171 (1st Cir.1986); Pignons S.A. de Mecanique v. Polaroid, 657 F.2d 482, 486 (1st Cir.1981). In addition, the record must be viewed in the......
  • Taylor v. Lotus Development Corp., Civ. A. No. 94-1139.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • 20 d5 Outubro d5 1995
    ...at 7. In support of this proposition, Lotus directs this Court's attention to the opinion of the First Circuit in Taylor v. Hercules, Inc., 780 F.2d 171 (1st Cir.1986). In Hercules, the plaintiff had been an employee of the defendant Hercules for a number of years. In 1980, Hercules sold it......
  • Ryan, Klimek, Ryan Partnership v. Royal Ins., Civ. A. No. 88-0255 L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • 24 d3 Janeiro d3 1990
    ...dispute, substantiated by evidence beyond the allegations of the complaint, which a judge or jury must resolve. Taylor v. Hercules, Inc., 780 F.2d 171, 174 (1st Cir.1986); Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.2d 461, 464 (1st Cir.1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 904, 96 S.Ct. 1495, 47 L.Ed.2d 754 (1976). An......
  • Catalfo v. Jensen, Civ. No. 85-588-D to 85-591-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • 21 d5 Fevereiro d5 1986
    ...litigation" and is genuine if manifested by "substantial" evidence "going beyond the allegations of the complaint". Taylor v. Hercules, Inc., 780 F.2d 171, 174 (1st Cir.1986). Pignons S.A. de Mecanique v. Polaroid, 657 F.2d 482, 486 (1st Cir. 1981). In addition, the record must be viewed in......
  • 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