Templeton v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Citation216 S.W.3d 563
Decision Date03 November 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04-659.,04-659.
PartiesTodd TEMPLETON, Appellant, v. UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., et al., Appellees.
CourtSupreme Court of Arkansas

Law Offices of John R. Van Winkle, P.A., by: John R. Van Winkle, Fayetteville, for appellant.

Walker Lansden Dortch & Davis PLLC, by: Paula D. Walker, Nashville, TN, for appellees.

JIM GUNTER, Justice.

This is an action by the appellant, Todd Templeton, to recover on his claims for outrage and deceit from the appellees: United Parcel Service ("UPS"), James Beavers, and Mark Hagge. The Washington County Circuit Court entered an order granting the appellees' motion for summary judgment on these claims, and Mr. Templeton is appealing that order. We affirm.

This lawsuit arises out of Mr. Templeton's resignation from his job with UPS in Springdale on June 4, 2001. In late May of 2001, Mark Hagge, a security investigator for UPS, received a report from Chris Parrish, a UPS employee, that two other UPS employees had been involved in a theft. During the investigation of that theft, Mr. Hagge interviewed Jeremy Williams and Chris Eubanks. Both Mr. Williams and Mr. Eubanks admitted that they had stolen drugs from the UPS Springdale Center, identified Mr. Templeton as having stolen drugs from the Center also, and signed written statements implicating Mr. Templeton. Specifically, Mr. Eubanks stated that he saw Mr. Williams and Mr. Templeton take two to three bottles of hydrocodone out of the over-goods area. The over-goods area is the area where items that have come out of packages or packages that do not have labels are held for processing in Little Rock. Mr. Eubanks also stated that Mr. Templeton told him that he took a package off of the belt that contained 3000 generic xanax pills. Mr. Williams stated that he and Mr. Eubanks each took one bottle of pills from the over-goods area and then he told Mr. Templeton about the pills being in the area. Mr. Williams stated that, after he told Mr. Templeton about the pills, another bottle of pills disappeared from that area. Mr. Williams also claimed that he gave Mr. Templeton about thirty-five pills for a back injury. Both Mr. Williams and Mr. Eubanks resigned after being given the option of termination or resignation.

After these interviews, Mr. Hagge prepared a summary of the investigation and gave it to Sergeant Shriver of the Springdale Police Department, advising Sergeant Shriver that he had not yet interviewed Mr. Templeton because he was on vacation and that the information was based on the statements of Mr. Williams and Mr. Eubanks only. On June 4, 2001, Mr. Hagge met with Mr. Templeton and the union steward, Tom Dedrich, and explained that Mr. Williams and Mr. Eubanks had admitted stealing some pharmaceuticals and had implicated him in the theft also. Mr. Templeton denied any involvement in the theft, but admitted that Mr. Williams had given him some muscle relaxers in the parking lot after he got off of work one day. Mr. Templeton signed a written statement confirming this.

Mr. Hagge reported this information to the Labor Manager, Walt Dickson, who decided to terminate Mr. Templeton. Jim Beavers, the Springdale Center manager, and Mr. Hagge met with Mr. Templeton on the evening of June 4, 2001, and told him that he was being terminated for the possession of drugs on UPS property. Mr. Hagge told him that he could resign instead, but that if he did not resign, he would be terminated.

Mr. Templeton resigned and then filed this action against the appellees, claiming wrongful termination, breach of contract, outrage, and deceit. In a removal action, the federal court disposed of the breach-of-contract claim and the wrongful-termination claim. Therefore, only the claims for outrage and deceit remain. The circuit court granted the appellees' motion for summary judgment on these claims, and Mr. Templeton appeals.

We set forth the standard of review for summary judgment in Jordan v. Diamond Equipment & Supply Co., 362 Ark. 142, 207 S.W.3d 525 (2005), stating:

Summary judgment should be granted only when it is clear that there are no genuine issues of material fact to be litigated, and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Riverdale Development Co. v. Ruffin Building Systems Inc., 356 Ark. 90, 146 S.W.3d 852 (2004); Craighead Elec. Coop. Corp. v. Craighead County, 352 Ark. 76, 98 S.W.3d 414 (2003); Cole v. Laws, 349 Ark. 177, 76 S.W.3d 878 (2002). The burden of sustaining a motion for summary judgment is the responsibility of the moving party. Pugh v. Griggs, 327 Ark. 577, 940 S.W.2d 445 (1997). Once the moving party has established a prima facie entitlement to summary judgment, the non-moving party must meet proof with proof and demonstrate the existence of a material issue of fact. Id. On appellate review, we determine if summary judgment was appropriate based on whether the evidence presented by the moving party in support of its motion leaves a material fact unanswered. George v. Jefferson Hosp. Ass'n Inc., 337 Ark. 206, 987 S.W.2d 710 (1999). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, resolving all doubts and inferences against the moving party. Adams v. Arthur, 333 Ark. 53, 969 S.W.2d 598 (1998).

Jordan, supra.

Mr. Templeton's first point on appeal is that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment on his claim for outrage. In order to establish the tort of outrage, the plaintiff must establish the following four things: (1) the defendant intended to inflict emotional distress or knew or should have known that emotional distress was the likely result of his conduct; (2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous, was beyond all possible bounds of decency, and was utterly intolerable in a civilized community; (3) the defendant's actions were the cause of the plaintiff's distress; and (4) the emotional distress sustained by the plaintiff was so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it. Brown v. Tucker, 330 Ark. 435, 441, 954 S.W.2d 262, 266 (1997). We have taken a strict view in recognizing an outrage claim, particularly where it is alleged in employment relationships. See, e.g., Smith v. American Greetings Corp., 304 Ark. 596, 804 S.W.2d 683 (1991); Sterling v. Upjohn Healthcare Services, Inc., 299 Ark. 278, 772 S.W.2d 329 (1989). We explained in City of Green Forest v. Morse, 316 Ark. 540, 873 S.W.2d 155 (1994), the reason we take such a narrow view in recognizing claims for the tort of outrage that arise out of the discharge of an employee:

The reason is that an employer must be given considerable latitude in dealing with employees, and at the same time, an employee will frequently feel considerable insult when discharged. In this context we have written: "Because of the employer's right to discharge an at-will employee, a claim of outrage by an at-will employee cannot be predicated upon the fact of the discharge alone. However, the manner in which the discharge is accomplished or the circumstances under which it occurs may render the employer liable." Harris v. Arkansas Book Co., 287 Ark. 353, 356, 700 S.W.2d 41, 43 (1985). In another employee discharge case, Sterling Drug, Inc. v. Oxford, 294 Ark. 239, 244-45, 743 S.W.2d 380, 383 (1988), we wrote, "The recognition of the tort of outrage does not open the doors of the courts to every slight insult or indignity one must endure in life."

Morse, supra.

We have held that a plaintiff met the standard for proving the tort of outrage in an employee-discharge situation in only one case, Tandy Corp. v. Bone, 283 Ark. 399, 678 S.W.2d 312 (1984). In Tandy, the employer, Tandy Corporation, thought that Bone, the manager of one of its stores in Little Rock, might be stealing either money or merchandise. Bone suffered from a personality disorder which made him more susceptible to stress and fear than normal. For three years before the incident, he had been taking a tranquilizer prescribed by his psychiatrist. To investigate Tandy's suspicions of theft, Bone's supervisor and two security officers came to the store to conduct an investigation of the losses. Bone was questioned at thirty-minute intervals throughout the day. According to Bone, the security men cursed him, threatened him, and refused to allow him to take his prescribed medication. Bone was also asked to take a polygraph examination, which he did. At that time, he was in a highly agitated condition and again asked for his medication. The request was denied. He testified that he had asked to be allowed to take his medication at least three times, but each time his request was refused. He stated that once he reached in a desk drawer for his medicine, but one of the investigators slammed the drawer shut. He was eventually taken to another location in Little Rock for the...

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  • Crawford County v. Jones
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • March 16, 2006
    ...distress sustained by the plaintiff was so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it. Templeton v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 364 Ark. 90, 216 S.W.3d 563 (2005); Brown v. Tucker, 330 Ark. 435, 954 S.W.2d 262 (1997). This court takes a strict view in recognizing an outr......
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    ...that order, comes the instant appeal. We recently reiterated our standard of review for summary judgment in Templeton v. United Parcel Serv. Inc., 364 Ark. 90, 216 S.W.3d 563 (2005), Summary judgment should be granted only when it is clear that there are no genuine issues of material fact t......
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