Weatherwax v. Hiland Potato Chip Co. of Sioux Falls

Decision Date07 January 1985
Docket NumberNo. 14656,14656
Citation372 N.W.2d 118
Parties120 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2225 Douglas WEATHERWAX, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. HILAND POTATO CHIP COMPANY OF SIOUX FALLS, Defendant and Appellee. . Considered on Briefs
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Robert J. Burns, Sioux Falls, for plaintiff and appellant.

Steven M. Johnson of Brady, Kabeiseman, Reade & Johnson, Yankton, for defendant and appellee.


This is a civil appeal filed by Douglas Weatherwax (Weatherwax), from an order granting Hiland Potato Chip Co. (Hiland) summary judgment on a complaint filed by Weatherwax for damages arising out of his employment with Hiland. We affirm.

Weatherwax was employed as a route salesman by Hiland from January 1, 1982, until July 5, 1983. Weatherwax's responsibilities included the sale, delivery, and stocking of Hiland products in various businesses on a designated route. Hiland had a strict set of rules for route salesmen concerning stale products and their return to Hiland.

On July 5, 1983, Weatherwax was fired for violating the rules and regulations concerning stale products in that he habitually failed to pick up stale potato chips and rotate fresh merchandise. After his termination, Weatherwax filed for, and was awarded, unemployment benefits. On August 5, 1983, Weatherwax, while his unemployment compensation administrative procedure was pending, filed suit against Hiland for wrongful discharge, to include punitive damages. Weatherwax's theory of damages is predicated upon Hiland terminating his employment without following the disciplinary procedures set forth in Hiland's handbook for employees. * Hiland appealed the South Dakota Department of Labor-Unemployment Insurance Division's initial award of unemployment benefits and after a full hearing on August 24, 1983, before an impartial hearing examiner from that Department, Hiland won a reversal of the award of benefits. The hearing examiner specifically found that Weatherwax had violated the rules concerning stale products, had sufficient notice of their violation, and that Weatherwax's continued disregard for these stalage rules constituted work-connected misconduct. See Matter of Yaroch, 333 N.W.2d 448 (S.D.1983). Weatherwax appealed to the Secretary of Labor who adopted the appeals referee's decision. Weatherwax, thereafter, failed to appeal this latter decision to the circuit court and continued to press his lawsuit for wrongful discharge.

Subsequent to discovery procedures in the lawsuit, Hiland filed a Motion for Summary Judgment based on five separate grounds. After a hearing and review of the briefs submitted, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hiland. Although there were five separate grounds listed in the motion, none of which pertain to exhaustion of administrative remedies, the trial court did not detail its reasons for granting the summary judgment nor enter formal findings of fact and conclusions of law. See SDCL 15-6-52(a). It is from this order that Weatherwax now appeals.

Both parties, by their briefs, present one legal issue to be decided on appeal: Is a claimant who did not exhaust all remedies for unemployment compensation precluded from bringing an action against the same employer in circuit court for wrongful discharge from employment? We answer this issue in the affirmative and thereby affirm the circuit court. We bottom our decision on Weatherwax's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, which is the singular issue as posed by the briefs. As detailed below, precedent supports the circuit court's decision. It is unusual that the singular issue presented by the briefs is not one of the five grounds listed in the motion. Nevertheless, the circuit court's decision is sustainable. In Ruple v. Weinaug, 328 N.W.2d 857, 859-60 (S.D.1983) (citations omitted), we stated: "In reviewing the trial court's order granting summary judgment, we premise our decision on the principle that affirmance of such a judgment is proper if there exists any basis which would support the trial court's ruling."

Weatherwax contends that because his termination did not comply with Hiland's disciplinary procedures, he had a separate and distinct cause of action for wrongful discharge in tort for damages, plus punitive damages, which could be pursued independently in circuit court before the completion of his unemployment benefits claim. With this contention, we disagree.

"[E]xhaustion of remedies is broadly stated as the withholding of judicial relief on a claim or dispute cognizable by an administrative body until the administrative process has run its course." Gottschalk v. Hegg, 89 S.D. 89, 92, 228 N.W.2d 640, 642 (1975). This doctrine permits the administrative agency to exercise its discretion, apply its expertise, and make a factual record upon which to base subsequent judicial review. Delzer Constr. Co. v. United States, 487 F.2d 908, 909 (8th Cir.1973).

In the present case, the dispute between Weatherwax and Hiland arose out of a single event or series of events, i.e., Weatherwax's termination and the events which preceded it. Thereafter, Weatherwax initially elected to pursue redress through administrative proceedings for unemployment benefits. Subsequently, however, Weatherwax sought to split his claim and pursue damages for wrongful discharge in circuit court before his administrative proceeding came to a complete and final resolve. This, Weatherwax cannot do.

In Tombollo v. Dunn, 342 N.W.2d 23 (S.D.1984), Tombollo's employment was terminated whereupon she filed a sexual discrimination charge with the South Dakota Division...

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  • Musch v. H-D Elec. Co-op., Inc.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • May 23, 1990
    ...exists any basis which supports the ruling of the trial court, affirmance of a summary judgment is proper. Weatherwax v. Hiland Potato Chip Co., 372 N.W.2d 118, 120 (S.D.1985); Ruple v. Weinaug, 328 N.W.2d 857, 859-60 Pickering v. Pickering, 434 N.W.2d 758, 760-61 (S.D.1989). First, we must......
  • Garrett v. BankWest, Inc.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 1, 1990
    ...exists any basis which supports the ruling of the trial court, affirmance of a summary judgment is proper. Weatherwax v. Hiland Potato Chip Co., 372 N.W.2d 118, 120 (S.D.1985); Ruple v. Weinaug, 328 N.W.2d 857, 859-60 Garrett originally raised ten legal issues. At oral argument two of these......
  • Gasper v. Freidel
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 19, 1989
    ... ... Weatherwax v. Hiland Potato Chip Co., 372 N.W.2d 118, ... Carda does not contend he falls within the first exception. He does, however, ... Wilson, 325 N.W.2d 851 (S.D.1982); and Sioux Falls Construction Co. v. City of Sioux Falls, ... ...
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    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 30, 1988
    ...exists any basis which supports the ruling of the trial court, affirmance of a summary judgment is proper. Weatherwax v. Hiland Potato Chip Co., 372 N.W.2d 118, 120 (S.D.1985); Ruple v. Weinaug, 328 N.W.2d 857, 859-60 (S.D.1983). We first address the trial court's granting summary judgment ......
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