Hathaway v. Idaho-Pacific Corporation
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER denying 18 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (cjs)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
Case No. 4:15-CV-86-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
The Court has before it a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant IdahoPacific Corporation (IPC). The Court heard oral argument on the motion on February 14,
2017, and took the motion under advisement. For the reasons explained below, the Court
will deny the motion.
In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in
a light most favorable to the non-moving party and cannot make credibility findings. See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
On February 19, 2013, Hathaway injured his shoulder and thumb while working at
IPC.1 With his shoulder and thumb wrapped in ice, Hathaway made a report to Dwain
Gotch, Plant Safety Manager, describing the accident, and detailing the injury to his
shoulder and thumb. Gotch prepared a handwritten report that included both the shoulder
and thumb injury, and Hathaway signed that report. This was consistent with Gotch’s
normal practice. But this time, Gotch later prepared a final typewritten report that failed
to mention the shoulder injury, and that report was never submitted to Hathaway for his
signature. The original handwritten report has apparently disappeared.
His shoulder pain increasing, Hathaway sought treatment from Dr. Larry Curtis.
On March 28, 2013, Dr. Curtis wrote to IPC stating that Hathaway’s shoulder injury was
due to his fall at IPC on February 19, 2013. IPC received Dr. Curtis’s letter the same
day. The next day – March 29, 2013 – IPC filed its official report with the worker’s
compensation board on Hathaway’s fall, saying nothing about his shoulder injury.
On April 16, 2013, Hathaway discovered that Gotch’s typewritten report failed to
mention his shoulder injury. Hathaway testified that when he confronted Gotch about
this, Gotch said that he had been ordered to omit reference to the shoulder injury from the
report. Hathaway complained that same day to Mike Willmore, in IPC’s Human
Resources Department but got no response.
In describing the factual background of this case, the Court will, as it must, state the
facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and grant the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn from those facts.
One day later – on April 17, 2013 – co-worker Margaret Johnson gave a statement
to Supervisor Steve McLean that she overheard Hathaway say that he should “trip and
fall and then they’d have to pay.” See Transcript (Dkt. No. 18-6). Notably, in Johnson’s
recorded and transcribed statement, she indicated she couldn’t tell whether or not
Hathaway was joking. Id. Hathaway denies making that statement, and indicates that he
was never given a chance to respond to Johnson’s claim. IPC claims that it met with
Hathaway and gave him a chance to answer the allegations. See IPC Statement (Dkt. No.
18-1) at p. 9. However, IPC kept no record of such a meeting, unlike the interview with
Johnson, which was both tape-recorded and transcribed.
The next day, IPC fired Hathaway.
IPC argues first that Hathaway has unequivocally abandoned his claim that he was
fired for making a worker’s compensation claim, and cites to Hathaway’s deposition
testimony to support its argument. See Deposition pp. 154-157 (Dkt. No. 18-4). That
deposition testimony is far from unequivocal. Defense counsel’s initial question was
simple – “Now, in this lawsuit in your complaint you’ve alleged that you were fired
because you filed a worker’ compensation claim, correct?” – and Hathaway answers
“no.” Id. at p. 154. It appears at first glance that Hathaway has just abandoned his
central claim. But in explaining his answer, Hathaway does not focus on his own legal
claims, but on IPC’s conduct. He complains that IPC was on a “witch hunt,” refused to
listen to him, and never stated the real reasons for the firing. The discussion was now far
afield from the original question, raising a question whether Hathaway misunderstood the
question. This situation begged for defense counsel to refocus Hathaway by asking him
directly and unequivocally whether he was abandoning allegations he made in his
complaint. That never happened. For whatever reason, defense counsel decided not to
pursue that direct line of questioning. The Court is left with some ambiguous back-andforth that fails to clearly show that Hathaway abandoned allegations in his complaint.
The Court therefore rejects IPC’s argument that Hathaway abandoned the central claim of
The Court turns next to whether IPC is entitled to summary judgment on the
merits of Hathaway’s claims. A reasonable juror could find, based on the facts above,
that IPC intentionally omitted any mention of Hathaway’s shoulder injury to the worker’s
compensation board. Gotch intentionally, and at the direction of IPC management,
altered the original report by omitting any mention of Hathaway’s shoulder injury. IPC’s
official report also omitted it, despite having just received Dr. Curtis’s letter linking the
shoulder injury to the fall at work.
A reasonable juror could conclude that IPC had a scheme to cover-up the injury so
it would not have to be reported. IPC’s scheme was working smoothly until Hathaway
discovered it and complained to IPC. Just a day later, a co-worker conveniently appears
giving statements that would be used to fire Hathaway. While IPC alleges that it
interviewed Hathaway to get his side of the story before firing him, Hathaway denies it,
and IPC kept no notes or recordings of the interview as it did with the interviews of the
Under all these circumstances, a reasonable juror could conclude that IPC worked
together with the co-worker to gin up an excuse to fire Hathaway because he had
discovered their scheme to hide his shoulder injury from the worker’s compensation
board. Moreover, IPC wanted to fire Hathaway to avoid making accommodations for his
shoulder injury. These findings would support all of Hathaway’s claims. Of course, the
evidence may lead to other conclusions. But so long as a reasonable juror could evaluate
these facts and render a verdict for Hathaway, the Court must deny summary judgment.
In accordance with the Memorandum Decision set forth above,
NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that the motion for summary
judgment (docket no. 18) is DENIED.
DATED: February 17, 2017
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
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