JERRI et al v. HARRAN et al
MEMORANDUM OF LAW RE PLAINTIFF JERR, JR.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MICHAEL M. BAYLSON ON 6/9/2014. 6/10/2014 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(amas)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
David Jerri, Jr., et. al,
Frederick Harran, et al.,
MEMORANDUM OF LAW RE PLAINTIFF JERRI, JR.’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
June 9, 2014
This complex civil rights action involves a number of claims against various Defendants.
The present Motion for Summary Judgment, filed by Plaintiff, David Jerri, Jr. (“Jerri, Jr.”), only
pertains to Jerri, Jr.’s two claims for wrongful termination against Defendants Knights Collision
Center, Inc. (“Knights Collision”) and Michael Pierson.
Plaintiff filed his Motion for Summary Judgment (“the Motion”) on April 30, 2014 (ECF
117) and an accompanying Statement of Undisputed Facts on the same day (ECF 118). Knights
Collision and Pierson submitted a Response in Opposition (“Opposition”) on May 19, 2014,
(ECF 133), along with a Response to Plaintiff’s Statement of Undisputed Facts (ECF 134).
For the following reasons, this Court will DENY the Motion.
Jerri, Jr. asserts claims for wrongful termination for seeking workers compensation in
violation of public policy under Pennsylvania common law and wrongful termination of a
volunteer firefighter in violation of 35 Pa. C.S.A. § 7424 against Knights Collision and Pierson,
the Owner of Knights Collision, each involving the same operative facts.
The following facts are not in dispute unless otherwise noted. Knights Collision provides
duty tow services to Bensalem Township Police Department. ECF 118 (Pl.’s Statement of
Undisputed Facts) ¶ 4 [hereinafter SUF]. Jerri, Jr. worked as a full-time employee at Knights
Collision. Id. ¶ 8; ECF 134 (Def.’s Resp. to Pl.’s Statement of Undisputed Facts) ¶ 8 [hereinafter
Resp. to SUF]. Jerri, Jr. also volunteered as a firefighter with the Union Fire Company in
Bensalem, Pennsylvania throughout his employment with Knights Collision. SUF ¶¶ 7, 10.
Pierson was in charge of day-to-day operations of Knights Collision in 2011, and handled all
aspects of the business, including supervision of employees and other personnel decisions such
as terminations. Id. ¶ 14, 15. Robert Searfoss acted as the towing manager of Knights Collision
during the relevant time period, in which role he managed driver schedules, dispatching, billing.
Id. ¶ 16. Searfoss also acted as Jerri, Jr.’s direct supervisor and reported directly to Pierson. Id.
¶¶ 13, 17.
On September 17, 2011, Jerri, Jr. responded to a fire at the Hillcrest Dairy. Id. ¶ 18. At
some point, Jerri, Jr. suffered a fractured hand. Id. ¶ 21. Significantly, the parties dispute
whether Jerri, Jr. suffered his hand injury while responding to the fire or sometime before then
while playing hockey. Compare id. ¶¶ 19-20, with Resp. to SUF ¶¶ 19-20. The parties do not
dispute that Jerri, Jr.’s doctors restricted him from using his hand, SUF ¶ 22, or that he
underwent surgery on the hand on October 4, 2011, id. ¶ 23. Nor do they dispute that Jerri, Jr.
gave Pierson his medical paperwork in person a couple days after the fire and explained that his
injury happened while responding to the fire. Id. ¶¶ 25, 27. However, the parties do dispute
whether an employee of Knights Collision then removed Jerri, Jr. from the calendar or whether
Jerri, Jr. effectively removed himself from the calendar at that time. Compare id. ¶¶ 28-30, with
Resp. to SUF ¶¶ 28-30.
There is no dispute that Jerri, Jr. did file a claim for workers compensation and that he
received benefit payments via Delaware Valley Workers Compensation Trust (“the Trust”) for
approximately two months after filing his claim. SUF ¶¶ 31-32. The parties agree that Linda
Bengera, the claims adjuster for the Trust, spoke to Knights Collision as part of her claim
investigation, and that Bengera made several attempts to contact Knights Collision in processing
Jerri, Jr.’s claim. Id. ¶¶ 33, 37, 39-40. Knights Collision and Pierson, however, dispute whether
Pierson had knowledge of those attempts. Resp. to SUF ¶¶ 39-40.
The parties further dispute the circumstances of the termination of Jerri, Jr.’s employment
at Knights Collision. Plaintiffs assert that Pierson terminated Jerri, Jr.’s employment in a
conversation that took place in September, during Jerri, Jr.’s medical treatment and before he
was cleared to resume work. SUF ¶¶ 43-55. Knights Collision and Pierson, on the other hand,
argue that the record shows that they terminated Plaintiffs’ employment in December, via letter,
after Plaintiff had been arrested for unlawful entry on Knights Collision property. Resp. to SUF
A district court should grant a motion for summary judgment if the movant can show
“that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law.” Id.
A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility for informing
the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular
issue at trial, the moving party's initial burden can be met simply by “pointing out to the district
court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Id. at 325.
After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party's response must, “by
affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule [ ] set out specific facts showing a genuine issue
for trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-moving party fails
to rebut by making a factual showing “sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322. Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented on the motion in the
light most favorable to the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not set forth the elements of claim for retaliatory
discharge, but the Third Circuit has endorsed the application of the Title VII framework to such
claims under Pennsylvania law. See Dunsmuir v. May Dep't Stores Co., 120 F. App’x 927, 929
(3d Cir. 2005) (“This approach is sound in our view”); see also Deily v. Waste Mgmt. of
Allentown, 55 F. App’x 605, 608 (3d Cir. 2003). Thus, an employee must establish: (1) that he
engaged in protected activity; (2) that he suffered an adverse employment action either after or
contemporaneous with the protected activity; and (3) that there is a causal connection between
his protected activity and the employer's adverse action. Dunsmuir, 120 F. App’x at 929. If the
employee is able to show these elements, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a
legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action. Id. If the employer satisfies this burden, the
employee may defeat summary judgment by discrediting the proffered reason or adducing
evidence to demonstrate that retaliatory animus was a motivating factor in the employer's
decision. Id. “A plaintiff may defeat a motion for summary judgment (or judgment as a matter
of law) by pointing ‘to some evidence, direct or circumstantial, from which a factfinder would
reasonably either: (1) disbelieve the employer's articulated legitimate reasons; or (2) believe that
an invidious discriminatory reason was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause
of the employer's action.’” Jones v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 198 F.3d 403, 413 (3d Cir. 1999)
(quoting Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759 (3d Cir. 1994)).
The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff engaged in a protective activity by filing a
workers’ compensation claim or that he suffered an adverse employment action. However, the
parties do dispute the causal connection between the protected activity and Knights Collision’s
decision to terminate his employment. Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to
Knights Collision, this Court cannot find, as a matter of law, that Knights Collision terminated
Plaintiff because of his protected activity. Knights Collision has put forth evidence showing that
the decision to terminate Plaintiff was based on Plaintiff’s arrest for trespassing on Knights
Collision’s property. Although Plaintiff strenuously disputes that contention, that dispute cannot
be resolved as a matter of law.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment against Knights
Collision will be DENIED without prejudice. The Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the claims against Knights Collision – both of which are based on state law –
and they will be DISMISSED without prejudice. An appropriate order was issued on June 5,
2014. ECF 152.
O:\Caitlin\Civil\13-1328 (Jerri)\2014.6.4 MoL re P's MSJ.docx
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