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Siemer v. Comet North America

November 30, 2006

HEINZ SIEMER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMET NORTH AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: S. Arthur Spiegel United States Senior District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (doc. 17), Defendant's Response in Opposition (doc. 34); Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 19), Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims under Ohio Revised Code §§ 4112.02(A) and (N) (doc. 33), Plaintiff's Consolidated Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment (doc. 36), and Defendant's Reply (doc. 38). For the reasons indicated herein, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and DENIES Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment.

I. Background

Defendant Comet North America ("Comet"), the subsidiary of a Swiss Company, Comet AG, sells various diagnostic equipment, including mass spectrometers, vacuum capacitors, and x-ray industrial tubes (doc. 1). Plaintiff began working in May 2000 at Comet's Cincinnati, Ohio branch, as Comet's Vice President and General Manager of North American Operations (Id.). It is undisputed that Plaintiff's performance for Comet resulted in profits and that he received pay increases and bonuses, although Defendant emphasizes he supervised sales personnel rather than engaging in significant selling himself (Id.).

In April of 2004, Comet acquired Feinfocus, a German manufacturer of specialty x-ray systems, along with its branch offices in the United States (Id.). Shortly thereafter, Peter Ruth, the CEO of Comet AG, explained to Plaintiff that due to the acquisition, there would be an unnecessary duplication of sales personnel in the United States (Id.). During the same discussion, Plaintiff avers that Ruth told him because Plaintiff was fifty-five years old, and because Ruth did not know how much longer Plaintiff would work, he decided to appoint Lance Scott, the former CEO of Feinfocus prior to the acquisition, as President of Comet North America (doc. 36). Ruth told Plaintiff the decision had nothing to do with Plaintiff's performance (Id.). According to Plaintiff, he replied to Ruth that he was actually fifty-nine years old and that it would be very difficult to find another job at his age (Id.). Plaintiff also indicates he told Ruth he had no plans to retire until he was sixty-five or seventy (Id.). Defendant argues it offered to explore with Plaintiff other positions he could work at in the company, but Plaintiff understood he had been fired and insists Ruth never made him an alternative proposal (Id.).

Plaintiff subsequently brought the present lawsuit, alleging that Defendant unlawfully discriminated against him on account of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (doc. 1). On September 8, 2006, Plaintiff amended his Complaint to add an age discrimination complaint pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §§ 4112.02(A) and (N) (doc. 29). Defendant answered on September 22, 2006, denying Plaintiff's claims and raising a counterclaim for breach of fiduciary and common law duties (doc. 32).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Although a grant of summary judgment is not a substitute for trial, it is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; see also, e.g., Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464 (1962); LaPointe v. United Autoworkers Local 600, 8 F.3d 376, 378 (6th Cir. 1993); Osborn v. Ashland County Bd. of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Servs., 979 F.2d 1131, 1133 (6th Cir. 1992)(per curiam). In reviewing the instant motion, "this Court must determine whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Patton v. Bearden, 8 F.3d 343, 346 (6th Cir. 1993), quoting in part Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)(internal quotation marks omitted).

The process of moving for and evaluating a motion for summary judgment and the respective burdens it imposes upon the movant and the non-movant are well settled. First, "a party seeking summary judgment ... bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact[.]" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also LaPointe, 8 F.3d at 378; Guarino v. Brookfield Township Trustees, 980 F.2d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 1992); Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989). The movant may do so by merely identifying that the non-moving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case. See Barnhart v. Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling Co., L.P.A., 12 F.3d 1382, 1389 (6th Cir. 1993).

Faced with such a motion, the non-movant, after completion of sufficient discovery, must submit evidence in support of any material element of a claim or defense at issue in the motion on which it would bear the burden of proof at trial, even if the moving party has not submitted evidence to negate the existence of that material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. 317; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). As the "requirement [of the Rule] is that there be no genuine issue of material fact," an "alleged factual dispute between the parties" as to some ancillary matter "will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis added); see generally Booker v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., Inc., 879 F.2d 1304, 1310 (6th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see also Gregory v. Hunt, 24 F.3d 781, 784 (6th Cir. 1994). Accordingly, the non-movant must present "significant probative evidence" demonstrating that "there is [more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" to survive summary judgment and proceed to trial on the merits. Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339-40 (6th Cir. 1993); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Guarino, 980 F.2d at 405.

Although the non-movant need not cite specific page numbers of the record in support of its claims or defenses, "the designated portions of the record must be presented with enough specificity that the district court can readily identify the facts upon which the non-moving party relies." Guarino, 980 F.2d at 405, quoting Inter-Royal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989)(internal quotation marks omitted). In contrast, mere conclusory allegations are patently insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See McDonald v. Union Camp Corp., 898 F.2d 1155, 1162 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court must view all submitted evidence, facts, and reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970); United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654 (1962). Furthermore, the district court may not weigh evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses in deciding the motion. See Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375, 378 (6th Cir. 1994).

Ultimately, the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that no material facts are in dispute. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. The fact that the non-moving party fails to respond to the motion does not lessen the burden on either the moving party or the Court to demonstrate that summary judgment is appropriate. See Guarino, 980 F.2d at 410; Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454-55 (6th Cir. 1991).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiff's Motion for Partial ...


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