United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
C. NUGENT United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF #15) on Plaintiffs' Complaint. For
the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is granted.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Marianne Kermavner and her husband, William Kermavner filed
this action against Mrs. Kermavner's former employer
Wyla, Inc., Charlene W. Walls, Wyla's Chief Operating
Officer, and Joseph Wiener, the President of Wyla. The only
remaining count in the Plaintiffs' Complaint is a claim
for promissory estoppel under Ohio law.
Wyla, Inc. is an independent designer and supplier of tulle,
lace, nettings, novelty fabrics and related finished
products. It is a privately owned corporation and its
shareholders include Defendants Charlene Wilkins Walls (Chief
Operating Officer) and Joseph Wiener (President). Plaintiff
Marianne Kermavner met Ms. Walls and Mr. Wiener when she was
working as a buyer for Jo-Ann Fabrics and Wyla Inc. was a
fabric vendor for which Mrs. Kermavner had responsibility.
After Mrs. Kermavner was downsized from Jo-Ann Fabrics in
January 2006, she was hired by Wyla as its Director of
Product Development beginning April 3. 2006. While Wyla's
corporate headquarters, warehousing and distribution center
are in Jacksonville Florida and its other offices are in New
York and Hangzhou, China, Mrs. Kermavner performed her job
duties from her home in Ohio throughout her tenure with Wyla.
its accountant notified Wyla that Mrs. Kermavner should have
been classified as an independent contractor and not as an
employee, Wyla informed Mrs. Kermavner that effective June
29, 2012, she would be transitioned from an employee to an
independent contractor. Regardless of whether Mrs. Kermavner
was an independent contractor or an employee, there was never
any written contract or agreement for a specific term of
state that they considered Mr. Wiener and Ms. Walls to be
friends and that they participated in social and family
gatherings together. Defendants agree that they would get
together socially with the Plaintiffs when they were in Ohio.
Thus, on December 16, 2013, the Kermavners went to dinner
with Mr. Wiener and Ms. Walls at a restaurant in Hudson,
Ohio. At that time the Kermavners wanted to build an addition
to their home, but Mr. Kermavner wanted to get some assurance
that Mrs. Kermavner's job was secure after she was
switched to independent contractor status. While Mrs.
Kermavner was away from the table, Mr. Kermavner states that
he discussed the addition and Mrs. Kermavner's future at
Wyla with Mr. Wiener and Ms. Walls. In his deposition Mr.
Kermavner stated that while he didn't remember the exact
words, Mr. Wiener said "her employment is good.
She's got a job for as long as - as long as things are
going well." Mr. Kermavner stated that Ms. Walls nodded
along with Mr. Wiener, confirming what Mr. Wiener was saying.
Mr. Kermavner later submitted an errata sheet to his
deposition indicating that he meant to testify that Mr.
Wiener stated that Mrs. Kermavner had a job "for as long
as she wants." Both Mr. Wiener and Ms. Walls deny that
he told Mr. Kermavner that Mrs. Kermavner would have a job
for as long as things were going well or for as long as she
wanted. After the dinner Mr. Kermavner told his wife that her
job was secure and they could go forward with their addition.
Mrs. Kermavner never followed up or confirmed this discussion
with Mr. Wiener or Ms. Walls. Plaintiffs went ahead with
their addition incurring debt of nearly $200, 000, of which
approximately $100, 000 is still owed. The Kermavners'
assert that they would not have gone forward with the
addition or incurred the debt if Mr. Wiener "had not
said what he said on December 16, 2013". (William
Kermavner Declaration at ¶ 5; Marianne Kermavner
Declaration at ¶ 8)
Walls spoke with Mrs. Kermavner in August 2014 to discuss
changes at JoAnn Stores and Mrs. Kermavner's diminishing
role at Wyla. She stated that Wyla would be reducing her pay
and encouraged Mrs. Kermavner to seek product development or
promotion opportunities with other companies to make up the
18, 2015, Ms. Walls telephoned Mrs. Kermavner to inform her
that her services were being terminated. The termination was
memorialized in a May 26, 2015 letter stating that her work
with Wyla will end June 26, 2015.
judgment is appropriate when the court is satisfied
"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. Crv. P. 56(c). The burden of
showing the absence of any such "genuine issue"
rests with the moving party:
[A] part}' seeking summary judgment always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any,
' which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)
(citing FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). A fact is
"material" only if its resolution will affect the
outcome of the lawsuit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 411 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Determination of
whether a factual issue is "genuine" requires
consideration of the applicable evidentiary standards. The
court will view the summary judgment motion in the light most
favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
judgment should be granted if a party who bears the burden of
proof at trial does not establish an essential element of
their case. Tolton v. American Biodyne, Inc., 48
F.3d 937, 941 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). Accordingly, "[t]he
mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
plaintiffs position will be insufficient; there must be
evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the
plaintiff." Copeland v. Machulis,57 F.3d 476,
479 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson, 477
U.S. at 252). Moreover, if the evidence presented is
"merely colorable" and not "significantly
probative, " the court may decide the legal issue and
grant summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50
(citations omitted). In most civil cases involving summary
judgment, the court must decide "whether reasonable
jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the
[non-moving party] is entitled to a verdict."
Id. at 252. However, if the non-moving party faces a