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Chrysler Group, L.L.C. v. Dixon

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 30, 2017

CHRYSLER GROUP, L.L.C. PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
DARLENE DIXON DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-10-743352

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Richard O. Mazanec Richard O. Mazanec Co., L.P.A.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Russell T. Rendall Bruce G. Hearey Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

          BEFORE: E.T. Gallagher, J., Kilbane, P.J., and Jones, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN T. GALLAGHER, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Darlene Dixon ("Dixon"), appeals an order granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee, Chrysler Group, L.L.C. She raises two assignments of error:

1. The trial court erred in granting Chrysler's motion for summary judgment holding that Dixon's counterclaim is barred by the doctrines of judicial and equitable estoppel and that Dixon lacks standing to bring her counterclaim.
2. The trial court erred in granting Chrysler's motion for summary judgment holding that Dixon's counterclaim fails as a matter of law because Dixon cannot prove a prima facie case of wrongful discharge based on Dixon's disability.

         {¶2} We find no merit to the appeal and affirm the trial court's judgment. I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶3} Dixon started her employment with Chrysler at a plant in Twinsburg, Ohio in 1997. In January 2010, Chrysler closed the Twinsburg plant, and Dixon signed a "Relocation Repayment Agreement, " in which she agreed to move to Warren, Michigan to work as a production control supervisor at Chrysler's Warren Truck Assembly Plant. (Pardun Affidavit ¶ 3.) The agreement provided, in relevant part:

I understand that the relocation benefits that have been and/or are extended by Chrysler to me or on my behalf are conditional upon my continued employment with Chrysler for a minimum of one (1) year from my effective transfer date to the new location.
I understand that in the event that I am separated from Chrysler's employ for any reason other than death, layoff, or retirement within this one year period from my effective transfer date, I hereby promise to reimburse Chrysler for the relocation expenses paid to me or on my behalf for my relocation within 30 days after I have terminated my employment.

         Pursuant to the agreement, Chrysler paid Dixon $41, 873.95 in relocation benefits in January 2010. In February 2010, Chrysler issued a second payment to Dixon in the amount of $36, 866.25 by mistake. This sum was not included in the parties' relocation agreement.

         {¶4} Dixon began working at the Michigan plant on January 11, 2010. However, on January 25, 2010, Dixon went on a short-term medical leave under Chrysler's Disability Absence Plan ("DAP"). Both her physician and Chrysler's doctor approved the medical leave, and an independent medical examiner later cleared Dixon to return to work in May 2010. Accordingly, Chrysler informed Dixon that (1) she must report to work by November 2010, and (2) she must bring a certified check in the amount of $36, 866.25 to repay the amount Chrysler paid to Dixon by mistake.

         {¶5} Desiree Nash ("Nash"), a Human Resources Generalist at Chrysler, averred in an affidavit submitted in support of Chrysler's motion for summary judgment that "Dixon failed to report to work as instructed." (Nash Affidavit ¶ 9.) Nevertheless, Chrysler extended her report date to December 6, 2010. (Nash Affidavit ¶ 9.) Dixon reported for work on December 6, 2010, but failed to repay the $36, 866.25. Accordingly, Chrysler terminated her employment. (Nash Affidavit ¶ 10.)

         {¶6} Chrysler subsequently commenced this action to recover the $41, 873.95 that it paid to relocate Dixon to Warren, Michigan, claiming it was entitled to reimbursement of funds paid for a job relocation that Dixon never exercised. Chrysler also sought to recover the $36, 866.25 that Chrysler paid to Dixon in error. Dixon filed counterclaims for breach of implied contract, ...


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