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Wilson v. Dynasplint Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

April 3, 2017

TROY WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DYNASPLINT SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL R. MERZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b) (ECF No. 32). Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 34) and Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 35). The matter is now ripe for decision.

         The parties unanimously consented to plenary magistrate judge jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) in their Rule 26(f) Report (Doc. No. 18) and Judge Rice has referred the case on that basis (Doc. No. 19).

         This action arises under 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (Complaint, Doc. No. 1 PageID 1). The Court is asserted to have jurisdiction under Title 29 U.S.C. § 2617. Id. The subject matter jurisdiction is not contested.

         Statement of Facts

         It is uncontested that Plaintiff, Troy Wilson, a resident of Ohio, was employed by Defendant Dynasplint Systems, Inc., a Maryland corporation, as a sales Consultant in its Southern Ohio Dayton-Cincinnati region (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 1-2, ¶¶ 1, 2, 7, 8); (Answer, ECF No. 22, PageID 159-160, ¶¶ 1, 2, 7, 8); (Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 32, PageID 414-415). Plaintiff began his employment with Dynasplint in December 2011, demonstrating and fitting patients with Dynasplint's product of bilateral spring loaded tensioning devices designed to help increase joint range of motion (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 2, ¶ 9); (Answer, ECF No. 22, PageID 160, ¶ 9); (Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 32, PageID 415). Likewise neither party contests that there was a difference in personalities between Wilson and his immediate supervisor, Tim Blair (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 2, ¶¶ 11-14); (Answer, ECF No. 22, PageID 160, ¶¶ 12, 13); (Wilson Depo., ECF No. 31, PageID 216). Blair's supervisor, Scott Herman, was reassigned as Wilson's supervisor, but after a short time period, the supervisory role was given back to Blair (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 2, ¶¶ 12-13); (Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 32, PageID 415).

         Plaintiff and his partner were expecting a child in the middle of March, 2013. On February 19, 2013, during what was expected to be a routine prenatal visit, Wilson's girlfriend was admitted into the hospital with complications arising from preeclampsia (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 3, ¶¶ 16-18). The mother was induced and the baby was born three weeks prematurely on February 21, 2013 (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 2, ¶ 18).

         Blair planned on doing a ride-along with Wilson on February 20, 2013, to observe Wilson's sales calls and fittings. He had made several attempts throughout a four-day period to contact Wilson to confirm the ride along, including phone calls and an email, without a response (Blair Email dated February 19, 2013, ECF No. 31-1, PageID 373); (Blair Email dated February 20, 2013, ECF No. 13-1, PageID 374); (Wilson Depo., ECF No. 31, PageID 245). Finally, at approximately 9:00 p.m., February 19, 2013, Wilson responded via email that Blair would “probably want to check with me and CONFIRM next time. We are in labor and delivery. There is no way we will be riding together tomorrow.” (ECF No. 31-1, PageID 373)(emphasis in original.)

         Wilson was terminated from Dynasplint on February 20, 2013 (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 3, ¶ 22); (Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 32, PageID 415).

         The area of contention arises out of whether or not Wilson provided notice to his supervisor as to the medical emergency and did so in a manner sufficient to convey that Wilson needed FMLA time and if so, whether he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation. Plaintiff alleges that he “immediately provided notice to his supervisor Tim Blair regarding the quick developments of the medical complications” and again informed Blair of the emergency situation after Blair notified Wilson that he would be in Dayton to do a “ride along” to observe Wilson's work on February 20, 2013 (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 3, ¶¶ 19-21). Defendant however counters that Wilson was performing below expectations and had been put on notice of that. Further, Defendant argues that, as the termination had begun prior to the medical emergency, and/or they did not receive proper notice of the emergency, Plaintiff's FMLA rights were not triggered.

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint raising his FMLA violation on September 18, 2014 (ECF No. 1). A summons was issued a week later and returned executed in January of 2015 (ECF Nos. 2, 4). At that point Plaintiff filed several Motions for Default Judgment (February 10, 2015, March 17, 2015, and July 7, 2015) (ECF Nos. 4, 5, 9), as well as an Application to the Clerk for Default Judgment on April 1, 2015 (ECF No. 7). The Clerk entered the default Judgment on April 2, 2015 (ECF No. 8). Several months after default had been entered, Defendants filed a Motion to Set Aside Default arguing that through internal error, the entry of default had been rendered prior to the decision maker at Dynasplint realizing that they had been properly served (Motion, ECF No. 14, PageID 39); (Response, ECF No. 15); (Reply, ECF No. 16). Defendant further argued that 1) there would be no unfair prejudice to the plaintiff if this matter were permitted to move forward on the merits 2) Dynasplint has a meritorious defense to the FMLA claims, and 3) Dynasplint acted in good faith at all times. Id. at 39-40. The District Court entered a Decision Sustaining the Motion to Set Aside Entry of Default (ECF No. 17). Once permitted to proceed, Defendant filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 22) and later a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32); (Response, ECF No. 34); (Reply, ECF No. 35).

         Applicable General Standard

         Summary judgment is proper "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 the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the burden of showing that there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the evidence, together with all inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157-59 (1970). Nevertheless, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986) (emphasis in original). Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).

         Read together, Liberty Lobby and Celotex stand for the proposition that a party may move for summary judgment asserting that the opposing party will not be able to produce sufficient evidence at trial to withstand a directed verdict motion (now known as a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50). Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1478 (6th Cir. 1989). If, after sufficient time for discovery, the opposing party is unable to demonstrate that he or she can do so under the Liberty Lobby criteria, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. The opposing party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-250 (citations omitted). "The mere possibility of a factual dispute is not enough." Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992), quoting Gregg v. Allen-Bradley Co., 801 F.2d 859, 863 (6th Cir. 1986). Therefore a court must make a preliminary assessment of the evidence, in order to decide whether the plaintiff's evidence concerns a material issue and is more than de minimis. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795 (6thCir. 1996). "On summary judgment, " moreover, "the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Thus, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249.

         The moving party

[A]lways 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 the affidavits, if any, " which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see also, Boretti v. Wiscomb, 930 F.2d 1150, 1156 (6th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Alexander v. Caresource, 576 F.3d 551 (6th Cir. 2009), citing Mt. Lebanon Personal Care Home, Inc. v. Hoover Universal, Inc., 276 F.3d 845, 848 (6th Cir. 2002). If the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Martin v. Ohio Turnpike Comm'n., 968 F.2d 606 (6th Cir. 1992).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment (in other words, determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact), "[a] district court is not . . . obligated to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim." InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1091 (1990). Thus, in determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists on a particular issue, a court is entitled to rely only upon those portions of the verified pleadings, depositions, ...


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