Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016 CV 01468
Plaintiff-Appellant ANDREA L. WHITAKER WILLIAM T. WHITAKER
WILLIAM T. WHITAKER CO., LPA
Defendants-Appellees BRUCE G.HEAREY KATHLEEN J. SANZ
OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART
John W. Wise, P. J., Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J., Hon. Earle E.
Wise, Jr., J.
JOHN, P. J.
Appellant Angela Johnson appeals the July 6, 2016, decision
of the Stark County Common Pleas Court granting summary
judgment in favor of Appellees Aultman Hospital and Marie
OF THE FACTS AND CASE
In December, 2012, Appellant Angela Johnson was hired by
Appellee Aultman Hospital as an oncology nurse. In June,
2015, Aultman's Pharmacy Unit ran a routine, random audit
of its nurses' narcotics withdrawal and administration
records. Appellant's scores over a three-month period
were found to be higher than usual and higher than her peers.
Additionally, approximately twenty-one (21) discrepancies
were found in which Appellant had either failed to document
her administration of narcotics that she had withdrawn, or
she had withdrawn more medication than a particular
patient's prescription called for.
On July 1, 2015, Appellee Marie Hooper, Appellant's
immediate supervisor, met with Appellant to bring these
discrepancies to her attention. Appellant was unable to
provide an explanation for all of the discrepancies, and
Appellant was suspended pending further investigation.
On July 13, 2015, Hooper met with Appellant again and
notified her that she was being terminated for failure to
follow proper protocol regarding medication administration
and for theft of narcotics. Appellant denied that she had
stolen any drugs and initiated an action with the Ohio
Unemployment Compensation Review Commission. Following
hearings and testimony, the hearing officer on December 22,
2015, concluded that Appellant had been terminated for just
On June 24, 2016, Appellant filed a Complaint in the Stark
County Court of Common Pleas against Appellees Aultman
Hospital and Marie Hooper alleging eight causes of action:
(1) breach of implied contract; (2) wrongful discharge; (3)
libel; (4) slander; (5) tortious interference with employment
relationship; (6) respondeat superior; (7) tortious
interference with future employment; and (8) intentional
infliction of emotional distress.
On July 27, 2016, Appellees filed a Civ.R. 12(B)(6) Motion to
On November 17, 2016, the trial court granted Appellees'
motion to dismiss as to six of the eight causes of action.
Appellant's causes of action for breach of implied
contract and wrongful termination remained.
On November 28, 2016, Appellant voluntarily dismissed her
wrongful discharge claim, leaving only the claim for breach
of implied contract against Aultman Hospital.
On December 16, 2016, Appellant filed a new Complaint (Case
No. 2016CV02741) reasserting only the defamation claims, and
the two cases were consolidated on February 21, 2017.
On April 17, 2017, Appellees filed a Motion for Summary
On July 6, 2016, the trial court granted Appellees'
Motion for Summary Judgment.
Appellant now appeals, assigning the following errors for
"I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
ON WHETHER THERE EXISTS AN IMPLIED DUTY OF CONTINUED
EMPLOYMENT IN THE ABSENCE OF JUST CAUSE WHEN THERE IS A
GENUINE ISSUE OF MATERIAL FACT AS TO WHETHER THE ALLEGED
BASIS OF THE DISCHARGE IS A FALSE CLAIM THAT CAUSES
FORESEEABLE HARM BEYOND AND GREATER THAN LOSS OF EMPLOYMENT;
TO WIT, THAT THE EMPLOYER CAUSED FORESEEABLE HARM BY
DISCHARGING APPELLANT ON THE BASIS OF A FALSE ACCUSATION OF A
THEFT OF DRUGS TRIGGERING A FALSE REPORT TO THE STATE BOARD
"II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
ON APPELLANT'S DEFAMATION CLAIMS AS THERE ARE GENUINE
DISPUTES OF MATERIAL FACT AS TO 1) WHETHER THE DEFENDANTS
FALSE REPORT TO THE OHIO BOARD OF NURSING WAS MADE BY THE
DEFENDANTS AND, IF SO, WHETHER IT IS PROTECTED BY QUALIFIED
IMMUNITY, AND 2) WHETHER DEFENDANT MARIE HOOPER MADE
DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS TO A FRIEND OF THE APPELLANT FALSELY
CLAIMING THAT APPELLANT STOLE DRUGS FROM AULTMAN
Summary judgment proceedings present the appellate court with
the unique opportunity of reviewing the evidence in the same
manner as the trial court. Smiddy v. The Wedding Party,
Inc. (1987), 30 Ohio St.3d 35, 36, 506 N.E.2d 212.
Civ.R. 56(C) provides, in pertinent part:
Summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, written
admissions, affidavits, transcripts of evidence in the
pending case, and written stipulations of fact, if any,
timely filed in the action, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. * * * A summary
judgment shall not be rendered unless it appears from such
evidence or stipulation and only therefrom, that reasonable
minds can come to but one conclusion and that conclusion is
adverse to the party against whom the motion for summary
judgment is made, such party being entitled to have the
evidence or stipulation construed most strongly in his favor.
Pursuant to the above rule, a trial court may not enter a
summary judgment if it appears a material fact is genuinely
disputed. The party moving for summary judgment bears the
initial burden of informing the trial court of the basis for
its motion and identifying those portions of the record that
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
The moving party may not make a conclusory assertion that the
nonmoving party has no evidence to prove its case. The moving
party must specifically point to some evidence *759 which
demonstrates the non-moving party cannot support its claim.
If the moving party satisfies this requirement, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts