William D. Walker, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, C.P.C. No.
Groedel & Associates, Co., LPA, Matthew S. Grimsley, and
Caryn M. Groedel, for appellant.
Day and Matthew A. Kairis, for appellee.
Matthew S. Grimsley.
Matthew A. Kairis.
1} Plaintiff-appellant, William D. Walker, appeals
from the decision of the Franklin County Court of Common
Pleas entering judgment in favor of defendant-appellee,
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("Nationwide"),
on Walker's claims for wrongful termination in violation
of public policy. The trial court determined that Tennessee
law applies to Walker's claims, and that they are
time-barred under that state's statute of limitations.
For the following reasons, we affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
2} Nationwide is an Ohio corporation with its
principal place of business in Franklin County, Ohio. (Jun.
1, 2016 Answer at ¶ 2.) Walker first started working for
Nationwide in 1991 in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1992,
Nationwide transferred him to Tennessee to work in its South
Central Region, which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky,
Arkansas, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Iowa. Walker was a
resident of Tennessee during the remainder of his employment
with Nationwide, which was terminated on April 2, 2013.
(Answer at ¶ 5-6; Mar. 3, 2015 Second Am. Compl. &
Answer at ¶ 1, 5-6, 51; Aff. of Terry F. Saharski,
hereinafter "Saharski Aff., " at ¶ 2 & 8.)
3} From December 2001 until the termination of his
employment, Walker held the title of Sales
Manager. In this position, Walker was responsible
for recruiting and managing new insurance agents for
Nationwide. Beginning in 1998, Walker's direct supervisor
was Terry Saharski, who held the title of Associate Vice
President of Sales at the time of Walker's termination.
Saharski lived and worked in Tennessee. (Second Am. Compl.
& Answer at ¶ 13 & 15; Saharski Aff. at ¶
1, 6- 7.)
4} Saharski reported to Shelley Brazeau Temple, who
was Nationwide's Regional Vice President for the South
Central Region. Temple lived in Tennessee beginning in 2011.
As Nationwide's Regional Vice President, Temple had final
authority over all personnel decisions in the South Central
Region. (Aff. of Shelley Brazeau Temple, hereinafter
"Temple Aff., " at ¶ 2-4, 7.)
5} As a Sales Manager, Walker received a base salary
and variable compensation in the form of a possible bonus
based on the amount of the "loss ratio" of the
agents he managed. The loss ratio was a calculation of the
defined losses incurred for paid claims, plus certain
expenses, divided by the total amount of premiums earned.
Walker was only to receive a variable compensation bonus if
his agents attained a loss ratio of 55 percent or less.
Claims based on catastrophic losses, such as tornados,
hurricanes, or floods are not included in the loss ratio
calculation. (Pl.'s Memo. Contra Def.'s Mot. for
Summ. Jgmt., Ex. D; Second Am. Compl. & Answer at ¶
6} Walker's loss ratio for 2012 was calculated
at 55.2 percent. Consequently, he did not receive a variable
compensation bonus for that year. Walker contacted Robert
McCartney, a Nationwide employee on its Sales Operation
Automation team, for assistance with the calculation of his
loss ratio and information on how catastrophic claims were
designated. After researching the issue, Walker reported to
Nationwide that he believed that the company had failed to
designate a number of claims arising from hail storms as
catastrophic, resulting in an incorrect calculation of his
loss ratio. (Second Am. Compl. & Answer at ¶ 31-33.)
7} Walker alleges that the designation of these
claims as non-catastrophic constituted "insurance
fraud." He also alleges that in January 2013, he
provided a report describing the issue to an upper-level
claims manager, who subsequently circulated it among
Nationwide's upper management. Walker also claims that he
met with Saharski on February 7, 2013 "to discuss the
miscoding issue, " and that Saharski rebuffed him and
accused him of trying to procure an additional bonus. (Second
Am. Compl. & Answer at ¶ 42.) Walker alleges that
when he and Saharski met a week later, Walker gave him
evidence that Nationwide was engaged in "insurance
fraud." Walker also claims that he advised an agent to
seek legal advice immediately before the agent was fired by
Saharski. Nationwide denies each of the foregoing
allegations. (Second Am. Compl. & Answer at ¶ 36,
8} On March 15, 2013, Walker was notified that his
employment with Nationwide was terminated effective April 2,
2013. The decision was made by Temple and Saharski concurred.
(Second Am. Compl. & Answer at ¶ 51; Saharski Aff.
at ¶ 8; Temple Aff. at ¶ 8.)
9} Walker filed suit against Nationwide in the
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on December 16, 2014.
He alleged two claims of wrongful termination in violation of
public policy. The first claim arose from an allegation in
the original complaint that Nationwide retaliated against
Walker for testifying against Saharski and Nationwide in a
lawsuit the company filed against several of its insurance
agents. The second claim arose from Walker's allegation
that Nationwide ...