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Sich v. Franciscan University of Steubenville

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Jefferson

June 19, 2019

DR. ALEXANDER R. SICH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
FRANCISCAN UNIVERSITY OF STEUBENVILLE, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County, Ohio Case No. 16-CV-00574.

          Atty. John F. Myers, for Plaintiff-Appellant and

          Atty. James M. Doerfler, and Atty. Kim M. Watterson, Reed Smith LLP, for Defendant-Appellee.

          BEFORE: Carol Ann Robb, Cheryl L. Waite, David A. D'Apolito, Judges.

          OPINION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Robb, J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant Dr. Alexander R. Sich appeals the decision of Jefferson County Common Pleas Court granting summary judgment for Defendant-Appellee Franciscan University of Steubenville. The issue in this case is whether there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Appellee violated the Employee Handbook when Appellant did not receive notice of all negative interactions listed in his file. For the reasons expressed below we find no merit with Appellant's assignment of error and affirm the trial court's decision.

         Statement of the Facts and Case

         {¶2} Prior to setting forth the facts and arguments it is noted all appellate briefs, summary judgment motions, and depositions are under seal. Only the complaint and answer are not under seal.

         {¶3} In 2009, Appellee hired Appellant to teach physics as an Associate Professor on a tenure track; Appellant was also to start a pre-engineering program. In 2016, Appellant submitted his application for tenure.

         {¶4} The tenure review committee reviewed his application, but recommended that he be denied tenure. The basis for the denial was the lack of collegiality or decorous behavior. The tenure board's recommendation was given to Appellee's Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA). The VPAA also recommended denial of tenure. The VPAA gave the tenure board's recommendation and its own recommendation to the Appellee's President.

         {¶5} The ultimate decision of whether to grant or deny tenure rested with the President of Appellee. The President considered the committee's recommendation, the VPAA's recommendation, the tenure application and the applicant's academic file. The President, following his independent review concluded denial of tenure was proper.

         {¶6} Appellant was notified in writing of the denial of tenure and was given a basis for the denial. Appellant then filed a complaint against Appellee asserting breach of contract, breach of implied contract, promissory estoppel, and negligent misrepresentation. 11/28/16 Complaint; 6/23/17 Amended Complaint. Appellee answered. 12/27/16 Answer; 7/6/17 Answer.

         {¶7} Following discovery, Appellee moved for summary judgment. 3/2/18 Motion for Summary Judgment. Appellee asserted Appellant had notice of all matters in his academic file. As such, Appellee asserted it did not breach the contract. It further asserted since there is an express contract through the handbook, the claim for implied contract and the promissory estoppel claims fail. 3/2/18 Motion for Summary Judgment. As to negligent misrepresentation, Appellee contended the matter is governed by contract and the tort claim does not survive. 3/2/18 Motion for Summary Judgment.

         {¶8} Appellant filed a motion in opposition to summary judgment contending there were genuine issues of material fact. 4/30/18 Motion in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment. Appellant asserted he was not on notice of all of the matters in his academic file. He contended the handbook indicated he was to be informed of complaints put in his file. Appellant asserted the implied breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims were alternatives if the court found there was not a contract. 4/30/18 Motion in Opposition to the ...


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