from the Court of Claims of Ohio No. 2017-00564JD
Zhang, Ltd., and Fan Zhang, for appellant.
Yost, Attorney General, and Velda K. Hofacker, for appellee.
1} Plaintiff-appellant, Jiashin Wu, Ph.D., appeals
from a judgment of the Court of Claims of Ohio granting the
motion for summary judgment filed by defendant-appellee,
Northeast Ohio Medical University ("NEOMED"). For
the following reasons, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
2} In June 2017, Dr. Wu initiated this action
against NEOMED alleging claims of breach of contract,
discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. These claims
arose from Dr. Wu's employment with NEOMED that began in
January 2014 and ended in June 2017.
3} In January 2014, Dr. Wu began to work as a
consultant in NEOMED's College of Pharmacy in conjunction
with the recruiting and hiring of his wife, Min You, Ph.D.,
as department chair, associated dean for research, in the
College of Pharmacy's Department of Pharmaceutical
Sciences. Pursuant to the consulting agreement, NEOMED paid
$7, 500 per month to Dr. Wu to assist Dr. You in the transfer
of her research laboratory and enterprise to NEOMED's
campus. In September 2014, Dr. Wu became a non-tenure track
associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical
Sciences, with an annual base salary of $90, 000. As a
faculty member, Dr. Wu's direct supervisor would have
been the department chair, but because Dr. Wu's wife held
that position at the time he was hired, the vice dean of
NEOMED's College of Pharmacy, Richard Kasmer, Pharm.D.,
J.D., was Dr. Wu's direct supervisor. In addition to
being an associate professor, Dr. Wu was appointed as the
director of both international collaboration and research
services in the College of Pharmacy. In those administrative
roles, Dr. Kasmer also served as Dr. Wu's direct
supervisor. In February 2015, Steven Schmidt, Ph.D., replaced
Dr. You as the department chair. As a faculty member and
director of research services, Dr. Wu began to report to Dr.
Schmidt, and for his duties as the director of international
collaboration, Dr. Wu continued to report to Dr. Kasmer.
4} In the fall of 2015, NEOMED's College of
Pharmacy leadership decided to create a research focus area,
the college's first, concerning neurodegenerative
diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and
aging. As the department chair and associate dean of
research, Dr. Schmidt was tasked with determining how to best
align and allocate existing resources in connection with the
creation of the new research focus area. Dr. Schmidt
determined that almost all department faculty members were
either tenure track, nontenure track with grant funding, or
had skills that aligned with the new research focus area. The
exception was Dr. Wu, who was a non-tenure track professor,
was funded by the college, and had an area of expertise
(cardiology) that did not align with the research focus area.
Dr. Schmidt also found that Dr. Wu's teaching and service
efforts could be fulfilled by other faculty. Thus, Dr.
Schmidt concluded that the college funds financing Dr.
Wu's employment should be reallocated to support and
implement the new research focus area. Consequently, Dr.
Schmidt advised Dr. Kasmer that the dean of the college,
Charles Taylor, Pharm.D., should issue to Dr. Wu a notice of
non-reappointment pursuant to NEOMED's bylaws,
effectively terminating Dr. Wu's employment.
5} After receiving Dr. Schmidt's input, Dr.
Kasmer recommended to Dr. Taylor that a notice of
non-reappointment be issued to Dr. Wu. In Dr. Kasmer's
memorandum to Dr. Taylor on the subject, he agreed with Dr.
Schmidt's assessment of the situation, noting that Dr.
Wu's skills and expertise did not align with the
strategic direction of the college. Dr. Kasmer also noted
that Dr. Wu's efforts in support of international
collaboration were no longer necessary because that
initiative had been elevated from the college to university
level, and that his role in research services became
unnecessary upon Dr. Schmidt's hiring as the department
chair and associate dean of research. Further, before Dr.
Kasmer made the recommendation of non-reappointment, he
approached multiple department chairs and senior faculty to
see if there remained a need for Dr. Wu's services within
the university. None responded that Dr. Wu's services
were needed. Dr. Taylor accepted Dr. Kasmer's
recommendation and issued a notice of non-reappointment to
Dr. Wu on March 11, 2016, informing Dr. Wu his last day of
service with the college would be June 30, 2017, in
accordance with the university bylaws.
6} On June 26, 2017, Dr. Wu initiated this action.
In May 2018, NEOMED moved for summary judgment. On June 18,
2018, Dr. Wu filed a response to the motion for summary
judgment. Eleven days later, and with leave of court, NEOMED
filed a reply brief in support of its motion for summary
judgment. In July 2018, Dr. Wu filed a motion to strike
NEOMED's reply brief on the basis that it did not comply
with L.C.C.R. 4(E)'s requirement that a reply brief not
exceed seven pages in length.
7} In August 2018, the trial court denied Dr.
Wu's motion to strike NEOMED's reply brief and
granted NEOMED's motion for summary judgment.
8} Dr. Wu timely appeals.
Assignments of Error
9} Dr. Wu assigns the following ...