United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief Judge.
Court has before it a motion for summary judgment filed by
defendant Idaho-Pacific Corporation (IPC). The Court heard
oral argument on the motion on February 14, 2017, and took
the motion under advisement. For the reasons explained below,
the Court will deny the motion.
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view
the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving
party and cannot make credibility findings. See Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
February 19, 2013, Hathaway injured his shoulder and thumb
while working at IPC. With his shoulder and thumb wrapped in
ice, Hathaway made a report to Dwain Gotch, Plant Safety
Manager, describing the accident, and detailing the injury to
his shoulder and thumb. Gotch prepared a handwritten report
that included both the shoulder and thumb injury, and
Hathaway signed that report. This was consistent with
Gotch's normal practice. But this time, Gotch later
prepared a final typewritten report that failed to mention
the shoulder injury, and that report was never submitted to
Hathaway for his signature. The original handwritten report
has apparently disappeared.
shoulder pain increasing, Hathaway sought treatment from Dr.
Larry Curtis. On March 28, 2013, Dr. Curtis wrote to IPC
stating that Hathaway's shoulder injury was due to his
fall at IPC on February 19, 2013. IPC received Dr.
Curtis's letter the same day. The next day - March 29,
2013 - IPC filed its official report with the worker's
compensation board on Hathaway's fall, saying nothing
about his shoulder injury.
April 16, 2013, Hathaway discovered that Gotch's
typewritten report failed to mention his shoulder injury.
Hathaway testified that when he confronted Gotch about this,
Gotch said that he had been ordered to omit reference to the
shoulder injury from the report. Hathaway complained that
same day to Mike Willmore, in IPC's Human Resources
Department but got no response.
later - on April 17, 2013 - co-worker Margaret Johnson gave a
statement to Supervisor Steve McLean that she overheard
Hathaway say that he should “trip and fall and then
they'd have to pay.” See Transcript (Dkt. No.
18-6). Notably, in Johnson's recorded and
transcribed statement, she indicated she couldn't tell
whether or not Hathaway was joking. Id. Hathaway
denies making that statement, and indicates that he was never
given a chance to respond to Johnson's claim. IPC claims
that it met with Hathaway and gave him a chance to answer the
allegations. See IPC Statement (Dkt. No. 18-1) at p.
9. However, IPC kept no record of such a meeting, unlike the
interview with Johnson, which was both tape-recorded and
next day, IPC fired Hathaway.
argues first that Hathaway has unequivocally abandoned his
claim that he was fired for making a worker's
compensation claim, and cites to Hathaway's deposition
testimony to support its argument. See Deposition pp.
154-157 (Dkt. No. 18-4). That deposition testimony is
far from unequivocal. Defense counsel's initial question
was simple - “Now, in this lawsuit in your complaint
you've alleged that you were fired because you filed a
worker' compensation claim, correct?” - and
Hathaway answers “no.” Id. at p. 154. It
appears at first glance that Hathaway has just abandoned his
central claim. But in explaining his answer, Hathaway does
not focus on his own legal claims, but on IPC's conduct.
He complains that IPC was on a “witch hunt, ”
refused to listen to him, and never stated the real reasons
for the firing. The discussion was now far afield from the
original question, raising a question whether Hathaway
misunderstood the question. This situation begged for defense
counsel to refocus Hathaway by asking him directly and
unequivocally whether he was abandoning allegations he made
in his complaint. That never happened. For whatever reason,
defense counsel decided not to pursue that direct line of
questioning. The Court is left with some ambiguous
back-and-forth that fails to clearly show that Hathaway
abandoned allegations in his complaint. The Court therefore
rejects IPC's argument that Hathaway abandoned the
central claim of his complaint.
Court turns next to whether IPC is entitled to summary
judgment on the merits of Hathaway's claims. A reasonable
juror could find, based on the facts above, that IPC
intentionally omitted any mention of Hathaway's shoulder
injury to the worker's compensation board. Gotch
intentionally, and at the direction of IPC management,
altered the original report by omitting any mention of
Hathaway's shoulder injury. IPC's official ...