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FINCKE v. PHOENIX MUT. LIFE INS. CO.
March 31, 1978
D. Dennison Fincke Plaintiff
Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company and Eugene W. Christy, Its Agent, Defendant v. D. Dennison Fincke , Counterclaim Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER, JR.
In Count I of this Complaint, D. Dennison Fincke sues his last employer, Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company (Phoenix), for failing to pay him allegedly past due commissions and overrides for the period of August, 1973 through September 15, 1976, amounting to $183,400.00 and, in addition, asks for punitive damages. In Count II, Fincke seeks damages from Eugene W. Christy as the individual who induced him to leave his prior employment with Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company (Mutual) and then unlawfully and intentionally interfered with the Phoenix-Fincke employment contract. Fincke seeks damages from Phoenix as Christy's employer for lost future compensation during Fincke's work expectancy and from Phoenix for failure to pay disability payments. Summary Judgment Motions have been presented by Christy, by Phoenix as to Fincke's claim for punitive damages, and by Phoenix as to Fincke's claims in Count II. In addition, Phoenix also asks summary judgment on its Counterclaim against Fincke in which it says it may be held liable in a suit by All Eastern Insurance Agency, Inc. growing out of Fincke's actions while he was in its employ. The Summary Judgment Motions of both Defendants will be granted as to the Plaintiff's Complaint for punitive damages and tortious interference with the contract, and will be denied as to the Phoenix Counterclaim.
Phoenix is engaged in providing life, health and accident insurance for individuals and groups of individuals, such as the employees of an employer or a group of employers. Phoenix sells group insurance through its licensed soliciting agents (employees who primarily sell Phoenix policies), its licensed brokers (independent agents who have, in a particular instance, sold a Phoenix policy), and its licensed group sales personnel (employees who specialize in selling Phoenix group insurance). Its group business was organized on a regional basis under a Vice President, Eugene W. Christy, who, in turn, reported to Dennis Hardcastle, Senior Vice President, who was responsible inter alia for Phoenix's Group Sales Division and Agency Department.
Region Six of the Group Sales Division is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was originally headed by Jerry F. Campbell. By the summer of 1972, Campbell was slated for a position at the home office, and Phoenix was looking for his replacement. The responsibility for finding the replacement rested with Christy and in August of 1972, he orally offered the job to D. Dennison Fincke. Fincke accepted the position and on September 25, 1972 became a Phoenix employee. On February 14, 1973, Fincke signed a letter-contract of employment, which stated in pertinent part (Exhibit A to Complaint):
You will receive a monthly advance. The amount of the advance will be changed periodically according to the business produced and credits earned.
Against this advance will be credited:
(a) Commissions and service fees earned by you in accordance with current Company schedules and practices. This includes both commissions and service fees on all Company lines, including Group, Pensions, Ordinary and Individual A & H business.
(b) Group Supervisory credits earned by you in accordance with current Company schedules and practices.
(f) TERMINATION. The employment relationship created by this Agreement shall terminate upon written notice of termination by either you or the Company, delivered personally, or mailed to the other party. If not terminated prior thereto, this Agreement shall terminate on your death. In the event of termination any commissions and service fees accrued prior to termination shall be applied against the total advance paid to the date of termination. In the event such commissions and service fees exceed the total advance paid, such excess will be paid to you or, in the event this Agreement is terminated by your death, to your executor or administrator. No commissions or service fees shall accrue as credits against the total advance or otherwise become due or payable under this Agreement, with respect to any premiums due or payable on or after the date of termination of this Agreement, except for vested commissions which may accrue subsequent to termination of this Agreement under the terms of any A3 Commission Contract that may be in effect with the Company.
(g) PRIOR CONTRACTS. This Agreement shall take effect as of September 25, 1972 and shall terminate any previous Agreement or other contract of agency except any A3 Commission ...
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