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CHARLES A. ROSS v. MONTOUR RAILROAD CO. AND PITTSBURGH LAKE ERIE RAILROAD (09/08/86)

filed: September 8, 1986.

CHARLES A. ROSS, APPELLANT,
v.
MONTOUR RAILROAD CO. AND PITTSBURGH LAKE ERIE RAILROAD



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Civil Division, No. GD 83-06787.

COUNSEL

Charles W. Robinson, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Richard D. Klaber, Pittsburgh, for appellees.

Rowley, McEwen and Tamilia, JJ.

Author: Rowley

[ 357 Pa. Super. Page 378]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from an order refusing to take off a compulsory non-suit entered at the close of appellant's case before the jury.

On April 27, 1983, appellant filed a complaint in assumpsit and trespass against appellees, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE) and Montour Railroad, a subsidiary of P & LE, alleging breach of an employment contract and wrongful discharge from employment. At the conclusion of appellant's case on liability at trial, the court granted appellee's Motion for a compulsory Non-Suit. Appellant's Motion to Remove Compulsory Non-Suit and Grant a New Trial was denied.

The factual background of this case is as follows. Appellant worked for Montour for a total of 22 years, during which time he was admittedly a productive and competent employee. Appellant was successively promoted, having started as a mechanic, and eventually rising to assistant superintendent in 1981. Unfortunately for appellant, business began to steadily decline, resulting in a massive employee reduction. In February of 1983 appellant was furloughed as assistant superintendent and bumped back into a union position as a machinist-welder. Appellant's employment with Montour ended in September of 1984 when he walked off the job and did not return.

The controversy in this case concerns events which commenced in December of 1980, when appellant, then Train-master-General Foreman of Montour, had a meeting with T.C. Netherton, President of Montour and Vice-President of P & LE. At that meeting, Netherton informed appellant that the superintendent of the Montour railroad was resigning

[ 357 Pa. Super. Page 379]

    and that Robert Costello, an employee of P & LE in Ohio, was being transferred in as superintendent. Netherton told appellant that Costello's position as superintendent was temporary, perhaps 3 to 5 months, after which Costello would move on to another position with P & LE and appellant would become superintendent. At the same time, appellant was promoted to assistant superintendent, a newly created position, and given a $3,000 a year raise. However, events did not go as planned, and Costello remained as superintendent from 1981 until at least the time of trial. In February of 1983 appellant was furloughed from his position as assistant superintendent. After his furlough, appellant "bumped" back to a position as machinist-welder. He continued to work as a welder until September of 1983 when he left his job following a dispute over the quality of his work.

On appeal, appellant raises six issues for review. In brief, appellant argues that Netherton's promise of promotion was an enforceable employment contract for a specified duration. In the alternative, appellant argues that the rule of at-will employment should not apply ...


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