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JAMES MOROSETTI v. LOUISIANA LAND AND EXPLORATION COMPANY (12/31/87)

filed: December 31, 1987.

JAMES MOROSETTI, GEORGE SILVAT, ROBERT POLIS, ROBERT NEAL, EDWARD SCHMUDE, AND WILLIAM D. WILSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLEES,
v.
THE LOUISIANA LAND AND EXPLORATION COMPANY, AND H M COPPER, INC., FORMERLY HUSSEY METALS, INC., APPELLANTS, AND JAMES MOROSETTI, GEORGE SILVAT, ROBERT POLIS, ROBERT NEAL, EDWARD SCHMUDE, AND WILLIAM D. WILSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS, V. THE LOUISIANA LAND AND EXPLORATION COMPANY, AND H M COPPER, INC., FORMERLY HUSSEY METALS INC., APPELLEES



Appeals from the Judgment Entered October 14, 1986 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Action No. GD85-925

COUNSEL

Edwin J. Strassburger, Pittsburgh, for appellants (at 1547) and appellees (at 1580).

Thomas H.M. Hough, Pittsburgh, for appellees (at 1547) and appellants (at 1580).

Rowley, Johnson and Montgomery JJ.

Author: Montgomery

[ 371 Pa. Super. Page 70]

The two appeals in this case arise from a judgment of the lower court which ordered that the Plaintiffs and the class members they represented were entitled to severance pay from the Defendants. The Plaintiffs and other class members were former salaried employees of the Defendants, and the Plaintiffs' claims were based upon an alleged severance pay policy of the Defendants. The case was tried before a jury, but at the conclusion of the presentation of all evidence, the lower court directed a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs on the issue of both liability and damages. The verdict awarded severance pay to each member of the

[ 371 Pa. Super. Page 71]

Plaintiff class, in the amount of one week of pay for each year of service, for up to a maximum of twelve (12) weeks.

Following the denial of post-trial motions, the Defendants filed an appeal to our Court, at No. 01547 Pittsburgh, 1986, asserting that the lower court erred on several grounds in granting the claim for severance pay benefits. The Plaintiffs subsequently filed a cross-appeal, at No. 01580 Pittsburgh, 1986, urging that the lower court should have determined that they were entitled to a maximum of twenty-six (26) weeks of severance pay, rather than twelve (12) weeks. Further, the Plaintiffs questioned the rate of weekly pay awarded, and contended that the lower court should have also awarded them reasonable attorney fees against the Defendants.

The facts of the case are set forth accurately in the Opinion of the lower court. In brief, the Plaintiffs and the class they represent were former salaried employees of the Defendants until the Defendants sold various assets and facilities to a group headed by a former officer and management official of one of the Defendants. This sale occurred in May, 1984. All of the Plaintiffs and those in the class they represent were hired by the new owners, and in essence, continued to perform job functions such as those which each had performed during his or her prior employment with the Defendants.

During their time of employment by the Defendants, none of those in the Plaintiff class was represented by a labor organization, and none was employed pursuant to the terms of a collectively bargained labor agreement, nor any other written contract of employment. However, the Defendants had for many years maintained various employment policies which were applied to salaried employees prior to the sale. Such policies were generally known to such employees, and were maintained in written form by the Defendants, in their personnel office, with copies sent to various individuals with supervisory authority over the employees in the Plaintiff class. A severance pay program or

[ 371 Pa. Super. Page 72]

    policy had been maintained by Defendants for several years prior to the ...


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