The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES F. MCCLURE, JR.
Plaintiffs Robert Rodgers and Stephanie Rodgers allege in this diversity action
that Robert Rodgers was wrongfully demoted and deprived of a promotion by his former employer, Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential"). They further allege that Rodgers was insulted and threatened by his immediate supervisor, Peter Barrasse, Jr., the District Manager. Rodgers was employed by Prudential as a sales agent. At one point, he was promoted to a sales manager. In April, 1990, he was demoted to the position of sales agent for alleged job-related improprieties.
Later that year, Rodgers accepted an employment opportunity with another insurance company. He had already leased office space and purchased office furniture in preparation for his new job when, in December, 1990, Barrasse threatened to report Rodgers to authorities for alleged business improprieties and ruin his insurance career, unless he agreed to forgo the opportunity to go with a competitor and agreed to stay with Prudential in the capacity of office manager. In January, 1991, after working in his new managerial position for one month, Rodgers was told that he had never been promoted and was summarily fired by Barrasse.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. " Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) (Emphasis supplied).
. . . The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is 'entitled to judgment as a matter of law' because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.
The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motions and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. He or she can discharge that burden by "showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. at 323 and 325.
Issues of fact are genuine "only if a reasonable jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the non-moving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 694 (3d Cir. 1988), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Material facts are those which will affect the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson, supra, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must consider all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988).
Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Bar against civil actions in tort
Before reaching the merits of plaintiffs' claims for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress, we are confronted with a threshold issue: whether plaintiff or his wife can maintain a civil action against Prudential based on tortious acts allegedly committed by his supervisor in the course of employment, or whether such claims are barred by the exclusivity provision
of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 77, §§ 1 - 1066 (1992) ("WCA" or the "Act").
With limited exceptions, an employee's sole recourse for injuries allegedly sustained in the course of employment is a claim under the WCA.
Under the statutory scheme, employees relinquish the right to bring an action in tort against their employer in exchange for the greater certainty of receiving benefits under the WCA for a work-related injury. Danese v. Morrison-Knudsen/Slattery, 784 F.Supp. 228, 229 (E.D.Pa. 1992), citing Kuney v. PMA Insurance Co., 525 Pa. 171, 578 A.2d 1285, 1286 (1990). To maintain the integrity of the statutory system, there are few exceptions to the general rule of exclusivity. Only a few categories of cases "escape the coverage of the exclusivity clause." Danese, supra, 784 F.Supp. at 229.
Plaintiff argues that the judicially created independent tort exception to the WCA permits him to maintain this action.
Under the intentional tort exception, an employee may maintain a civil cause of action against his or her employer for torts committed intentionally by his employer, his supervisor or fellow employees.
Although the intentional tort exception has been the underpinning, tacit and otherwise, of numerous Pennsylvania Superior Court and federal district court decisions,
its status as an accepted tenet of Pennsylvania workmen's compensation law is far from clear. The exception has been rejected outright by the state's highest court in two recent decisions.
In a 1989 decision, Barber v. Pittsburgh Corning Corp., 521 Pa. 29, 555 A.2d 766 (1989),
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court repudiated Pennsylvania Superior Court decisions relying on the exception and criticized the lower courts' willingness to carve out exceptions to the Occupational Disease Act ("ODA") and the WCA not specifically ...