Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

POFF v. PRUDENTIAL INS. CO. OF AMERICA

January 4, 1996

ARTHUR POFF, Plaintiff,
v.
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER

 Joyner, J.

 January 4, 1996

 BACKGROUND

 BancTec is a computer services contractor that leases computer systems and support services to its clients. In 1986, BancTec hired Mr. Poff as a field engineer and assigned him to work on site at the offices of the Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential") in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania. Mr. Poff worked almost exclusively at Prudential during his seven-year tenure, and generally received favorable performance evaluations from his supervisors. In September of 1989, Mr. Poff underwent surgery to address a degenerative joint disease afflicting his hip, and as a consequence, he was absent from work until January of 1990. When Mr. Poff returned to work, he required the assistance of a cane for approximately one month.

 By September of 1990, Mr. Poff was experiencing severe pain in both hips, and again was forced to resort to the use of a cane. In March of the following year, he returned to the hospital to undergo bilateral hip replacement surgery, and remained hospitalized for two weeks. In the aftermath of this surgery, Mr. Poff was absent from work through July, 1991. When Mr. Poff returned to work, he walked with a noticeable limp and with the assistance of a cane. He does not dispute that he was reinstated to the same position, with the same pay, as he had occupied prior to his surgeries. Indeed, Mr. Poff wrote in the "employee's comments" section of his 1991 evaluation as follows: "I'm happy with my job. I'm grateful to BancTec for sticking by me through my personal health problems and enabling me to come back to my job."

 In addition to the problems with his hip, Mr. Poff asserts that he is disabled in that he has been blind in his right eye since he was a young boy, a condition that significantly hampers his vision. Mr. Poff had cataract surgery in a fruitless attempt to restore sight to the eye prior to joining BancTec. Further, Mr. Poff states that his eye became herniated and disfigured approximately one year prior to his discharge, and that it was unsightly. Other workers at the Prudential site noticed Mr. Poff's eye condition, and referred to him jokingly as "dead eye" or "wood eye." Mr. Poff eventually underwent eye replacement surgery in September of 1993.

 On December 7, 1992, while working at the Prudential site, Mr. Poff tripped and fell over a chair, causing severe pain and re-injury to his hips. In the immediate aftermath of the collision with the chair, Mr. Poff experienced anger and frustration, fearing that he had retarded much of the progress he had made rehabilitating his injuries. Mr. Poff then walked across the room and intentionally slammed his hand into a pillar. The force of the blow caused Prudential's halon fire fighting system to discharge. Mr. Poff asserts that he did not know, or have reason to know, that he would cause the discharge of the halon system by striking the pole. As a result of the halon discharge, the room was evacuated to insure the safety of personnel.

 On the following day, BancTec's regional director, Raymond Kozicki, met with Kirk McAllister, a Prudential manager, to discuss the incident involving Mr. Poff. Mr. McAllister indicated that he did not want Mr. Poff to return to the Prudential site. Mr. Kozicki and the district manager, Lawrence Guinan, then met with Mr. Poff at a local diner. They informed Mr. Poff of the seriousness of the incident and advised him that a decision would be made in the short term. On December 15, 1992, Mr. Guinan informed Mr. Poff of his discharge by letter, as follows: "effective 5:00 p.m. on December 15, 1992, your employment is being terminated from BancTec Service Corporation due to misconduct -- engaging in an act of violence." Mr. Guinan called Mr. Poff's attention to the Employee Handbook, which defines a "major infraction" as "misconduct which is, or might be, injurious or detrimental to fellow employees, to the employee, or the [sic] BancTec, Inc., and which may result in immediate suspension leading to termination of employment," including "engaging in acts of violence or threats of violence toward fellow employees, customers, or vendors." Finally, the decision to terminate Mr. Poff was influenced by a previous incident of violence in 1989, when Mr. Poff allegedly threw an Allen wrench and broke a window at the Prudential site. Following the 1989 incident, Mr. Poff was warned in writing that his "position with BancTec is in serious jeopardy," and that any future act of violence would result in the termination of his employment.

 Mr. Poff filed the instant complaint on November 18, 1994, alleging that BancTec terminated his employment on account of his eye and hip disabilities in violation of the ADA. After discovery was taken, BancTec filed this motion for summary judgment, in which it argues that no reasonable jury could find that its employment decision was animated by an unlawful discriminatory bias. In his opposition to BancTec's motion, Mr. Poff argues that a jury could reach such a finding, and points to the following evidence from which a jury could reasonably infer that BancTec unlawfully discriminated against him: (1) that BancTec failed to follow its own policy with respect to the investigation of the December 7 incident and Mr. Poff's subsequent termination; (2) evidence showing that BancTec decision-makers went to observe Mr. Poff's medical condition before terminating him; and (3) that another, non-disabled employee who committed a "major infraction" was not terminated. We turn now to address the merits of these contentions as applied to the standard for summary judgment.

 DISCUSSION

 A. The Summary Judgment Standard

 This Court is authorized to award summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions 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). Thus, the Court's responsibility is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). The non-moving party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249). Further, the non-moving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)). Boiled to its essence, the summary judgment standard ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.