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Nelson v. Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

November 22, 2010

KYLE NELSON AND KRISTI NELSON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GENESEE & WYOMING INC. AND BUFFALO & PITTSBURGH RAILROAD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 27)

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Kyle Nelson ("Kyle"), a former employee of Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad ("B&P") and plaintiff Kristi Nelson ("Kristi"), his wife, brought a four-count complaint (doc. no. 1-1) against defendants Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. ("G&W") and B&P alleging breach of contract and misrepresentation in connection with Kyle moving from Oregon to Pennsylvania to take an engineer position with defendants that allegedly never existed. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (doc. no. 6), which this Court granted in part, with regards to the contract claims, and denied in part, with regards to the misrepresentation claims.

Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. no. 27), Memorandum in Support thereof (doc. no. 29), and Statement of Undisputed Facts (doc. no. 28). Defendants argue that plaintiffs' misrepresentation claims fail as a matter of law because plaintiffs cannot satisfy the necessary elements. In particular, defendants assert there was no misrepresentation made, plaintiffs cannot show any justifiable reliance in an at-will employment context, or proximate cause because Kyle's damages stem from the termination of his job with B&P. Additionally, defendants appear to argue the misrepresentation claims are barred by the gist of the action doctrine, as the tort claims are predicated on the same conduct as the contract claims, which this Court dismissed.

Plaintiffs respond with a Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. no. 32) and Response to Concise Statement of Material Facts (doc. no. 34). Plaintiffs argue that justifiable reliance in an at-will employment context is immaterial to their tort claims because the job offer and misrepresentations about the engineering job were made prior to Kyle becoming an at-will employee of B&P. Plaintiffs additionally argue that proximate cause can be shown because their damages stem from Kyle's resignation from his previous job and reliance on his new engineer position with B&P. Lastly, plaintiffs assert that defendants' gist of the action theory is flawed because the tort claims are separate and distinct from the contract claims.

After careful consideration of the Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. no. 27), Memorandum in Support thereof (doc. no. 29), and Statement of Undisputed Facts (doc. no. 28), plaintiffs' Responses thereto (docs. nos. 32, 34), and defendants' Reply Brief (doc. no. 38), the Court will deny the Motion for Summary Judgment for the reasons that follow.

II. Applicable Standard of Review

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2)

Summary judgment is only proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact in the case and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); Horn v. Thoratec Corp., 376 F.3d 163, 165 (3d Cir. 2004). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the role of the court is "not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009). If so, summary judgment will not be granted.

The district court must view all of the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, who is entitled to "every reasonable inference that can be drawn from the record," and if "there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences to be drawn from them, a trial is required to resolve the conflicting versions of the parties." Reedy v. Evanson, 615 F.3d 197, 210 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Merkle v. Upper Dublin Sch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 788 (3d Cir. 2000) and Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982)). A party cannot, however, defeat a motion for summary judgment by pointing to fragmentary inferences that could be massaged to support her position. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

III. Factual Background

Plaintiff Kyle was employed as an engineer with Portland & Western Railroad, a G&W company, based out of Albany, Oregon. Statement of Undisputed Facts (doc. no. 28 ¶ 1). Because "work was sparse" Kyle began searching for employment through G&W's website and Kyle located an open engineer position with B&P, also a G&W company. Id. at ¶ 2. The job posting for this position stated in the job description that the successful applicant "[m]ay perform work as a Conductor." Id. at ¶ 3.

Kyle called Dan Pavick ("Pavick") of B&P and expressed his interest in the position. Id. at ΒΆ 4. Pavick suggested that Kyle apply for an open general manager position with B&P. Id. Although Kyle was later informed by Cassandra Schreiber ("Schreiber"), a "Human Resources officer of the defendant," that he did not receive the general manager position, he was offered an engineer position with B&P in Dubois, ...


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