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Debra J. Morton v. Stryker Medical

August 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III



This wrongful termination and constructive discharge matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Mildred

E. Methvin (doc. 66), filed July 20, 2012, which recommends that we deny the Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 41) of Defendant Stryker Medical, a division of Stryker Corporation ("Stryker" or "Defendant"). Stryker filed objections to the R&R (doc. 67) and a brief in support thereof (doc. 68) on July 2, 2012. Plaintiff filed a brief in support of the R&R and in opposition to Stryker's objections on August 17, 2012. (Doc. 69). For the reasons detailed herein, we shall adopt Magistrate Judge Methvin's recommended disposition in its entirety.


A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

When objections are filed to the report of a magistrate judge, the district court makes a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. Id. Although the standard of review is de novo, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations of denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non- moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1 Plaintiff Debra J. Morton ("Plaintiff"), a licensed registered nurse, was hired

by Defendant Stryker Medical ("Stryker"), a medical bed manufacturer, in March of 2009 as a Group Clinical Manager. Plaintiff was to develop the clinical program and manage two clinical specialists. During her employment, Plaintiff was often disappointed in her co-workers performance. In January of 2010, Stephanie Cloney, Stryker's Human Resources Manager, and Sean Daugherty, Stryker's Director of Global Marketing, issued a "documented counseling" memo, noting that Plaintiff's team was experiencing difficulties. Plaintiff was once investigated for comments allegedly made regarding co-workers. Despite Cloney's testimony that Plaintiff interfered in that investigation, Plaintiff was not disciplined.

Stryker entered into a contract with Huntsville Hospital ("Huntsville") for the sale of medical beds, and part of the agreement required Stryker to provide Huntsville with a full-time registered nurse to educate Huntsville's nurses about the use of the beds. Stryker hired Jennifer Carter for the position. Carter was to report directly to the Plaintiff. On February 4, 2010, Plaintiff received an email from one of her clinical specialists regarding Carter's licensure and certification status, which she forwarded to Cloney. On either February 4 or February 5, the Alabama State Board of Nursing reported to Stryker that Carter's license had been suspended in 2007 and revoked in 2008. Cloney instructed ...

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