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Sharman v. Composition Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 15, 2013

JAMES SHERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMPOSITION SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM RE: DENIAL OF PARTIES’ MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Baylson, J.

I. Introduction

On June 12, 2012, Plaintiff James Sherman (“Plaintiff”), a former salesman for Defendant Composition Systems, Inc. (“Defendant”), filed a Complaint against Defendant in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania alleging breach of contract and violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (“WCPL”), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 260.1, et seq., arising out of his termination from Defendant’s employ and Defendant’s refusal to pay him certain sales commissions. The case was removed to this Court on July 19, 2012, and Defendant subsequently filed an Amended Answer (ECF 17) asserting counterclaims for unjust enrichment and breach of duty of loyalty, alleging that Plaintiff failed to pay certain health benefit premiums, and that he performed work for one of Defendant’s competitors while still employed by Defendant.

On March 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of whether he is entitled to commissions for certain sales that he allegedly secured for Defendant, but that were not formally concluded until after his termination (ECF 21). Defendant responded to Plaintiff’s Motion and also filed a Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the same issue, as well as its counterclaim for unjust enrichment (ECF 22). For the reasons below, both motions are DENIED.

II. Undisputed Facts

A. Disputed Commissions

Defendant is a printing company and Plaintiff’s former employer. Plaintiff worked as a salesman for Defendant and derived part of his compensation from commissions. During his employment, Plaintiff pursued two large customers, Sodexo and St. Gobain. While neither company ever entered into a long-term contract with Defendant, both did become customers that purchased substantial amounts of Defendant’s printing services.

Plaintiff, however, was terminated before the vast majority of Defendant’s sales to Sodexo and St. Gobain were formally concluded, and Defendant refused to pay Plaintiff commissions on those sales, asserting that the terms of his employment agreement precluded him from collecting commissions for sales concluded after his termination, and, in any event, that Plaintiff had never actually secured sales agreements with either company, and another salesperson was ultimately responsible for the sales Plaintiff claimed to have procured. Most of the disputed sales were completed over the course of many months after Plaintiff’s termination, though some were completed within weeks.

B. Health Benefit Premiums

While employed by Defendant, Plaintiff was covered by medical and dental benefit plans for which he was supposed to pay certain premiums. Due to an accounting error, Defendant failed to properly bill Plaintiff, and Plaintiff never paid the premiums. While Plaintiff does not dispute that he should have paid the premiums, he refuses to pay Defendant, because he believes that Defendant should deduct the value of the premiums from the commissions allegedly owed him. The value of the commissions in dispute far surpasses the value of the premiums.

III. Legal Standard

A district court should grant a motion for summary judgment if the movant can show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.

Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party’s initial burden can be met simply by showing the district court that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment must rebut by making a factual 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.” Id. at 322. The district court may grant summary judgment “[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted). Under Rule 56, the Court must view the ...


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