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Gross v. Nova Chemicals Services, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 24, 2017

JOSEPH M. GROSS Appellant
v.
NOVA CHEMICALS SERVICES, INC.

         Appeal from the Order August 17, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No(s): GD16-008023

          BEFORE: OLSON, RANSOM, JJ., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         Joseph M. Gross ("Appellant") appeals from the order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County sustaining the preliminary objections filed by Nova Chemicals Services, Inc. ("Nova") and dismissing his complaint with prejudice. We affirm.

         We note the following pertinent facts as averred in Appellant's complaint:

7. Plaintiff [hereinafter "Appellant"] began employment with Defendant [hereinafter "Nova"] as an at-will employee in or about November 2004 and continued in such capacity of employment in the position of Chief Pilot until May 13, 2014.
8. Appellant's final base salary with Nova was approximately $321, 500 per year.
9. Appellant worked with a flight crew in his capacity as Chief Pilot; this flight crew included, among others, two other pilots.
10. The Federal Aviation Administration required two pilots for the operation of Nova's aircraft.
11. As Chief Pilot, Appellant was primarily responsible for the operation of the aircraft.
12. Under [the Federal Aviation Act (FAA)], 14 CFR 91.3(a), the pilot in command is "directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to the operation of the aircraft."
13. Responsibility of the aircraft includes the safety of the aircraft and its passengers; such safety depends upon the ability of the pilot in command to properly communicate with the flight crew, particularly a co-pilot.
14. If a pilot does not believe that he can responsibly operate the aircraft, he has a duty to abstain from operation of the aircraft.
15. In or around January 2014, an employee of Nova began making frivolous and anonymous complaints against Appellant.
16. Nova investigated each complaint and found all to be without merit.
17. On or about March 5, 2014, employee and co-pilot Gale Truitt and Appellant were operating a flight which, among other passengers, included a Vice-President of Human Resources.
18. During the trip, Mr. Truitt approached the VP to ask why no action had been taken against Appellant, revealing to all parties that Mr. Truitt was the actor making the frivolous complaints against Appellant.
19. After the March 5, 2014, trip, Appellant spoke with his Human Resources contact, Denise McBride, regarding the situation with Mr. Truitt and asked if any action would be taken regarding the situation.
20. Ms. McBride replied that nothing would be done, and that specifically Appellant was not to approach Mr. Truitt, as Nova feared an age discrimination suit if Nova took any action towards Mr. Truitt.
21. The situation between Mr. Truitt and Appellant became increasingly difficult. Mr. Truitt's behavior towards Appellant caused a breakdown in communication during flights.
22. This breakdown in communication, because of Nova employee's behavior, led Appellant to become increasingly concerned for in-flight safety.
23. Appellant expressed to Ms. McBride the communication difficulties that were experienced and the concerns he had regarding safety.
24. Ms. McBride asked Appellant if he could continue to fly with Mr. Truitt as a crew member; Appellant stated that for safety, he ...

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