Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in a Wrongful Discharge Claim

Issue: Did a trial court err in granting summary judgment to an employer on a plaintiff’s wrongful discharge claim by concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether plaintiff had been terminated by the employer when, in fact, there was evidence that employer permanently stopped providing plaintiff any work assignments?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Wrongful discharge claim
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 477 U.S. 242; 225 F.2d 168; 327 F.2d 841
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Rule P. 56(c); 4 V.I.C. § 76
Date: 09/01/2008

The appellate standard of review for a trial court’s grant of summary judgment is plenary.  Williams v. United Corp., No. 2007-118 (V.I. July 28, 2008); Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231 (3d Cir. 2001).

For a case discussing plenary review of the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment, see  Maduro v. Am. Airlines, Inc., Civ. No. 2007/029 (V.I. Feb. 28, 2008).  See Williams v. United Corp., Civ. No. 2007-118 (V.I. July 10, 2008).  Because summary judgment is such a “drastic remedy,” id., that test requires that the motion not be granted unless “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,”  Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

The summary judgment movant has an initial burden to “point out” to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.  Williams.  If that burden is met, then the non-moving party has the burden of “set[ting] out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.”  Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).  “As to materiality, only those facts that ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.'”  Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

When reviewing the record, the court must view […]

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