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Ray v. Connecticut Institute for Blind

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Britain, New Britain

August 7, 2015

Crystal Ray
v.
Connecticut Institute for the Blind dba Oak Hill et al

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, #127

Cynthia K. Swienton, J.

The defendants, Connecticut Institute for the Blind d/b/a Oak Hill (" Oak Hill") and Sybil Cole (collectively, the defendants) move for summary judgment with regard to the plaintiff's claims of negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress as to the defendants and tortious interference with contract claim against Ms. Cole. The defendants contend that each of these causes of action requires this court to determine whether Oak Hill had " just cause" to terminate her employment under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (" CBA"), and that the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, (LMRA) precludes the court from interpreting the CBA in this manner. Therefore, they argue that the plaintiffs' claims are preempted.

Furthermore, even if the claims are not preempted, the plaintiff's claims still fail as a matter of law, and therefore, judgment should enter for the defendants on all remaining counts.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff was hired by Oak Hill in March 2003, as a residential program worker and later moved to a day service worker position. Her responsibilities included transporting children from Plainville Middle School to Oak Hill's Mount Vernon Group Home. Mount Vernon is one of the residential programs where clients of Oak Hill reside.

The plaintiff was a member of the bargaining unit and the terms for her employment were established by the CBA between Oak Hill and the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU. This CBA contained a provision requiring Oak Hill have " just cause" for termination of a union member's employment.

On November 15, 2012, the plaintiff was transporting one of Oak Hill's clients from his school to Mount Vernon. The client went into the house, while the plaintiff assumed that staff had opened the door to let the client inside. It was later discovered that the client was in the home alone, with no adult supervision. The plaintiff was placed on leave while an investigation took place. She later received a letter from Ms. Cole, Oak Hills' Assistant Director, Labor and Employee Relations, which explained that she was being terminated because she had left a client alone in a group home " as a result of failing to follow the said student behavior treatment plan and the supervision protocol." Oak Hill, acting through Ms. Cole, determined this to be " in violation of Oak Hill's Abuse and Neglect Policy and Policy S6." (Second revised complaint, ¶ 7.)

The plaintiff's second revised complaint alleged breach of the CBA, and therefore the defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. The defendants then moved to dismiss the complaint primarily on the grounds that each count was preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 (LMRA). The court granted the motion to dismiss as to three of the counts, which left the remaining counts before this court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

" Practice Book § 17-49 provides that summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits, and any other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Allen v. Cox, 285 Conn. 603, 609, 942 A.2d 296 (2008). " In seeking summary judgment, it is the movant who has the burden of showing the nonexistence of any issues of fact. The courts are in entire agreement that the moving party for summary judgment has the burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue as to all the material facts, which, under applicable principles of substantive law, entitle him to a judgment as a matter of law. The courts hold the movant to a strict standard. To satisfy his burden the movant must make a showing that it is quite clear what the truth is, and that excludes any real doubt as to the existence of any genuine issue of material fact . . . As the burden of proof is on the movant, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the opponent . . ." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Zielinski v. Kotsoris, 279 Conn. 312, 318-19, 901 A.2d 1207 (2006).

" [Practice Book § 17-46] sets forth three requirements necessary to permit the consideration of material contained in affidavits submitted in a summary judgment proceeding. The material must (1) be based on personal knowledge; (2) constitute facts that would be admissible at trial; and (3) affirmatively show that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated in the affidavit." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Barrett v. Danbury Hospital, 232 Conn. 242, 251, 654 A.2d 748 (1995).[1]

" When documents submitted in support of a motion for summary judgment fail to establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party has no obligation to submit documents establishing the existence of such an issue . . . Once the moving party has met its burden, however, the opposing party must present evidence that demonstrates the existence of some disputed factual issue . . . It is not enough, however, for the opposing party merely to assert the existence of such a disputed issue. Mere assertions of fact . . . are insufficient to establish the existence of a material fact and, therefore, cannot refute evidence properly presented to the court under Practice Book § [17-45]." Id.

" Although the court must view the inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion . . . a party may not rely on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment . . . A party opposing a motion for summary judgment must substantiate its adverse claim by showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact together with the evidence disclosing the existence of such an ...


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