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Trollinger v. Tyson Foods

April 10, 2007

BIRDA TROLLINGER, VIRGINIA BRAVO, KELLY KESSINGER, IDOYNIA MCCOY, REGINA LEE, PATRICIA MIMS, LORI WINDHAM AND ALEXANDER HOWLETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TYSON FOODS, INC., JOHN TYSON, ARCHIBALD SCHAFFER III, RICHARD, BOND, KENNETH KIMBRO, GREG LEE, KAREN PERCIVAL, AHRAZUE WILT AND TIM MCCOY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are the following motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiffs Birda Trollinger, Virginia Bravo, Kelly Kessinger, Idoynia McCoy, Regina Lee, Patricia Mims, Lori Windham and Alexander Howlett (collectively "Plaintiffs"):

1. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Defendants' First Affirmative Defense to the Second Amended Complaint (estoppel) (Court File No. 186).

2. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Defendants' First Affirmative Defense to the Second Amended Complaint (statute of limitation) (Court File No. 188)*fn1 .

3. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Defendants' First Affirmative Defense to the Second Amended Complaint (scope of employment) (Court File No. 190).

Plaintiffs filed memorandums in support of their motions (Court File Nos. 187, 189, 191). Defendants Tyson Foods, Inc., John Tyson, Archibald Schaffer III, Richard Bond, Kenneth Kimbro, Greg Lee, Karen Percival, Ahrazue Wilt, and Tim McCoy (collectively, "Defendants" or " Tyson") filed a consolidated memorandum in opposition to the motions (Court File No. 201).*fn2

After carefully considering the arguments of counsel and the applicable law, the Court will GRANT Plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment on Defendants' estoppel and statute of limitations affirmative defenses (Court File Nos. 186 and 188) and GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on Defendants' scope of employment affirmative defense (Court File No. 190).

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case commenced with Plaintiffs' complaint filed on April 2, 2002 (Court File No. 1). Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed amended complaints with the latest filed on June 24, 2005*fn3 (Court File No. 3, Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint; Court File No. 115, Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint). On August 11, 2005, Defendants filed their answers to the Amended Complaint ("Answer") (Court File Nos. 117, 128-135).

In their answers, Defendants assert three affirmative defenses: (1) Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the doctrine of estoppel; (2) Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations; and (3) to the extent any wrongdoing or violation of the law was committed by individuals, such wrongdoing or violations of the law were committed by employees acting outside the scope of their employment and was inconsistent with Tyson's corporate policy.

In their summary judgment motions, Plaintiffs argue they are entitled to summary judgment as to the estoppel affirmative defense because this defense is not available in cases brought pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq., and Defendants have produced no evidence to support that defense. As to the statute of limitations affirmative defense, Plaintiffs claim summary judgment is proper because the "separate accrual rule" precludes application of the statute of limitations. Finally, Plaintiffs argue they are entitled to summary judgment on Defendants' scope of employment affirmative defense because Defendants have produced no evidence to support that defense, and even if there is some evidence to support such a defense, the individual defendants are not entitled to summary judgment because they are liable for their own individual actions.

Because Defendants do not dispute the second affirmative defense is inapplicable, the Court need not discuss the defense at any length.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the burden is on the moving party to conclusively show no genuine issues of material fact exist, Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003), and the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88, (1986). However, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations, but must come forward with some significant probative evidence to support its claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 ...


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