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Reitz v. City of Mt. Juliet

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 31, 2017

KATHRYN J. REITZ
v.
CITY OF MT. JULIET

          Assigned on Briefs Augsut 1, 2017

         Direct Appeal from the Circuit Court for Wilson County No. 2013-CV-146 John D. Wootten, Jr., Judge

         Plaintiff alleged that the City of Mt. Juliet breached a settlement agreement with her by violating a non-disparagement agreement. Because Plaintiff failed to prove the existence of damages, summary judgment was appropriate. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Robert D. MacPherson, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kathryn J. Reitz.

          Keith W. Blair and Charles Stephen Michels, II, Nashvlle, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Mt. Juliet.

          Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Wilson County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, the City of Mt. Juliet, and Plaintiff/Appellant Kathryn J. Reitz appeals.

         Ms. Reitz and the City entered into a settlement agreement in January 2010 that contained a non-disparagement agreement and required the City to provide neutral employment verifications. Ms. Reitz began working for the Transportation Security Administration on January 30, 2012. On or around February 7, 2012, the City provided the TSA, through the United States Office of Personnel Management, with information that Ms. Reitz claims violated the non-disparagement agreement.

          Ms. Reitz filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Wilson County, Tennessee in March 2013, alleging that the City breached its contract with her "by making disparaging remarks about [her] to prospective employers and by giving distinctly negative, and not neutral, employment verifications." During the course of the litigation, Ms. Reitz amended her complaint multiple times, and she ultimately proceeded on two claims: breach of contract and negligent supervision.

         The City filed a motion for summary judgment. For purposes of the motion for summary judgment only, the City conceded that the contract was breached and that a duty had been breached. However, it argued Ms. Reitz failed to establish the existence of damages. The City argued that the TSA hired Ms. Reitz, she was not demoted, nor did she suffer a reduction in pay or any change in work schedule or job duties as a result of the City's allegedly disparaging employment verification. While Ms. Reitz testified in her deposition that she previously sought employment elsewhere, the City asserted that she could not provide any proof that any potential employers declined to hire her as a result of information from the City.

         When Ms. Reitz responded to the City's motion for summary judgment, she admitted that her employment with the TSA was not negatively impacted by the City's disparaging remarks. She admitted that she did not know of any occasion other than the TSA form when any City employee provided anything other than a neutral employment verification to any prospective employer. Ms. Reitz also admitted that she did not have any written documentation that verified that she lost any income or did not obtain any employment opportunities because of comments made by the City. However, she argued that a finder of fact should be allowed to "draw the reasonable inference from the ...


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