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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In City of Lawrence Utilites Service Board, City of Lawrence, Indiana, and Mayor Dean Jessup, Individually and in his Official Capacity v. Carlton E. Curry, a 12-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

The City of Lawrence’s newly-elected mayor terminated the City’s utility superintendent, Carlton Curry, after their differences in policy became apparent. Curry sued, claiming he was wrongfully discharged under the utility superintendent statute, he is owed unpaid wages under the Wage Payment Statute, and the mayor tortiously interfered with his employment contract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Curry on the wrongful discharge claim and in favor of the City on the Wage Payment Statute claim, but denied summary judgment on the tortious interference claim. We affirm the trial court in all respects. * * *

In a divided, published opinion, our Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City as to the Wage Payment Statute, reversed the denial of summary judgment for the City on the intentional inference claim, reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Curry on the wrongful discharge claim, and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of the City. City of Lawrence Utils. Serv. Bd. v. Curry, 55 N.E.3d 895, 899–902 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016). Curry sought transfer, which we granted, thereby vacating the opinion of the Court of Appeals. * * *

Based on the clear and unambiguous language of Indiana Code section 8-1.5-3-5(d), the USB had the sole authority to terminate Curry, after notice and a hearing. Any other method for termination is up to the legislature to determine as a matter of policy. With respect to Curry’s Wage Payment Statute and intentional interference with an employment relationship claims, we also affirm. Thus, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Rush, C.J., and Rucker and Slaughter, JJ., concur.
David, J., concurs in part and dissents in part with separate opinion. [which begins, at p. 10]

While I agree with the majority that Curry is not entitled to wages pursuant to the Wage Payment Statute and thus, the trial court should be affirmed on that issue, I write separately because I disagree with the majority’s analysis on the other two issues: wrongful discharge and intentional interference with a business relationship. I would reverse the trial court on both issues. * * *

In sum, I do not believe the plain language of the statute limits the mayor’s ability to terminate the superintendent at will. I also do not believe that the mayor’s actions were unjustified and thus, Curry cannot prove his claim for intentional interference with an employment relationship. As such, I respectfully dissent in part. I would reverse the trial court on both issues.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 8, 2017 01:35 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions