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Wingerd v. Kaabooworks Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 12, 2019

BRIAN WINGERD, Plaintiff,
v.
KAABOOWORKS SERVICES, LLC and THE MADISON COMPANIES, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 159) of the Court's decision granting summary judgment on Plaintiff's two California statutory wrongful termination claims. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         I. Legal Standard

         Under D. Kan. Rule 7.3(a), “[p]arties seeking reconsideration of dispositive orders or judgments must file a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60” to alter or amend the judgment. Grounds which justify alteration or amendment under Rule 59(e) include: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) new evidence that was previously unavailable; or (3) a need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.[1] Plaintiff asserts that reconsideration is warranted under the third prong.

         A motion to alter or amend judgment is appropriate where the “court has misapprehended the facts, a party's position, or the controlling law.”[2] A motion for reconsideration is not an opportunity to “revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised in prior briefing.”[3]

         II. Discussion

         Plaintiff asserts that the Court erred in two ways: (1) by applying the Restatement (First) of Conflict of Laws to determine the proper choice of law as to Plaintiff's claims, and (2) by conducting a choice of law analysis with regard to Plaintiff's California statutory claims. The Court considers these arguments in turn.

         A. Restatement (First) of Conflict of Laws

         Plaintiff asserts that a 2007 Kansas Supreme Court decision demonstrates that Kansas courts are willing to look outside the First Restatement, and the Court erred in applying the First Statement to Plaintiff's claims. In In re K.M.H., the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed that Kansas generally uses the First Restatement to determine choice of law issues, [4] as well as deviated from that approach given the unique situation at hand: determining the parental rights of a sperm donor.[5] The Kansas Supreme Court determined that although the insemination occurred in Missouri, every other contact between the parties occurred in Kansas: the parties were Kansas residents, the agreement was arrived at in Kansas, the children were born in Kansas, and the children resided in Kansas.[6] Accordingly, the court found that the “significant contacts and a significant aggregation of contacts with Kansas” justified applying Kansas law, citing the Due Process Clause and the Second Restatement.[7] Plaintiff urges the Court to apply the Second Restatement here, and asserts that the result is an application of California law to Plaintiff's wrongful termination claims. While the Court acknowledges that In re K.M.H. demonstrates Kansas courts' willingness to look beyond the First Restatement when appropriate, the Court finds that it is not appropriate here, and further, that the Second Restatement would also lead the Court to apply Kansas law to Plaintiff's wrongful termination claims.

         In Aiken v. Employer Health Services, Inc., the Tenth Circuit applied the First Restatement-per Kansas choice of law rules-to the plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim, finding that Missouri law applied because Missouri was the “place of the wrong.”[8] However, the court recognized

that application of the traditional lex loci delicti approach may, in some instances, result in application of the law of a state that has little connection with the underlying cause of action. In such instances, it is conceivable that the Kansas courts would allow a reviewing court to go beyond the traditional approach and consider other factors, such as those listed in Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Laws.[9]

         In the present case, the Court applied the First Restatement because there was simply no reason to deviate from the First Restatement; the traditional approach resulted in the application of the law of a state with a strong connection to the underlying cause of action. The Court determined that Kansas law should apply to Plaintiff's wrongful termination claims because Plaintiff was terminated in Kansas.[10] Kansas can hardly be said to have “little connection with the underlying cause of action” given that Plaintiff is a Kansas resident who conducted business from his home office in Kansas and who was physically in Kansas when he was terminated.

         However, even if the Court looked outside the traditional approach and considered the factors of the Second Restatement-namely, the state with the most significant relationship to the cause of action-the Court would reach the same conclusion.[11] Kansas is the state with the most significant relationship to Plaintiff's wrongful termination claims. Although the termination decision was made in California, both the termination and notice of termination occurred in Kansas, Plaintiff worked primarily from his home office in Kansas, and the termination was either based on lack of contract performance while Plaintiff was in Kansas-i.e., excessive absence, lack of participation in meetings, failure to lead-or, as Plaintiff contends, his cancer and protected acceptance of accommodations. The factual support underlying Plaintiff's wrongful termination claims does not arise from activities that occurred in California. Accordingly, under the Second Restatement, the state with the most significant relationship to Plaintiff's wrongful termination claims is Kansas.

         By comparison, under the significant relationship test, Plaintiff's demotion claims are governed by California law, the same result the Court found in its summary judgment order using the First Restatement approach.[12] The significant contacts concerning the demotion were in California: the decision to demote Plaintiff was in California, the implementation of the demotion was in California, and the alleged reason for the demotion was either based on Plaintiff's inability to fulfill his contractual responsibilities in California, namely, managing the department for the duration of the Del Mar festival, or, as Plaintiff contends, his sickly appearance, which Defendants observed for the first time at the festival. Thus, the state with the most significant relationship to Plaintiff's demotion claims is California. Accordingly, the Court finds that either choice of law analysis would lead the Court to the same result, regardless of whether the Court applies the First or Second Restatement to Plaintiff's California claims.

         In its summary judgment order, the Court refused to look outside the approach consistently taken by Kansas courts and the Tenth Circuit after finding that the result of the traditional approach was appropriate.[13] Accordingly, the Court finds there is no clear error.

         B. Choice ...


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