An executive in the alcohol industry who was sued for allegedly telling a St. Louis TV reporter that she had been fired from Randall's Wine & Spirits on the basis of transgender discrimination has prevailed at the Fifth District Appellate Court.
In a decision filed April 30, the Court affirmed the late St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien and Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf who ruled in favor of Jaimie Hileman in litigation stemming from an alleged breach of settlement agreement between the parties. Details of the settlement agreement were not laid out in the ruling, but it states that Hileman allegedly breached an agreement that would entitle Randall's the return of money paid under the agreement.
Randall's, which refers to itself as Internet Wine & Spirits (IWS) in the pleadings, had claimed that Hileman told Fox 2 News reporter Mandy Murphey of the firing, an "untrue assertion" that damaged its reputation and resulted in the loss of $120,000 in profits between December 2015 and January 2016 after a report aired.
In seeking partial summary judgment, Hileman claimed that the news report in question never stated that IWS fired Hileman, "and in fact never mentioned the plaintiff at all," the ruling states.
"The defendant (Hileman) contended that although Murphey stated that the defendant was fired from her job, “[i]t is undisputed that neither Murphey... nor Fox 2 stated or communicated that IWS was (Hileman's) employer.”
On appeal, IWS argued that the case should have survived the motion for a partial summary judgment because of disputed issues of material fact, including whether the defendant “stated she was fired from her position as an executive in the wine and spirit industry to Mandy Murphey,” and whether the defendant “stated to Mandy Murphey that IWS fired Hileman” the ruling states.
The panel of Fifth District judges - James Moore, Thomas Welch and David Overstreet - noted that "contrary to the plain language of the allegations in the complaint, which of course was drafted by the plaintiff, the plaintiff concedes on appeal that 'Mandy Murphey never expressly stated that IWS fired Hileman from her position as an executive in the wine and spirit industry."
Hileman argued that LeChien - who died last August - had ruled correctly because she was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
"We agree with the defendant," Moore wrote.
"In this case, it is undisputed that Murphey never stated in her on-the-air report that the plaintiff fired the defendant. In fact, it is undisputed that the plaintiff was not mentioned in the report at all. On appeal, the plaintiff abandons the contention made in the complaint that '[d]uring the Fox 2 News report, Murphey reported that [the defendant] was ‘fired’ from her job as an executive in ‘wine and spirits industry,’ IWS, as a result of alleged transgender discrimination,' and instead now claims that it is immaterial that Murphey never stated that the plaintiff fired the defendant and never mentioned the plaintiff during the broadcast at all."
"In other words, the plaintiff persists in its contention that the damages it purports to have suffered resulted from Murphey’s broadcast, not from what would have been the actual breach of the contract: the defendant’s purported off-the-air statement to Murphey that the plaintiff fired the defendant. In the absence of any mention of the plaintiff in the broadcast, we conclude the plaintiff’s theory, as pled in the complaint, that it lost profits because of the broadcast amounts to nothing more than the conjecture and sheer speculation rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court ..."