St. Clair County jury returns mixed verdict in truck driver’s retaliatory discharge case

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Aug 10, 2018

A St. Clair County jury reached a verdict partially in favor of Beelman Ready Mix and partially in favor of a former employee in his retaliatory discharge suit at trial in Associate Judge Chris Kolker’s courtroom.

The three-day trial ended Thursday afternoon when jurors returned a verdict in favor of Beelman on the plaintiff’s retaliatory discharge claim and a verdict in favor of plaintiff Michael Chatterton on the defendant’s counterclaim for negligence. Neither party was awarded any monetary value on their claims.

The case was previously assigned to Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson before it was passed to Kolker.

Chatterton filed the complaint against Beelman on March 13, 2014.

The plaintiff claimed he was discharged by Beelman on Oct. 1, 2013, after working for the defendant as a truck driver for approximately 10 years. He alleged he was discharged after he advised the defendant that the dump truck the plaintiff was scheduled to drive was unsafe to operate on public roadways due to improper mirrors and that he would not drive it.

However, Chatterton acknowledged that he later backed the truck into a parked vehicle on Beelman’s property, damaging the truck.

Beelman denied that the plaintiff was discharged for improper reasons and filed a counterclaim for damages of $6,872.22 on May 14, 2014.

Then in July 2014, an arbitrator concluded that Chatterton was angry at the time of the collision and the dump truck in question was safe to drive.

Following the arbitration proceeding, Gleeson converted a motion for summary judgment filed by Beelman into a motion to dismiss and then granted dismissal.

Chatterton filed an amended complaint on July 31, 2015.

A second motion to dismiss was granted Nov. 25, 2015.

Chatterton appealed.

The appellate court concluded that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel do not bar the plaintiff’s claim in this case, and the circuit court erred when it granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

“We take no position with regard to whether the plaintiff will ultimately be able to prove his retaliatory discharge claim,” Moore wrote.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-221

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