United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
ROBERT E. SPENCER, Plaintiff,
BARTON COUNTY AMBULANCE DISTRICT, Defendant.
ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING BARTON COUNTY AMBULANCE
DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE
filed this suit against the Barton County Ambulance District
("the District") and five of the District's six
Board Members. The Board Members were dismissed on January
13, 2017. Now pending is the District's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment, which seeks summary judgment on (1)
Count III, because the claim is barred by sovereign immunity,
and (2) Count IV, for the same reasons Count IV was dismissed
as to the individual defendants. As discussed below, the
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (doc. 62) is
(if not all) of the relevant facts are undisputed. Plaintiff
began working for the District as a part-time paramedic in
November 2011, was given more responsibility over time, and
eventually became the "Director" or
"Administrator" in March 2013. In November 2014,
Plaintiff and the District entered into an Employment
Agreement that memorialized the terms of Plaintiffs
employment. The Employment Agreement states that its term
"shall be for a 10 year period of time, beginning
January 1, 2015, and continuing until the end of the term
provided." The Employment Agreement also provides:
The District shall have the right to terminate this Agreement
with or without cause upon 90 days' notice to
the Employee, but only after having an official Board Meeting
and a roll call vote of the full Board (all members are
physically present and no action may be taken with vacancies
on the Board), and a unanimous vote to terminate is upon this
roll call vote.
(Doc. 22 at ¶ 66 (emphasis supplied).)
March 2016, the Board voted to terminate Plaintiff's
employment. All six members of the Board were present, but
only five voted to terminate Plaintiff's employment. The
sixth board member, Robert Holt, abstained. The reasons for
Plaintiff's termination are disputed, but for purposes of
this motion the Court accepts as true Plaintiff's
allegation that he was terminated because he reported that a
Board Member's sister was intoxicated while on duty, or
because he reported that another employee was engaged in
District is a political subdivision formed under Missouri
law. During the relevant time period the District was
protected by only one insurance policy. The policy was issued
by the Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund, (the
"MOPERM Policy"), and it provides coverage for
claims arising under Missouri law, but only if those claims
involve the operation of motorized vehicles or involve
dangerous conditions on property.
Amended Complaint asserts four claims. Count I alleges that
Plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for his assertion of
FLSA rights. Count II alleges the Employment Contract was
breached. Count III asserts a claim of wrongful discharge in
violation of public policy. Count IV alleges a Due Process
violation. The Board Members, who were named only in Counts I
and IV, were dismissed on January 13, 2017. The District is a
defendant in all four counts, but as stated earlier the
District seeks summary judgment on Counts III and IV only.
moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only
upon a showing that "there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." See generally Williams
v. City of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th Cir. 1986).
"[W]hile the materiality determination rests on the
substantive law, it is the substantive law's
identification of which facts are critical and which facts
are irrelevant that governs." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
"[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment." Wierman v.
Casey's Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir.
2011) (quotation omitted). In applying this standard, the
Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, giving that party the benefit of all
inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Tyler v. Harper, 744
F.2d 653, 655 (8th Cir. 1984), cert, denied, 470
U.S. 1057 (1985). A party opposing a motion for summary
judgment may not simply deny the allegations, but must point
to evidence in the record demonstrating the existence of a
factual dispute. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); Conseco Life Ins.
Co. v. Williams, 620 F.3d 902, 909-10 (8th Cir. 2010).
District contends that, as a political subdivision, it is
entitled to sovereign immunity, and for that reason summary
judgment on Count III is appropriate. Plaintiff did not
respond to this argument, so the Court's analysis will be
statute, political subdivisions enjoy sovereign immunity.
Langley v. Curators ofUniv. of Missouri,73 S.W.3d 808, 811 (Mo. App. 2002) (citing Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 537.600). '"Liability of a political
subdivision for torts is the exception to the general rule of
sovereign immunity, hence it is incumbent on a party seeking
to establish such liability to demonstrate an exception
exists.'" Id. (quoting State ex rel.