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VACKAR v. PACKAGE MACH. CO.

October 27, 1993

VIRGIL B. VACKAR, Plaintiff (s),
v.
PACKAGE MACHINERY COMPANY, GENERAL MILLS, INC., STEVE BRETON, Defendant (s).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FERN M. SMITH

 INTRODUCTION

 In plaintiff's suit for breach of contract, defamation and negligent investigation, defendants General Mills and Steve Breton have moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's second and third causes of action, for defamation and negligent misrepresentation, respectively. *fn1" For the reasons discussed herein, the Court finds as a matter of law that the allegedly defamatory statements were within the qualified privilege of California Civil Code section 47(c). The Court, thus, GRANTS the motion of these defendants for summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 At the time of the events giving rise to this lawsuit plaintiff was employed as an equipment service representative by Eagle Packaging Group ("Eagle"), a division of defendant Package Machinery Company ("Package Machinery"). In his capacity as an equipment service representative, Mr. Vackar was responsible for training the employees of Eagle's customers on the proper use and maintenance of Eagle's equipment. General Mills was one of Eagle's customers.

 Mr. Vackar went to General Mills's facility in Covington, Georgia in early December, 1991, to train General Mills's employees in the use of Eagle's equipment. Within a few days of Mr. Vackar's initial training sessions Margaret Quillen, the Personnel Training Manager at General Mills's Covington plant, received complaints from two trainees about Mr. Vackar's conduct during those sessions. In response to these complaints, Ms. Quillen conducted separate interviews over a two day period with eight other employees who had participated in Mr. Vackar's training sessions.

 The ten trainees whom Ms. Quillen questioned gave virtually identical reports of Mr. Vackar's conduct during the training sessions. Both women and men reported that Mr. Vackar had made a number of inappropriate comments about women and sex during the training sessions and that such comments had offended them. In particular, the trainees informed Ms. Quillen that Mr. Vackar had engaged in the following conduct during the training sessions:

 1. He made comments about his body;

 2. He made comments about how much sex he had;

 3. He referred to "women on their backs";

 4. Responding to a female trainee who was asking a question, he stated that he was "feeling her out" and gestured as though he were feeling her breasts;

 5. He remarked that women do not belong in the workplace;

 6. He stated that he did not like "girls" working together in teams because they would not be able to do the tasks required.

 After having interviewed the ten trainees, Ms. Quillen reported her findings to the Senior Staff Engineer at the time, Steve Breton. Mr. Breton was responsible for ensuring that the employees at the Covington plant received proper and appropriate training in the use of the plant's equipment. He had dealt with Eagle and Package Machinery for several years prior to the incidents that gave rise to the present lawsuit.

 Mr. Breton and Ms. Quillen discussed both the substance of the trainees' complaints and the scope of Ms. Quillen's investigation. Given the uniformity of the trainees' reports about Mr. Vackar, Mr. Breton and Ms. Quillen decided that the complaints were credible and that further investigation was ...


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