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Richard Yocum, M.D v. Rockwell Medical Technologies

April 30, 2013

RICHARD YOCUM, M.D.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROCKWELL MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND DOES 1- (ECF NO. 64) 25, INCLUSIVE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ) SUMMARY JUDGMENT

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced this action in the San Diego Superior Court, claiming Defendant terminated his at-will employment in violation of public policy. (ECF No. 1.) Shortly after Plaintiff filed his Complaint, Defendant removed the action to this Court pursuant to the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Currently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("MSJ"), which has been fully briefed and which the parties have argued at a hearing on March 22, 2013.*fn1 (ECF Nos. 64, 68, 78, 80.) After considering the parties' submissions and arguments, and for the reasons that follow, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendant's MSJ in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Defendant is a publicly traded bio-pharmaceutical company that operates out of Michigan and that offers products and services related to the treatment of kidney disorders and iron deficiency anemia. Defendant hired Plaintiff, a physician, in February 2009 as the Vice President of Drug Development and Medical Affairs. The parties' agree that Plaintiff's employment was at-will. The parties agree that Plaintiff became part of Defendant's clinical team and was allowed to work from California where he lives. The parties also agree that Plaintiff received a bonus for his work in 2009. Thereafter, the parties have vividly different versions of the events comprising the remainder of Plaintiff's employment, which Defendant ultimately terminated on September 17, 2011.

On one hand, Plaintiff asserts he fulfilled all of his duties and that, part way through his employment, he began insisting that Defendant take certain actions to comply with various guidelines and regulations. Plaintiff asserts he was terminated only because he insisted that Defendant take such actions.

On the other hand, Defendant asserts Plaintiff never complained to Defendant or anyone else that Defendant was not in compliance with any guidelines or regulations. Defendant asserts Plaintiff's employment was at-will and that Defendant needed no reason to discharge Plaintiff. Defendant asserts that, even if it were required to provide a reason, Defendant had legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons to terminate Plaintiff because he lied during his interview to get hired by Defendant, was unprofessional and unreliable during his employment, and began looking for other employment while still working for Defendant.

Much of the controversy surrounding Plaintiff's termination centers on Defendant's development of an iron delivery technology called SFP, including whether Defendant's testing of SFP and the public information disclosed about SFP complied with various guidelines and regulations.

Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all causes of action.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party may satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23.

Where the party moving for summary judgment does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it may show that no genuine issue of material fact exists by demonstrating "there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325.

The moving party is not required to produce evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, nor is it required to offer evidence negating the moving party's claim. Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990); United Steelworkers v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 865 F.2d 1539, 1542 (9th Cir. 1989). "Rather, the motion may, and should, be granted so long as whatever is before the District Court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Lujan, 497 U.S. at 885 (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). If the moving party fails to discharge this initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party meets the initial burden, the nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment merely by demonstrating "that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252 ("The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is not sufficient."). Rather, the nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)) (internal quotations omitted).

"Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). "The district court may limit its review to the documents submitted for purpose of summary judgment and those parts of the record specifically referenced therein." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001). Therefore, the court need not "scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Richards v. Combined Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1995)).

The court may not make credibility determinations, and inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, 501 U.S. 496, 520 (1991); see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

II. Analysis

A. Wrongful Termination in Violation of ...


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