Submitted: June 13, 2019
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment DENIED.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment DENIED.
C. Herr, Esquire, Law Office of Daniel C. Herr LLC, Attorney
for Plaintiff Kenneth Infante.
S. Casarino, Esquire, Karine Sarkisian, Esquire, White and
Williams LLP, Attorney for Defendants Horizon Services, Inc.
and Horizon Services LLC.
W. Wharton, J.
23rd day of August, 2019, upon consideration of the Motion
for Summary Judgment of Plaintiff Kenneth Infante, the
Response of Defendants Horizon Services, Inc. and Horizon
Services, LLC, the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants
Horizon Services, Inc. and Horizon Services, LLC, Plaintiff
Kenneth Infante's Response in Opposition, and the record
in this case, it appears to the Court that:
Plaintiff Kenneth Infante ("Infante") brought this
action for compensatory and punitive damages against Horizon
Services, Inc. and Horizon Services, LLC (collectively
"Horizon") alleging that Horizon, his former
employer, retaliated and discriminated against him in
violation of 19 Del. C. § 2365 for pursuing
workers' compensation benefits in
Infante moves for summary judgment. He argues that Horizon has
repeatedly admitted that it terminated his employment because
he filed a "false" injury claim and a workers'
compensation claim that was denied. He contends that those
stated reasons for his firing were unlawful under
Delaware's Workers' Compensation Act, which makes it
unlawful to discharge or retaliate against an employee
because that employee claimed workers' compensation
benefits. He also contends that Horizon's
subjective belief, if it truly held such a belief, that
Infante's injury claim was false and his workers'
compensation claim fraudulent are not cognizable defenses
under 19 Del. C. § 2365. Finally, Infante
argues that, even if Horizon's subjective belief did
constitute a defense, Horizon waived that defense when the
parties settled the workers' compensation claim by
entering into a stipulation titled Compromise and Release
Agreement by Stipulation Pursuant to Section 449. of the
Workers' Compensation Act
Horizon disputes that it fired Infante for pursuing a
workers' compensation claim. Instead, Horizon maintains
that it fired Infante for his dishonesty and for falsifying
an injury claim. Horizon argues that its subjective intent
in firing Infante is a defense to his retaliation claim as
its intent goes to whether there was a causal connection
between Infante's exercise of his workers'
compensation rights and the adverse employment
action. Finally, Horizon argues that the
stipulation does not constitute a waiver of its defense
because the stipulation contained language that Horizon
denied, and continued to deny that Infante sustained a work
Horizon also moves for summary judgement. It claims
that the stipulation settled all disputes between the
parties, both pending at the time and
prospectively. Infante, on the other hand, argues that
the stipulation was limited to the workers' compensation
claim and does not bar this action for
retaliation.Infante also argues that Horizon made
this argument previously in connection with Horizon's
motion to dismiss and this Court rejected it.
Court considers the "pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any" in determining whether to grant
summary judgment. Summary judgment will be appropriate
only when, upon viewing all of the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, the Court finds that there
is no genuine issue of material fact. When material
facts are in dispute, or "it seems desirable to inquire
more thoroughly into the facts to clarify the application of
the law to the circumstances," summary judgment will not
be appropriate." However, when the facts permit a
reasonable person to draw but one inference, the question
becomes one for decision as a matter of law.
Addressing first Infante's motion for summary judgment,
it is clear to the Court that at this stage of the case there
are genuine issues of material fact as to Horizon's
reasons for firing Infante. Infante maintains that Horizon
fired him because he asserted his workers' compensation
rights. Horizon maintains it fired him, not for pursing a
workers' compensation claim, but rather for dishonesty in
reporting the circumstances of the motor vehicle collision in
which Infante claims he was injured, as well as the
seriousness of that claimed injury. Both parties have
tendered evidence that they claim supports their respective
positions. Sorting out the weight and value of that evidence
is exactly what trials are supposed to do. Moreover, Horizon
is entitled to present evidence tending to negate a nexus
between Infante's exercise of his workers'
compensation rights and the adverse employment action. In
other words, Horizon may present evidence that,
contra Infante, it did not retaliate. Finally, the
stipulation does not constitute a waiver by Horizon since it
states that Horizon "denied, and continues to deny, that
claimant [Infante] sustained a work
injury." Accordingly, there are clear issues of
material fact that must await trial.
Court next turns to Horizon's motion for summary
judgment. That motion focuses on the stipulation resolving
the Pennsylvania workers' compensation
claim. The Court discussed the stipulation when
it denied Horizon's motion to dismiss on February 18,
2019. In that Order the Court held, in part,
"Retaliation claims, as brought here, are not
compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation
Act, and, thus, not subject to the jurisdiction of a
workers' compensation judge. Accordingly, the stipulation
does not bar the claims here."Horizon does not attempt
to explain why the Court should rule differently now in the
context of its summary judgment motion. In fact, ...