Administrator at religious retreat center says employer's practices implied a contract; that he was not an employee at will.
- Case Name: Joseph Sebastian v. Christ the King Retreat Center
- Court and Case Number: Sacramento Superior Court / 34-2011-00115447
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, April 20, 2015
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, December 12, 2011
- Type of Case: Employment
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Richard K. Sueyoshi
Plaintiffs: Joseph Sebastian, 47
Defendants: Christ the King Retreat Center
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $362,296
- Net Verdict or Award: $362,296
Award as to each Defendant:
There were no non- economic damages available at trial since this was a breach of implied contract case.
There were no punitive damages available since this was a breach of implied contract case.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2.5 days.
- Jury Polls: 9-3
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant filed motions for JNOV/new trial, which were denied.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Law Offices of James E. McGlamery by James McGlamery, Sacramento.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Gordon and Rees by George Acero and Michael Laurenson, San Francisco.
Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
James Mills, economics, Los Altos.
Gary Nibbelink, vocational rehabilitation, Sacramento.
Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Beth DeLima, vocational rehabilitation, Murphys.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
The employment of plaintiff, Joseph Sebastian, the Administrator for defendant, was terminated after he reported what he claimed was a workplace safety issue concerning another employee.
Plaintiff sought past and future economic losses. Plaintiff had originally sued for wrongful termination in violation of public policy; however, that claim was dismissed on summary adjudication. The case went to trial only on the claim for breach of implied contract. Plaintiff has yet to become re-employed.
That defendant breached an implied contract that plaintiff's employment could only be terminated for good cause, causing plaintiff to sustain past and future economic losses.
Plaintiff claimed that he possessed an implied contract based on a long-standing progressive discipline policy, six years of employment with defendant, a probationary period for new employees, promises of job security, and compliments regarding his job performance. He further alleged that there was no good cause to terminate his employment.
Defendant contended that plaintiff's employment was "at will" and that he could therefore be terminated without the need for "good cause." Defendant claimed that even if there was an implied contract, it had "good cause" to terminate plaintiff's employment because plaintiff had acted in an insubordinate fashion on several occasions, and because plaintiff exceeded his authority in conducting an investigation, on his own, regarding an employee that plaintiff claimed constituted a safety issue. Defendant further claimed that plaintiff had not mitigated his damages by obtaining other employment following his termination.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Only past and future economic losses were available.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $362,296
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: Approximately $400,000.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $399,999
- Defendant §998 Offer: First 998 offer for $100,000. Defendant subsequently served a second 998 offer for $150,000.