Case Caption: Warrington Chapman v. Mary Adams Cornwall, et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2012-0032Date: 05/15/2013Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In an action for breach of contract, wrongful discharge, and defamation brought by an employee terminated from a position as a territorial landfill operations manager with the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority for falsifying his academic record, summary judgment for the defendants is affirmed. While the Superior Court erred in finding that no contract existed solely by virtue of plaintiff's status as a full-time government employee, since 29 V.I.C. § 500 authorizes contractual hiring for certain positions or categories of positions, dismissal of this claim is affirmed because he failed to produce sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to possible contract terms or duties derived from the authority's human resources manual. In addition, plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing suit in the Superior Court and would be unable to maintain a breach of contract action based on civil service protection, even if he had been a classified employee. Even if the duty of good faith and fair dealing is applicable to plaintiff's employment relationship, summary judgment on this theory is appropriate because he failed to identify acts amounting to fraud or deceit by the employer. The Superior Court correctly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim under the Wrongful Discharge Act, 24 V.I.C. §§ 76-79, because VIWMA is a public employer expressly exempt from application of the Act, and its director is entitled to qualified immunity from tort liability under 29 V.I.C. § 496 and § 497. Plaintiff's defamation cause of action was properly dismissed for failure to specify who communicated false information about him and who is the responsible party. Plaintiff has conceded that he does not know who gave out the information and further agrees that his defamation claim was insufficiently pled. Thus plaintiff failed demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact that would have allowed this case to proceed to trial, and the Superior Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion