Court holds that prior ruling applicable to the fired employee's contract claims is binding on current lawsuit; upholds summary disposition of case
In Jackson-Phelps v. Dipiero, a terminated employee who had previously lost a wrongful discharge case attempted to bring a second action. Her first case was based on breach of contract for termination without just cause, and illegal retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act. The employer sought summary disposition of the second case, based on the argument that she had "a full and fair opportunity" to dispute the legality of her termination in the original suit, thus barring a second action. The plaintiff argued that the findings necessary to uphold the termination in the first action were not sufficient to defend her current legal claim.
The Court of Appeals agreed that the WPA findings would not bar the second action, but disagreed with respect to the earlier contract action. Since the fact-finder in the original case had inherently accepted that the plaintiff was discharged because of the content of an auditor's report, "good cause" for terminating her employment existed and would also constitute binding factual determinations sufficient to defend the instant, second lawsuit. Summary disposition of the second case was upheld on appeal.