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Bishop v. Drees Premiere Homes, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 19, 2017

COURTNEY L. BISHOP, Plaintiff,
v.
DREES PREMIER HOMES, INC. d/b/a DREES HOMES, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on both a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Filing No. 23) and Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 39). The dispute in this case arises over a compensation agreement between Plaintiff Courtney L. Bishop (“Bishop”) and Defendant Drees Premier Homes, Inc., d/b/a Drees Homes (“Drees”). The agreement specified that, upon termination of employment, Bishop would not be paid commissions for any home closings that were not yet consummated at the time of termination. Bishop's employment was ultimately involuntarily terminated, and at the time of his termination, several homes under his sales portfolio had not yet closed. Bishop argues he should be paid commissions for those closings, because the “commission-termination” provision in his compensation agreement is unenforceable as contrary to public policy. Drees moved for judgment on the pleadings, (Filing No. 23), and while that motion was pending, moved for summary judgment on all of Bishop's claims (Filing No. 39). For the reasons described below, the Court grants Drees' Motion for Summary Judgment.[1]

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (noting that when the non-movant has the burden of proof on a substantive issue, specific forms of evidence are not required to negate a non-movant's claims in the movant's summary judgment motion, and that a court may grant such a motion, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard...is satisfied”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A) (noting additional forms of evidence used in support or defense of a summary judgment motion, including “depositions, documents electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”).

         Thereafter, a non-moving party who bears the burden of proof on a substantive issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate by specific factual allegations that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some “metaphysical doubt” as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “It is not the duty of the court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party bears the responsibility of identifying the evidence upon which [it] relies.” Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Similarly, a court is not permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of a claim and may not use summary judgment as a vehicle for resolving factual disputes. Ritchie v. Glidden Co., ICI Paints World-Grp., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001); Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Indeed, a court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) (highlighting that “these are jobs for a factfinder”); Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. When ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court's responsibility is to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Id.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are virtually undisputed, but any disputes, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, are presented in the light most favorable to Bishop as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         Drees hired Bishop in May 2014 as a Market Manager in its Indianapolis Division, and Bishop's duties included discussing building and financing options with customers, reviewing home building plans, and receiving purchasing orders and executed contracts. (Filing No. 41-1 at 21; Filing No. 41-1 at 29.) He understood from his employment application, offer letter, guide to policies and the employee handbook, that his employment with Drees was an at-will employee and could be terminated with or without cause at any time. The terms of Bishop's compensation package were governed by a Market Manager Compensation Policy for the Indianapolis Division (the “Compensation Agreement”), which outlines a largely commission-based compensation system. (Filing No. 41-1 at 22.) Pursuant to the Compensation Agreement, when a home is sold, the Market Manager is paid two-thirds of his commission upon completion of the Field Plan Review (the “front-end commission”), and the remaining one-third is paid upon the closing of the home sale (the “back-end commission”). (Filing No. 41-1 at 82.) Bishop read, understood, and agreed to the Compensation Agreement. (Filing No. 41-1 at 22.)

         The Compensation Agreement also specifies what effect an employee's voluntary or involuntary termination has on his commission payments. The Compensation Agreement provides as follows:

In the event that the Market Manager leaves the employ of Drees Homes for any reason, compensation will be as follows: 1. Upon termination (voluntary or involuntary) commissions will be paid for completed Field Plan Reviews or on Closings that occurred prior to the termination. No further commission will be due on Field Plan Reviews or Closings that occur after the termination date.

(Filing No. 41-1 at 83, emphasis in original.) Drees involuntarily terminated Bishop's employment on April 30, 2015.[2] (Filing No. 41-2 at 5.) At that time, Bishop had several home sales for which he had completed Field Plan Reviews, but the homes had not yet completed their closings. (Filing No. 43-2 at 7.) He received his front-end commission payments for those field reviews, but did not receive the back-end commission payments for the closings that had not yet occurred. (Filing No. 43-2 at 8; Filing No. 41-1 at 14.) Bishop concedes that Drees has paid him all of the wages he was owed “per the letter of the contract.” (Filing No. 41-1 at 14.)

         Bishop filed suit in Indiana state court raising several claims against Drees involving unpaid wages. He seeks payment for the unpaid commissions under Indiana Code Sections 22-2-9-2(a) (commonly referred to as the “Indiana Wage Claims Statute”) and 22-2-5-2 (commonly referred to as the “Indiana Wage Payment Statute”); breach of the implied promise of good faith and fair dealing; tortious breach of the implied promise of good faith and fair dealing; quantum meruit; and unjust enrichment. (Filing No. 6-1.) Drees removed the lawsuit to federal ...


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