JOY A SINAUSKAS V CHARLES LUCAS MDAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
JOY A. SINAUSKAS,
November 24, 1998
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 95-500355 CZ
CHARLES LUCAS, M.D.,
JOY A. SINAUSKAS,
CHARLES LUCAS, M.D., HARPER HOSPITAL
and HENRY J. COLEMAN, D.O.
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 95-500355 CZ
Before: Wahls, P.J., and Holbrook, Jr., and Fitzgerald, JJ.
In this consolidated appeal, plaintiff appeals by right from the trial court’s order summarily
dismissing plaintiff’s final claim against defendants. In docket number 197164, plaintiff appeals the trial
court’s July 1996 order granting summary disposition to defendant Charles Lucas, M.D., pursuant to
MCR 2.116(C)(10). In docket number 198145, plaintiff appeals the trial court’s August 1995 order
granting summary disposition to defendant Harper Hospital (hereinafter “Harper”) pursuant to MCR
2.116(C)(8). We affirm.
Prior to her employment with Harper, plaintiff was employed by Mt. Clemens General Hospital
(MCGH). After plaintiff was fired by MCGH, she filed a complaint against the hospital, alleging that her
discharge violated both the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA), MCL 15.361 et seq.; MSA
17.428(1) et seq., and public policy.
Harper hired plaintiff on May 26, 1992, as a surgical technician. Plaintiff was fired by Harper
on September 25, 1992. On January 5, 1995, plaintiff filled a ten-count complaint against defendants.
In count I, plaintiff alleged that Lucas and Henry J. Coleman, D.O.,1 tortiously interfered with her
business relationship with Harper. Counts II through VI alleged that Harper’s firing of plaintiff was
contrary to various public policies, identified as: constitutional rights, the right to bring a medical
malpractice claim, the right to testify truthfully in a civil action, the state’s interest in investigating gross
medical malpractice, and the right to pursue a public policy claim for wrongful discharge. Count VII
alleged that in firing plaintiff, Harper breached its implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. Finally,
plaintiff alleged that all three defendants joined in a conspiracy to: (1) tortiously interfere with plaintiff’s
business relationship with Harper (count VIII); (2) act in contravention of the aforementioned public
policies (count IX); and (3) breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing owned to plaintiff by Harper
On August 10, 1995, the trial court entered an order dismissing counts II through X pursuant to
MCR 2.116(C)(8). Then, on July 26, 1996, the court entered an order dismissing count I pursuant to
MCR 2.116(C)(10). We review de novo a trial court’s grant or denial of a motion for summary
disposition. Stehlik v Johnson (On Rehearing), 206 Mich App 83, 85; 520 NW2d 633 (1994).
Docket No. 197164
Plaintiff argues that the trial court erroneous dismissed pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) her
claim that Lucas tortiously interfered with her business relationship with Harper.
A motion pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) tests the factual basis underlying a plaintiff’s
claim. MCR 2.116(C)(10) permits summary disposition when, except for the amount
of damages, there is no genuine issue concerning any material fact . . . . A court
reviewing such a motion must consider the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, admissions,
and any other evidence in favor of the opposing party and grant the benefit of any
reasonable doubt to the opposing party. [Id. at 85.]
After reviewing the record, and viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff as non
moving party, we find that plaintiff has failed to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists with
respect to whether Lucas’s conduct was either wrongful per se, or lawful conduct done with malice and
unjustified in law. Stanton v Dachille, 186 Mich App 247, 255; 463 NW2d 479 (1990). Plaintiff has
not “demonstrated, with specificity, affirmative acts by the defendant that corroborate the improper
motive for” Lucas’s actions. BPS Clinical Laboratories v Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Michigan
(On Remand), 217 Mich App 687, 699; 552 NW2d 919 (1996). Therefore, we conclude that the
trial court did not err when granting summary disposition to Lucas on plaintiff’s claim of tortious
interference with a business expectancy.
Docket No. 198145
Plaintiff also argues that the trial court erred when granting Harper’s motion for summary
disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(8) on plaintiff’s claim that Harper’s actions were contrary to
public policy, as articulated in the state constitution and the WPA.2
A motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) . . . tests the legal basis of
the claim and is granted if the claim is so manifestly unenforceable as a matter of law that
no factual progression could possibly support recovery. Motions for summary
disposition [under this subsection] are examined on the pleadings alone, absent
consideration of supporting affidavits, depositions, admissions, or other documentary
evidence, and all factual allegations contained in the complaint must be accepted as true.
[Dolan v Continental Airlines/Continental Express, 454 Mich 373, 380-381; 563
NW2d 23 (1997).]
Resolution of this issue turns on an interpretation of § 2 of the WPA, which provides:
An employer shall not discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an
employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or
privileges of employment because the employee, or a person acting on behalf of the
employee, reports or is about to report, verbally or in writing, a violation or a suspected
violation of a law or regulation or rule promulgated pursuant to law of this state, a
political subdivision of this state, or the United States to a public body, unless the
employee knows that the report is false, or because an employee is requested by a
public body to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry held by that public
body, or a court action.
The overriding goal guiding this Court’s interpretation of a statute is to discover and give effect
to legislative intent. Anzaldua v Band, 457 Mich 530, 534-535; 578 NW2d 306 (1998). The search
for legislative intent begins with an examination of the language used in the statute at issue. Shallal v
Catholic Social Services of Wayne Co, 455 Mich 604, 611; 566 NW2d 571 (1997). “Unless
defined in the statue, every word or phrase should be accorded its plain and ordinary meaning, taking
into account the context in which the words are used.” People v Hack, 219 Mich App 299, 305; 556
NW2d 187 (1996). Accord Shallal, supra at 611. If the meaning of the language employed is clear,
then it is assumed that the Legislature intended the meaning expressed. Tryc v Michigan Veterans’
Facility, 451 Mich 129, 135; 545 NW2d 642 (1996). Further, we are guided in our interpretation of
§ 2 by the knowledge that the WPA is a remedial act, which “is to be liberally construed in favor of the
persons intended to be benefited.” Stewart v Fairlane Community Mental Health Centre, 225
Mich App 410, 423; 571 NW2d 542 (1997). Accord Shallal, supra at 611; Dudewicz v Norris
Schmid, Inc, 443 Mich 68, 77; 503 NW2d 645 (1993).
A plain reading of § 2 of the WPA reveals that employees discharged by a present employer for
reporting violations or suspected violations of a previous employer are covered by the act. There is
nothing in the express language of the text that limits application of the WPA to those situations where
an employee is discharged in retaliation for reporting violations by the discharging employer. Indeed,
§ 2 indicates that plaintiff need only establish a causal connection between the discharge and the
protected activity. While it may be more difficult for an employee to show the existence of such a
causal link when the protected activity occurred outside the present employment setting, such a
limitation cannot override the plain meaning of the words found in § 2.
Additionally, although construction of the statute is unnecessary given the plain meaning of the
text, we note that allowing an employee to bring an action under the WPA in these circumstances
furthers the purposes of the act. As the Dolan Court observed:
The underlying purpose of the act is protection of the public. The act meets this
objective by protecting the whistleblowing employee and by removing barriers that may
interdict employee efforts to report violations or suspected violations of the law.
Without employees who are willing to risk adverse employment consequences as a
result of whistleblowing activities, the public would remain unaware of large-scale and
potentially dangerous abuses. [Dolan, supra at 378-379. Accord Shallal, supra at
Allowing a plaintiff to maintain an action in circumstances like those present here helps to assure that
such a plaintiff is protected for engaging in activity encouraged by the WPA. Conversely, preventing a
whistleblower from bringing an action in these circumstances would serve to erect a barrier to reporting
violations or suspected violations of the law, thereby frustrating the purposes of the WPA. If a
prospective whistleblower feared that any subsequent retaliatory discharge by a subsequent employer
could escape the reach of the WPA, then it is likely that he would think twice about revealing violations
or suspected violations of law.
Therefore, because the WPA specifically prohibits retaliatory discharge in the circumstances of
this case, plaintiff’s public policy claims are not sustainable. Dudewicz, supra at 79-80. Accordingly,
we conclude that the trial court did not err when summarily dismissing plaintiff’s public policy based
claims pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(8).
/s/ Myron H. Wahls
/s/ Donald E. Holbrook, Jr.
/s/ E. Thomas Fitzgerald
By stipulation of the parties, an order was entered by the trial court on January 26, 1996, dismissing
with prejudice plaintiff’s claims against Coleman.
Plaintiff does not argue that any of the other counts raised in her ten-count complaint were
erroneously dismissed. Those issues are thus abandoned on appeal.