The opinion of the court was delivered by: TRUMP
Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The motion will be decided without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion will be granted.
At the heart of the instant dispute is the nature of the employment agreement between the parties and its subsequent termination by defendants. Set forth below are the undisputed facts that form the background of this case.
I understand that in the event I am hired, and in the absence of a written agreement to the contrary, my status will be that of an employee at will, with no contractual right, express or implied, to remain in the Company's employ. I specifically agree that my employment may be terminated, with or without cause or notice, at any time at the option of either the Company or myself. I understand that no unauthorized representative may enter any agreement for employment or make any agreement contrary to the foregoing.
Id., at 3. After an interview at Chilton headquarters, plaintiff was offered and accepted the position. Id.
Plaintiff began his employment on May 31, 1988. Id. Among the documents plaintiff completed that day was a form entitled "Post Employment Personal Summary", which contained a provision almost identical to that cited above. Id., at 4. Plaintiff also received a Chilton Personnel Policies Manual from the personnel department. Plaintiff's 12G Statement, at 3. This manual included various disciplinary procedures employed by Chilton. Id.
Plaintiff's employment was terminated on September 11, 1992, apparently due in part to actions that resulted in the filing of a "publicity complaint" with the Business Publication Audit by another magazine publisher. Defendants' 12G Statement, at 6-8.
On September 10, 1993, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Sussex County, naming Chilton Company and his former supervisor, Michael Koehler, as defendants. The action was subsequently removed to this court. Plaintiff charges defendants with wrongful termination (Count 1), sets forth a claim for wrongful and negligent supervision and evaluation against defendant Koehler (Count 2), and charges both defendants with negligently and tortiously interfering with his economic activity as a Chilton employee (Count 3). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that "judgment . . . shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. " Thus, "summary judgment may be granted only if there exists no genuine issue of material fact that would permit a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party." Miller v. Indiana Hospital, 843 F.2d 139, 143 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 870, 102 L. Ed. 2d 147, 109 S. Ct. 178 (1988) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986)). The moving party has the initial burden of making a prima facie showing that it is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Once the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate that summary judgment is inappropriate by coming forward with evidence to demonstrate that a material fact remains in dispute and must be resolved by the trier of fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).
Before determining whether summary judgment is appropriate in the instant case, however, this court is confronted with the hotly contested issue as to whether the law of New Jersey or Pennsylvania should be applied to the various claims set forth in plaintiff's complaint. Whether New Jersey or Pennsylvania law applies in this case is theoretically significant in that "New Jersey provides greater protection from the harsh effect of at-will termination" particularly where a discharged employee claims that a policy manual has altered the ...