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June 2013

Gordon & Rees Team Wins Appeal Affirming Successful Trial Result for Defense Contractor Client in Wrongful Termination, Fraud Case

A California Gordon & Rees team has defeated, at the trial and appellate levels, claims of a former employee for wrongful termination, fraud and more brought against a large defense contractor client of the firm.

The employee was part of a layoff when business slumped as the result of the loss of a key contract, a few years short of when his pension plan would have allowed him to retire and collect benefits. The employee sued, claiming wrongful termination and age discrimination. He also alleged that he had been defrauded because he was not informed that his pension plan was accounted for at the division rather than general corporate level (a detail about which he never asked), which he said prevented his transfer among divisions, and therefore his ability to avoid the layoff by transferring to a division not affected by the loss of the contract.

Gordon & Rees partner Stephen Ronk and senior counsel Anthony Bellone and Jennifer Ghozland of Los Angeles first won summary adjudication on five of seven causes of action, including the fraud-related claims, successfully arguing that there was no misrepresentation and no reliance. At trial, Gordon & Rees won a directed verdict on the other two causes of action, because there was no evidence of any discriminatory reason or any discriminatory effect (the percentage of older workers remained the same before and after the layoff).

On appeal, this procedural posture meant that all inferences were drawn in favor of the former employee. Gordon & Rees nevertheless prevailed on appeal on all seven causes of action. Plaintiff employee brought in appellate counsel. San Francisco partner Don Willenburg authored Gordon & Rees’ appeal brief (with help from of counsel David Ainbender) and argued the case in early May. The appellate decision was issued on June 3.

To read the opinion, click here.

Stephen E. Ronk
Don Willenburg