Case Studies

Lewis Rice Attorneys Win Significant Title IX Case for Saint Louis University in U.S. Court of Appeals

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled unanimously in favor of Lewis Rice client, Saint Louis University, in an action involving Title IX and several other Missouri common law tort and statutory claims. Lewis Rice attorneys Neal F. Perryman and Sarah E. Mullen successfully represented the University, both in the trial court and on appeal. Neal argued the matter before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The plaintiff sued the University, attempting to hold it responsible for damages resulting from an alleged off-campus sexual assault, as well as an alleged back injury which the plaintiff claimed she suffered as the result of her participation in intercollegiate athletics. After lengthy trial court litigation, District Judge Henry E. Autrey granted summary judgment to the University on all claims, holding, among other things, that the University's conduct toward the plaintiff was not "clearly unreasonable" as a matter of law, and that the plaintiff's other statutory and other common law claims failed.

On appeal, the judgment was affirmed in all respects, holding that the University's conduct was not shown "to exhibit deliberate indifference" and that the University could not be held liable under Title IX or any other attempted tort or statutory theory.

Victory in an Insurance Dispute in the Illinois Court of Appeals Upheld

The Illinois Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Lewis Rice clients in an insurance coverage dispute concerning a State of Illinois group health plan. Subsequently, the Illinois Supreme Court denied the plaintiff's request to further appeal. In its ruling, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the action against Lewis Rice's clients, The WellPoint Companies, Inc., HealthLink, Inc., and HealthLink HMO, Inc., holding that none of the requested relief was available as against those defendants. Neal F. Perryman argued the case before the Illinois Court of Appeals.

Eighth Circuit Affirms Victory for Omega Flex, Inc. in Products Liability Action

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously affirmed a defense verdict in favor of Lewis Rice client Omega Flex, Inc. in a case involving allegations by an insurer that Omega Flex's gas piping product was defective and caused a house fire following an indirect lightning strike.

In 2011, American Automobile Insurance Company (AAIC) sued Omega Flex in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on theories of negligence, products liability, and breach of warranty. AAIC alleged that corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) manufactured by Omega Flex for use in residential gas transportation systems was defectively designed and was too thin to withstand energy from an indirect lightning strike that occurred near AAIC's insured's property and resulted in a house fire.

Prior to trial, the District Court granted Omega Flex's motion to exclude certain opinions proffered by AAIC's expert relating to CSST's design, and entered summary judgment in favor of Omega Flex on AAIC's claims for breach of warranty and failure to warn. Following a four-day trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Omega Flex, finding that Omega Flex did not fail to use ordinary care in designing the CSST, or otherwise sell the CSST in an unreasonably dangerous or defective condition. Lewis Rice attorneys Thomas P. Berra, Jr., Neal F. Perryman, Oliver H. Thomas, and Edward T. Pivin were part of a trial team led by William J. Conroy and Lynne O'Brien Ingram of the Pennsylvania-based law firm of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, P.C.

Following the District Court's denial of its motion for a new trial, AAIC filed its appeal with the Eighth Circuit, arguing that the District Court's exclusion of its expert's opinions on design, coupled with its admission of testimony from Omega Flex's expert, constituted a clear and prejudicial abuse of discretion. The Eighth Circuit disagreed, and affirmed the District Court's rulings under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). See Am. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Omega Flex, Inc., No. 14-1783, 2015 WL 1653209 (8th Cir. Apr. 15, 2015). Lewis Rice attorney Neal Perryman successfully argued the matter before the Eighth Circuit.

Lewis Rice Lawyers Win Case that Further Protects Hospitals from Damage Lawsuits Based on Medical Staffing Decisions

Lewis Rice attorneys prevailed in a challenge to a St. Louis area hospital's decision to remove a physician from its medical staff. In Ralph v. St. Anthony's Med. Ctr., the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District ruled unanimously in favor of St. Anthony's Medical Center (SAMC) in connection with Dr. Ralph's challenge to the hospital's medical staffing privileges decision and provided a clear statement of law in this area. Dr. Ralph had sued SAMC, seeking damages from a claim that it improperly removed him from the medical staff. The trial court rejected Dr. Ralph's claims, and he appealed.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals held:

Missouri law is clear—Dr. Ralph may only bring an action in equity for injunctive relief to compel SAMC to substantially comply with its bylaws and may not maintain an action for damages premised upon such alleged failure. The trial court did not err in granting SAMC's motion to dismiss Dr. Ralph's Second Amended Petition bringing a claim for damages for tortious interference with his business expectancy."

SAMC was represented by Lewis Rice attorneys Neal F. Perryman at the court of appeals and David W. Gearhart at the trial court. Lewis Rice attorneys had previously secured another important victory for their hospital client on this subject. Neal represented SAMC in the seminal case Egan v. St. Anthony's Medical Center, which held that Missouri hospitals should not be subject to actions for damages based on their medical staffing decisions and announced a narrow procedure by which such staffing decisions may be reviewed by courts in equity.

Lewis Rice Defends St. Anthony’s Medical Center against Joint-Employer Claim

An employee filed lawsuit against St. Anthony's Medical Center and one of its supervisory level employees, alleging that St. Anthony's was a joint-employer with the plaintiff's actual employer. St. Anthony's and the supervisory level employee moved to dismiss the lawsuit on various grounds, including on the grounds that neither St. Anthony's nor the employee were proper defendants that could be sued for employment discrimination under either State or Federal law. After significant briefing, our clients' motion to dismiss was granted in its entirety.

Neal Perryman served as lead counsel on this matter. By taking immediate dispositive action, we were able to end the federal litigation on an initial motion and do so without expensive discovery and further litigation.

Lewis Rice Defends Graybar against Federal Disability and Race Discrimination Claims

Plaintiff filed a case in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Mississippi, asserting federal disability and race discrimination claims, as well as state law claims for defamation and breach of an alleged employment contract. Graybar removed the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on May 2, 2014, where it is currently pending. Graybar filed a Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment on all counts. The case successfully settled before trial.

Key decisions included the removal of the case to federal court, and a targeted and well-executed discovery plan. This allowed us to represent our client in an efficient and effective manner. Neal Perryman serves as lead counsel on this case.

Lewis Rice Defends Whelan Security against a Disability Discrimination and Retaliation Claim

On October 18, 2014, Plaintiff sued Whelan in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation under state and federal law. Following discovery, and the filing of a comprehensive summary judgment motion, the case settled on a confidential basis. The case was dismissed on October 14, 2015.

Key decisions in this case included a targeted, well-orchestrated and executed discovery plan, and thorough preparation of witnesses. Neal Perryman served as supervisory and co-counsel on this matter for Whelan.

In Summary Judgment, Federal Court finds Unfounded Claims of Hostile Work Environment, Race Discrimination, and Retaliation in Washington Federal Court

Last month, Judge Barbara J. Rothstein, a United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington, entered summary judgment in favor of longtime Lewis Rice client Graybar Electric Company, Inc. in a race discrimination lawsuit. The plaintiff had alleged claims of hostile work environment, race discrimination, and retaliation under Title VII and the Washington Law Against Discrimination against Graybar. Specifically, Mr. Copeland claimed he faced a racially hostile work environment and that, his supervisors failed to remediate. Mr. Copeland also claimed that his employment with Graybar was later terminated on grounds of race discrimination and as retaliation for going over his supervisors’ heads to complain to upper management regarding the alleged hostile work environment.

After thorough discovery requests, interrogatories, and third-party subpoenas, as well as 13 depositions taken by the parties in this case, Lewis Rice elicited evidence that Mr. Copeland’s claim of a hostile work environment boiled down to several isolated issues with one co-worker that were not racially motivated. Lewis Rice further demonstrated that Mr. Copeland’s termination was based on his history of workplace disruptions with multiple coworkers that preceded his complaint to upper management and escalated in the following days, culminating in verbally abusive encounters with two different coworkers. 

After the completion of discovery, Lewis Rice filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the undisputed facts of the case showed that Graybar was owed judgment on all claims as a matter of law. Despite the high standards of such a motion, the Court agreed with Lewis Rice granting summary judgment in favor of Graybar. As Judge Rothstein explained, “Plaintiff claims he was subjected to only a few discrete, isolated incidents, occurring many months apart during a span of over two years, which were neither extremely serious, nor frequent and pervasive, and are thus not sufficient to constitute a hostile work environment.” Judge Rothstein also held that Graybar “took timely and adequate measures in response to each complaint Copeland made.” She also rejected Mr. Copeland’s claims that Graybar terminated him on account of his race. Finally, Judge Rothstein agreed that Mr. Copeland’s claims of a pattern of workplace disruptions, which continued after his complaint to upper management, broke any causal link between his complaint and termination. In short, Mr. Copeland’s retaliation claim could not survive based solely on temporal proximity, even if that proximity was only nine days.

Lewis Rice attorneys Neal F. Perryman (Chair of the Litigation Department) and Benjamin M. Farley successfully represented Graybar. Lewis Rice was assisted by local counsel Jessica Jensen, a partner at Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC. The decision is reported as Copeland v. Graybar Electric Company, Inc., 2:22-CV-280, 2023 WL 4421805 (W.D. Wash. July 10, 2023).