Great Falls Clinic v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Court

Great Falls Clinic v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Court, 2016 MT 245 (Oct. 4, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (7-0, petition granted, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act (WDEA) applies to the parties’ relationship.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Lisa Warrington was offered a job at Great Falls Clinic on October 7, 2014, while she was employed by Benefis Hospital. Warrington accepted the offer and gave two weeks’ notice to Benefis. Warrington signed a written employment contract on October 10, with both parties agreeing her employment would begin October 27, 2014. On October 24, Warrington’s last day at Benefis, the clinic called and told Warrington it would not employ her after all.

Warrington sued the clinic for breach of contract, promissory estoppel and bad faith.

Procedural Posture & Holding: On cross-motions for summary judgment on the breach of contract claim, the district court granted Warrington’s motion, finding the WDEA did not apply. The clinic petitioned this Court for supervisory control. The Court accepts supervisory control and affirms the district court.

Reasoning: The district court concluded that Warrington and the clinic were parties to an executory contract, and that an employer cannot discharge a person who is still employed elsewhere and has not yet started to work for the employer. If the WDEA applies, it preempts all common-law remedies for wrongful discharge. Because the contract here was for future employment, it was an executory contract. Warrington could not have been discharged from employment at the clinic when she never began working for the clinic.