Eserhut v. Heister

762 P.2d 6 (1988)

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Eserhut v. Heister

Washington Court of Appeals
762 P.2d 6 (1988)

Facts

Leonard Eserhut (plaintiff) worked for his employer, Utility Vault (defendant), along with co-employees Steve Heister, Gary Venn, and Tom Weist (collectively, the co-employees) (defendants). Eserhut worked on various projects with the co-employees until he was assigned to work on a special project with company management. While working on the special project, Eserhut made some unfortunate remarks about the co-employees. Also, the co-employees had become jealous of Eserhut. When the special project was over and Eserhut resumed working with the co-employees, there was friction. Personality clashes, Eserhut’s former comments, and the jealousy of the co-employees led the co-employees to isolate and socially ostracize Eserhut. The co-employees did not communicate with Eserhut. The conduct of the co-employees interfered with Eserhut’s job and caused Eserhut to experience depression and sleeplessness. Upon Eserhut’s complaint, company management communicated to the co-employees that their conduct was hurting the company and urged them to cooperate with Eserhut. However, the situation did not improve. Eserhut decided that he would quit and notified the company president of his decision. The president asked Eserhut to wait until he could speak with the co-employees. After speaking with the co-employees, the president notified Eserhut that the co-employees wanted him gone, and the president accepted Eserhut’s choice to resign. After Eserhut’s resignation, he filed suit against the co-employees and later joined Utility Vault as well on the rationale that the employer had ratified the conduct of the co-employees. A trial court ruled that the conduct of the co-employees had interfered with Eserhut’s work, caused him to resign, and cost him $48,500 in damages. However, the court also ruled that the co-employees were not liable in tort for intentional interference because their conduct was directed at Eserhut directly, and not toward Utility Vault, the employer. The court ruled that the actions of the co-employees did not cause Utility Vault to fire Eserhut. Eserhut appealed. The appellate court analyzed the actions of the co-employees in light of the elements for intentional interference under Washington law.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Webster, J.)

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