Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
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The plaintiff-appellants, Bruce Bermel and Pamela Jurga, as husband and wife, appealed the final judgment of the Superior Court granting the motion for summary judgment of the defendant-appellee, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company. The appellants contended that the Superior Court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of Liberty. Bermel was injured in an automobile accident when his personal motorcycle was struck head-on by another driver. Bermel, then an employee of the Siemens Corporation, contended that the business policy issued to Siemens by Liberty on a company car that was assigned for his business and personal use, provided him with $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage even when he was operating a non-work vehicle in circumstances unrelated to his employment. Bermel brought this action for underinsured benefits (“UIM”) against Liberty arguing: (1) that the Liberty Policy covering the company car he used was personal to him, even though Siemens was the named insured; (2) that he was entitled to personally access the Liberty Policy because Siemens automatically deducted a nominal fee from his paycheck for his personal use of the vehicle assigned to him that was insured by the Liberty Policy; and (3) that the Liberty Policy was ambiguously drafted and should have been construed in his favor. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Superior Court correctly found Siemens, and not Bermel, to be the named insured on the Liberty Policy, that the nominal fee charged to Bermel by Siemens for the use of the car did not make Bermel a named insured under the Liberty Policy, and that the Liberty Policy was unambiguous. Therefore, the judgments of the Superior Court were affirmed. View "Bermel v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant Reuben Cordero appealed a Superior Court order that affirmed an order of the Industrial Accident Board dismissing his petitions against a general contractor, Gulfstream Development Corporation, and a Gulfstream subcontractor, Delaware Siding Company. On appeal, Cordero argued that the Superior Court reversibly erred in interpreting 19 Del. C. sec. 2311(a)(5). Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Board's decision. View "Cordero v. Gulfstream Development Corporation" on Justia Law

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Appellant George Sweeney appealed a superior court order that affirmed a Merit Employee Relations Board (MERB) order denying his appeal from the Delaware Department of Transportation’s (DelDOT) termination of his employment. While working as a Delaware government employee in a state government building, Sweeney made three postings on an internet forum about his personal political campaign. 29 Del. C. 5954 mandates that any government employee who engages in "political activity" at work must be terminated from his employment. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed that portion of the Superior Court order determining that Section 5954 did not violate Sweeney’s First Amendment right to free speech. However, the Court reversed and remanded the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings to consider: (1) what constitutes "political activity" under Section 5954; and (2) whether Section 5954 is unconstitutionally overbroad or vague. View "Sweeney v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Linda Thompson appealed from a Superior Court judgment reversing the determination of the Unemployment Appeals Board (UIAB) that good cause existed for Thompson's voluntary resignation and granting her unemployment benefits. Thompson contended that good cause existed for voluntarily terminating her employment, that she exhausted her administrative remedies, and that substantial evidence in the record supported the UIAB's decision. The court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court and held that substantial evidence did not support the UIAB's decision and the UIAB erred as a matter of law by concluding that Thompson was entitled to benefits pursuant to 19 Del. C. 3314(1).

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Sally Jackson appealed from a Superior Court order affirming the judgment of the Industrial Accident Board (IAB) denying her claim for total disability compensation. She claimed that both the IAB and the Superior Court erroneously denied her claim because her retirement did not bar her ability to receive workers' compensation benefits. The court held that the record contained sufficient evidence to support the IAB's decision to deny her total disability benefits where Jackson voluntarily retired for a reason other than her work-related knee injury, had removed herself from the job market without seeking reemployment or contemplating seeking it, and was enjoying her retirement lifestyle with her husband. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Superior Court's order.

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Appellant appealed a termination decision by appellees (collectively, "Panel") after the Panel unanimously voted at a public hearing to terminate appellant's employment as Chief of Police. At issue was whether the Superior Court erred in holding that the votes of the remaining Panel members could cure the Panel's unlawful failure to recuse a biased member; whether the Superior Court erred in affirming the Panel's failure to provide appellant with the protections of Chapter 48 of the Police Department's rules and Regulations; and whether the Superior Court erred in concluding that the Panel provided appellant with sufficient notice of the grounds for the charges against him at the public hearing. The court held that appellant's testimony established a prima facie case of bias by a Councilman and the Panel's failure to recuse him could not be cured by votes of the remaining Panel members. Therefore, appellant's due process rights were violated. The court also held that because this ground for reversal was independently sufficient, the court declined to address appellant's other arguments. Accordingly, the judgment of the Superior Court was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.