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Edward T. Hargrove v. Mail Contractors of America

April 24, 2013

EDWARD T. HARGROVE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MAIL CONTRACTORS OF AMERICA, INC. AND MICHAEL PRUETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Glenn E. Pille, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle, J.

Plaintiff Edward Hargrove appeals the district court's order denying his cross-motion for summary judgment, granting defendant Mail Contractors of America, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment, and dismissing his petition. AFFIRMED.

Heard by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

Plaintiff Edward Hargrove appeals the district court's order denying his cross-motion for summary judgment, granting defendant Mail Contractors of America, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment, and dismissing his petition. We affirm.

I. Scope and Standards of Review.

We review the district court's summary judgment ruling for the correction of errors at law. Mueller v. Wellmark, Inc., 818 N.W .2d 244, 253 (Iowa 2012). Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.981(3); Mueller, 818 N.W.2d at 253. We review the record in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Mueller, 818 N.W.2d at 253.

II. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Viewing the disputed facts in a light most favorable to plaintiff Edward Hargrove, a reasonable fact finder viewing the summary judgment record could find the following facts. Defendant Mail Contractors of America, Inc. ("MCA") is a private corporation that contracts with the United States Postal Service ("USPS") to transport mail throughout the United States. Pursuant to that contractual relationship, MCA is required to conduct its operations in full compliance with the federal government's Department of Transportation ("DOT") Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including random drug testing of certain employees as set forth in parts 40 and 382 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Edward Hargrove was hired by MCA on March 15, 2010, as a full-time "class C mechanic" in MCA's Urbandale facility. This job required Hargrove to service tractor-trailers, semi tractors, and semi trailers used for transporting the mail.Hargrove did not have a commercial driver's license (CDL) at the start of his employment, but as a condition of continuing his employment with MCA, he was required to obtain a CDL within one year from his date of hire. If he failed to obtain his CDL, his employment would be terminated. Hargrove stated he understood at the time of his hire he needed to obtain his CDL "to be able to drive a semi truck on any street for a test drive for that company it required a CDL by federal law," but further testified that, in maintaining the oil and tires of MCA's vehicles, he had no reason to drive them. He also testified in his deposition:

The only time I had to move a vehicle was to move it off the line into my area and that was it. Other than that I had no test driving needs of any kind. I didn't prepare anything that would require a test drive. [W]e did our oil changes, we never had to actually go out into a test drive on a truck. . . . You never did any repairs that would require a test drive is what I'm trying to say."

The only thing that I ever drove for that company was tractor from the yard into the shop. And the yard is in the shop area. It's all in one area. You never touch the street to do it.

On August 25, 2010, Hargrove was subjected to an unannounced drug test. Based upon the results of that test, Hargrove's employment with MCA was terminated the next month.

On April 12, 2011, Hargrove filed his petition at law against MCA, asserting he was wrongfully terminated in violation of Iowa Code section 730.5 (2011). Alternatively, he asserted he was wrongfully terminated by MCA in violation of public policy. MCA answered, resisting Hargrove's claims and asserting numerous affirmative defenses.

On May 1, 2012, MCA filed a motion for summary judgment. It asserted, because MCA is required to conduct its operations in full compliance with the federal government's DOT Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, as well as the language of Iowa Code section 730.5(2), Hargrove's claim was preempted by federal law and must be dismissed. MCA also asserted Hargrove's alternative ...


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