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Jensen v. Champion Window of Omaha, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 10, 2018

RANDLE S. JENSEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHAMPION WINDOW OF OMAHA, L.L.C., Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott, Judge.

         A former employee appeals the district court's summary judgment ruling and argues the court erred in applying Nebraska law to this dispute.

          Terry A. White of Carlson & Burnett, LLP, Omaha, Nebraska, for appellant.

          Kenneth M. Wentz III and Sarah J. Millsap of Jackson Lewis, P.C., Omaha, Nebraska, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Randle Jensen was fired from his job with Champion Window of Omaha, L.L.C., in August 2013. In February 2016, he filed a lawsuit against Champion in Iowa alleging he was wrongfully discharged when he refused to sign a lead certification form for an Iowa construction project. Champion filed a motion to dismiss the claim, which the district court granted based on the court's conclusion that Nebraska law applied to the dispute. Jensen appeals claiming the court erred in applying Nebraska law and that Iowa law should be applicable to his claim. Because we conclude the district court correctly applied Nebraska law to this dispute, we affirm the district court's dismissal of Jensen's lawsuit.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         After Jensen was fired from employment, he filed a lawsuit against Champion in Nebraska Federal District Court. That action was dismissed following Champion's motion for summary judgment. The federal court concluded the federal claims had no merit and then decided to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. Jensen then filed petitions against Champion in both the state court in Nebraska, and in the Iowa District Court in Polk County.

         Jensen's Nebraska state lawsuit was dismissed following Champion's motion to dismiss after that court concluded the law Jensen cited to support his claims did not contain a private right of action, his newly asserted claims were precluded by the federal district court's dismissal, and the claims were otherwise time barred. This dismissal was upheld on appeal by the Nebraska Court of Appeals. Jensen v. Champion Window of Omaha, LLC, 900 N.W.2d 590, 592 (Neb. Ct. App. 2017) (addressing Jensen's challenge to the lower court's conclusion that his newly asserted claims were barred by issue preclusion).

         With respect to the litigation in Iowa, Champion filed a motion to dismiss in July 2016, asserting there is no private right of action under the law Jensen cited for his retaliation claims and the Nebraska federal court's dismissal precluded the retaliation claims and the wrongful discharge claim. The court granted in part Champion's motion, concluding there was no private right of action under the law Jensen cited in support of his retaliation claims but determining his wrongful discharge claim was not precluded by the federal court's dismissal.

         Champion then filed a second motion to dismiss, asserting Nebraska law applied to the parties' employment relationship and as a result, Jensen's petition, which alleged only wrongful discharge under Iowa law, failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. After a hearing, the district court granted Champion's second motion to dismiss, concluding Nebraska law applied because "[e]very aspect of Jensen's relationship with Champion occurred in Nebraska. Jensen is a Nebraska resident. Champion is a Nebraska company. Champion hired Jensen in Nebraska. Jensen worked primarily in Nebraska." The court went on to find: "Iowa does not have the most significant relationship to the events giving rise to Jensen's complaint . . . . Iowa law cannot govern the employment relationship between a foreign company that performs minimal . . . work in Iowa, and its employee, a citizen of a foreign state, who has no ties to Iowa." Jensen appeals the court's dismissal of his petition.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         Our review of the district court's ruling on a motion to dismiss is for the correction of errors at law. Griffen v. State, 767 N.W.2d 633, 634 (Iowa 2009). "We view the petition in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and will uphold dismissal only if the plaintiff's claim could not be ...


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