The Oregon Court of Appeals today issued an order reversing and remanding a lower court decision that removed former SAIF CEO Brenda Rocklin as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by her successor, John Plotkin. Saying that “the trial court erred in concluding that [Plotkin] failed to establish a probability that he will prevail on the claim by presenting substantial evidence to support a prima facie case, and in granting the motion to strike pursuant to ORS 31.150(3)”, the court has essentially restored her status as a defendant in the ongoing wrongful termination lawsuit brought by Plotkin. The suit names, in addition to Rocklin, SAIF Corporation, board members Catherine Travis, Robb Van Cleave, Krishna Balasubramani, and Kevin Jensen, as well as former SAIF executives Chris Davie and Ryan Fleming.
Plotkin was terminated in May of 2015 after just 3 months as CEO of SAIF Corporation, Oregon’s state owned workers’ compensation insurer. His suit alleges that Rocklin played a role in a coordinated effort to oust him on ultimately fabricated charges. It was a controversial and tumultuous action that eventually resulted in several key executives leaving the company.
Watching it unfold from afar was something like viewing a corporate Shake and Bake (and I helped…. tee hee hee). For those unfamiliar, you can see all of the Plotkin related articles featured in this blog during that era here.
The Appeals Court Justices seem to have done something that the lower trial court apparently failed to do. They looked at the evidence. In the most impressive 18-page legal document that delves into the nuances of goat milking that you will ever read, the court shoots down most of Rocklin’s defenses used when removed from the case by the lower court. The court questions the many documented phone calls and conversations Rocklin had with Ryan Fleming, Chris Davie and others leading up to and immediately after the termination of John Plotkin. While clearly stating that they take no position on the accusations themselves, the court definitely makes clear that the actions of the lower court denied John Plotkin of his right to pursue a “presentation of substantial evidence to support a prima facie case,” which may be “in and of itself, sufficient to establish a probability that the plaintiff will prevail”.
Yeah. What they said.
This is terrific news for John Plotkin and the hundreds of SAIF employees who howled in protest over his untimely demise as their CEO. Plotkin had been ordered by the lower court to pay Rocklin’s legal defense costs when it ordered her removed from the lawsuit. This decision nixes that, and must be a tremendous relief for a man and his family who have gone through so much.
Plotkins case is set to be heard in January 2017. Personally I can’t believe that SAIF and the Oregon DOJ have fought it this far. The fact that they have, however, is going to be a big win for me. There are bound to have been some interesting revelations along this long and arduous path, and I for one cannot wait to revel in the details as the case makes its way towards the light of day.
In the meantime, this decision by the appeals court is a solid win in that it at least lets the man be heard. I think they at least owe him that.