Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Lockheed Suit in Mississippi

May 1, 2008

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of Billy Eugene Bradley’s lawsuit against Lockheed Martin Corp., in which Bradley claimed he was wrongfully fired and suffered emotional problems after a 2003 workplace shooting in Meridian, Miss.

Bradley’s lawsuit was one of many filed after the shooting at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian.

Earlier this year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of claims by 27 plaintiffs who sued Lockheed Martin for damages. The 5th Circuit, as it had in other Lockheed cases, ruled the workers’ claims were best addressed through Mississippi’s workers’ compensation law.

Some of the plaintiffs were family members of those who were killed. Some were injured that day in the plant. Others weren’t hurt physically, but said the experience left them with emotional scars.

During the shooting rampage in July 2003, a longtime Lockheed employee killed six of his co-workers before taking his own life.

Bradley was then employed at the Meridian Lockheed plant, was at work on the day of the shooting but was not hurt.

According to the court record, Lockheed, after the shooting, received reports that Bradley had threatened to kill his co-workers and fired Bradley.

Bradley sued Lockheed, claiming he suffered emotionally because he was present the day of the shooting. He also claimed his firing was unlawful.

A federal judge in Mississippi in 2007 dismissed Bradley’s lawsuit. The 5th Circuit on April 28 upheld the Mississippi court’s decision.

Bradley, in his appeal, asked the 5th Circuit to send the case to a state court so it could be determined if his dismissal violated the Mississippi Constitution’s protection of a worker’s social, civil or political rights. Bradley argued the provision also could be construed to apply to a worker’s wrongful discharge.

The 5th Circuit refused, saying the constitutional provision had nothing to do with a worker’s dismissal.

“Because Bradley has not identified how his ‘social, civil, or political rights’ were violated when Lockheed terminated him for threatening to kill his co-workers, the district court did not err in dismissing this claim,” the 5th Circuit said.

The 5th Circuit said it agreed with the Mississippi court that Bradley’s personal injury claim failed because Bradley was a bystander and not directly involved in the shooting.

The ruling was issued by a panel of three 5th Circuit judges – Thomas M. Reavley, E. Grady Jolly and Emilio M. Garza.

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