JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of Missouri has upheld a lower court's ruling in favor of Ameren Corp. and others in a lawsuit filed by a commercial plumbing firm, Bishop & Associates.

In its initial complaint, Bishop & Associates filed a multi-count action against Ameren, Union Electric Co., Ameren Services Co. and supervisors James Armistead, Michael Wright and Richard George, alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, defamation, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and tortious interference with a business expectancy.

The complaint was filed after Ameren terminated its relationship with B&A, which provided commercial plumbing services at several of Ameren’s facilities. 

The St. Louis Circuit Court entered summary judgment in favor of Ameren and the supervisors on all counts.

B&A then appealed the decision, contending that "independent contractors have a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and that the circuit court erroneously entered summary judgment on its claims of breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and tortious interference with a business expectancy."

In its opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that Ameren and the supervisors were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on B&A’s claims of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and tortious interference with a business expectancy.

The court also stated in its opinion that the circuit court did not err in entering summary judgment in favor of Ameren and the supervisors.

The Supreme Court noted that the state of Missouri does not recognize a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy for independent contractors.

Moreover, Missouri case law does not support breach of contract claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, it ruled.

 B&A in 2002 entered into a purchase order with Ameren to “provide backflow testing on a scheduled basis and emergency service and/or preventative maintenance on an as-needed basis” at several of Ameren’s facilities in Missouri and Illinois.

According to the opinion, the purchase order was non-exclusive and Ameren could cancel it at any time for any reason by giving B&A 30 days advance written notice. 

At all times, B&A served Ameren as an independent contractor.

On July 29, 2010, Ameren gave notice to B&A that Ameren was terminating its contract with B&A.

B&A then contacted the St. Louis County Department of Public Works and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and gave them a copy of the report detailing contamination and plumbing problems at Ameren facilities.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court noted in its opinion that under the terms of the initial purchase order, Ameren had the right to cancel its agreement with B&A at any time for any reason by providing advanced written notice.

B&A did not dispute that Ameren provided adequate advanced written notice. It follows that Ameren was acting in accordance with the express terms of the contract when it terminated its relationship with B&A.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court also rejected all of the claims made by B&A regarding wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, defamation, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and tortious interference with a business expectancy in upholding the lower court’s ruling.

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