Kim M. Thompson, appellant,
Aaron M. Johnson and Shawna L. Johnson, appellees.
1. Summary Judgment: Appeal and
Error. An appellate court will affirm a lower
court's grant of summary judgment if the pleadings and
admitted evidence show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material facts or as to the ultimate inferences that may
be drawn from those facts and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
__:__. In reviewing a summary judgment, an appellate court
views the evidence in the light most favorable to the party
against whom the judgment was granted and gives that party
the benefit of all reasonable inferences deducible from the
Torts: Intent: Proof. To succeed on a claim
for tortious interference with a business relationship or
expectancy, a plaintiff must prove (1) the existence of a
valid business relationship or expectancy, (2) knowledge by
the interferer of the relationship or expectancy, (3) an
unjustified intentional act of interference on the part of
the interferer, (4) proof that the interference caused the
harm sustained, and (5) damage to the party whose
relationship or expectancy was disrupted.
Torts: Employer and Employee. Factors to
consider in determining whether interference with a business
relationship is "improper" include: (1) the nature
of the actor's conduct, (2) the actor's motive, (3)
the interests of the other with which the actor's conduct
interferes, (4) the interests sought to be advanced by the
actor, (5) the social interests in protecting the freedom of
action of the actor and the contractual interests of the
other, (6) the proximity or remoteness of the actor's
conduct to the interference, and (7) the relations between
Torts: Liability. A person does not incur
liability for interfering with a business relationship by
giving truthful information to another. Such interference is
not improper, even if the facts are marshaled in such a [299
Neb. 820] way that they speak for themselves and the person
to whom the information is given immediately recognizes them
as a reason for breaking a contract or refusing to deal with
Summary Judgment: Proof. Once the moving
party makes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the
party opposing the motion to produce admissible contradictory
evidence showing the existence of a material issue of fact
that prevents judgment as a matter of law.
Appeal and Error. An appellate court is not
obligated to engage in an analysis which is not needed to
adjudicate the controversy before it.
from the District Court for Douglas County, Horatio J.
Wheelock, Judge, on appeal thereto from the County Court for
Douglas County, Susan M. Bazis, Judge. Judgment of District
Shiffermiller and Abby Osborn, of Shiffermiller Law Office,
PC, L.L.O., for appellant.
J. Wright, of Welch Law Firm, PC, for appellees.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, and Stacy, JJ., and
Luther and O'Gorman, District Judges.
Luther, District Judge.
appeal arises from a lawsuit filed by Kim M. Thompson (Kim)
in which she alleged that Aaron M. Johnson and Shawna L.
Johnson tortiously interfered with her business relationship
with her employer, Millard Public Schools (MPS). The county
court for Douglas County granted Aaron and Shawna's
motion for summary judgment, and the district court for
Douglas County affirmed. Kim now appeals to this court. Kim
asserts, in pertinent part, that the evidence shows a genuine
issue of material fact concerning whether interference by
Aaron and Shawna was justified. We conclude that the
undisputed facts show that Aaron's and Shawna's
actions were justified, because they provided truthful
information to MPS. Therefore, we affirm the district
Neb. 821] BACKGROUND
The undisputed evidence shows that Kim and Aaron met through
their work with MPS. In her position as a project manager
employed by MPS, Kim organized construction projects within
the district. Aaron worked on construction projects for MPS
as an independent contractor. At all times relevant to this
appeal, Aaron was married to Shawna and they had children
attending MPS. In October 2011, Kim and Aaron began an
October 2012, Shawna learned of the affair between Kim and
Aaron. Aaron ended the affair and informed MPS that he would
no longer work with Kim. Following an investigation, MPS
discovered that Kim had used MPS' computers "to
communicate inappropriate messages and pictures" with
Aaron, in violation of MPS policy. As a result, MPS suspended
Kim for 8 days without pay.
CONTACT AND MARCH 2014 DIRECTIVES
Aaron continued to have contact with each other. On February
26, 2014, in response to an email from Kim in which she
stated that Aaron did not care about her, Aaron wrote,
"If I didn't care about you at all, why would I have
ever agreed to talk to you? ... If I didn't care and I
wanted to go into your boss and get you fired, and ruin your
life, I could have done it long ago."
long afterward, new concerns about Kim's job performance
prompted a meeting between her and MPS officials. At the
meeting on March 3, 2014, MPS officials addressed the issue
of an angry and loud telephone call that Kim had conducted
with her ex-husband in the workplace and allegations that Kim
had gone through documents on her supervisor's desk.
Neb. 822] During the meeting process, Kim volunteered that
she was having issues with Aaron and Shawna. Kim stated to
MPS officials that in November 2013, Aaron had shown up at
her workplace demanding to speak to her and threatening to
cause a scene. Kim told MPS officials that to process her
feelings after "good talks" with Aaron in the
summer of 2013, she had painted a painting of her and Aaron
and posted it on Facebook, initially identifying the two by
name. She stated that when Aaron asked her to remove the
painting, she removed the identifying names, but she did not
remove the painting. Kim reported that this caused Aaron to
threaten to call her supervisor and jeopardize her
employment. Kim also told MPS officials that Shawna had been
stalking Kim's Facebook page.
March 7, 2014, MPS wrote a letter to Kim documenting the
topics discussed and the expectations communicated at the
March 3 meeting. In part, the letter stated:
ISSUE #5: The issue of your relationship with the person who
almost cost you your job (Aaron) came up repeatedly .... This
is related to the affair you had with Aaron (a former
contractor for the District) in 2012 that was dealt with in
your reprimand and suspension letter from late 2012.
EXPECTATION: We discussed how your affair
with Aaron almost cost [you] your job before. Now, you appear
to be escalating a confrontation with Aaron and his wife by
posting on a public media page. ... As we discussed, if you
escalate this conflict and that escalation impacts [the]
workplace, it is likely to lead to future discipline, up to
and including termination.
. . . Specifically, it is not our intention to take any
action if Aaron or his wife reacts irrationally to a post
that [299 Neb. 823] is not about them. However, if your
communications can be reasonably interpreted as an escalation
of that conflict and that conflict disrupts the workplace, we
may not be able to support you.
signed the document, acknowledging ...