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Daquay v. General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

June 19, 2018

MARCEL R. DAQUAY, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL DYNAMICS ELECTRIC BOAT CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WILLIAM E. SMITH CHIEF JUDGE

         This case features an allegation that over forty years ago Defendant Electric Boat Corporation (“Electric Boat”) promised Plaintiff Marcel R. Daquay something in return for his help securing $850 million from the federal government. The alleged promise went unfulfilled, prompting Daquay to file suit - in August 2017 - ten years after the company terminated his employment. Electric Boat has moved to dismiss. (ECF No. 6.) Because the statute of limitations has run on Daquay's claims, the Court GRANTS Electric Boat's motion.

         I. Background

         As alleged in the complaint, [1] Marcel R. Daquay began working for Electric Boat as a Quality Control Analyst in May of 1975. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1-1.) In this capacity, he was occasionally asked to perform duties beyond the scope of his contractual obligations. (Id. at ¶ 6.) On these occasions, Daquay performed the requested services as directed, sometimes with and other times without the promise of additional compensation. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7.)

         In the late 1970s, it was discovered that a number of boats Electric Boat had built for the United States Navy had structural defects. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Electric Boat requested $1.5 billion from the federal government to correct the problem. (Id.) This request was promptly denied because Electric Boat was ostensibly at fault for the structural issues. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Supervisors then told Daquay that it would be “worth his while” to investigate the structural issues, and that Electric Boat would be “more than grateful” for his doing so. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-15, 22.)

         Through research and testing, Daquay discovered that Electric Boat was not in fact at fault, but rather third parties had supplied low-grade steel, which was proven to be the cause of the boats' structural issues. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) Daquay never received any form of additional compensation for these services. (Id. at ¶ 16.) But Electric Boat received $850 million from the federal government after a report was submitted to Congress on December 22, 1979, proving Electric Boat was not at fault. (Id. at ¶ 12.)

         Daquay continued to work for Electric Boat until August 2007, when his employment was terminated. (See id. at ¶ 5.) At the time of termination, he received only his final paycheck, which did not include any form of additional compensation. (See id. at ¶ 16.)

         On August 31, 2017, Daquay brought suit to recover, inter alia, the money Electric Boat allegedly promised him for his aforementioned work in the late 1970s.

         II. Discussion

         Electric Boat raises a statute of limitations defense as to all counts. (Mot. to Dismiss 4); see R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-13(a). Daquay claims that his suit is timely because the applicable ten-year statute of limitations began to run from the termination of his employment in August of 2007, when the breach came to light. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss (“Response”) 6, ECF No. 9.) Electric Boat, on the other hand, argues that the suit is untimely because the statute of limitations began to run at the time of the breach in 1979. (Mot. to Dismiss 1.) Electric Boat has the better argument.

         Statutes of limitation “are designed to promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost, memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared.” Ryan v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, 941 A.2d 174, 181 (R.I. 2008) (quoting Order of R.R. Telegraphers v. Ry. Express Agency, 321 U.S. 342, 348-49 (1944)). Generally, in Rhode Island, “a cause of action accrues and the applicable statute of limitations begins to run at the time of injury to the aggrieved party.” Hill v. R.I. State Emps.' Ret. Bd., 935 A.2d 608, 616 (R.I. 2007) (quotation marks omitted). Moreover, “neither the ignorance of a person of his right to bring an action nor the mere silence of a person liable to the action prevents the running of the statute of limitations.” Swiss v. Eli Lilly & Co., 559 F.Supp. 621, 624 (D.R.I. 1982) (quoting Kenyon v. United Elec. Rys., 151 A. 5, 8 (R.I. 1930)).

         There are exceptions to this rule, such as “‘where a defendant conceals from a plaintiff by actual misrepresentation the existence of a cause of action, ' in which case ‘said cause of action is deemed to accrue at the time the plaintiff first discovers its existence.'” Waters v. Walt Disney World Co., 237 F.Supp.2d 162, 167 (D.R.I. 2002) (quoting Kenyon, 151 A. at 8). This exception is limited, however, as “[m]ere silence or a failure to volunteer information does not constitute an ‘actual misrepresentation.'” Smith v. O'Connell, 997 F.Supp. 226, 238 (D.R.I. 1998) (quoting Kenyon, 151 A. at 8). Rather, “[w]hat is required is ‘some express representation or other affirmative conduct amounting in fact to such a representation which could reasonably deceive another and induce him to rely thereon to his disadvantage.'” Id. (quoting Caianiello v. Shatkin, 82 A.2d 826, 829 (R.I. 1951)).

         Daquay avers that the statute of limitations began to run on his claims in 2007 when Electric Boat did not include additional compensation in his final paycheck. (Response 6.) But this is not when the alleged injury occurred and the cause of action accrued, which was when payment was allegedly due and not remitted. See Bader v. Alpine Ski Shop, Inc., 505 A.2d 1162, 1166-67 (R.I. 1986). The time at which payment would have been due Daquay cannot be determined by recourse to contractual language. Where, as here, an alleged contract does not specify a time of performance, contract law states that performance should be completed within a reasonable time. See Thermo Electron Corp. v. Schiavone Constr. Co., 958 F.2d 1158, 1164 (1st Cir. 1992) (“Since the contract contained no specific time limits, nor any clause stating that time was ‘of the essence, ' [plaintiff] had a ‘reasonable time' within which to perform . . . .”) (emphasis omitted)); Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 33 illus. 1d (Am. Law Inst. 1981) (citations omitted) (“Where the contract calls for a single performance such as the rendering of a service or the delivery of goods, the time for performance is a ‘reasonable time.'”).

         Daquay alleges that, on December 22, 1979, a report was submitted to Congress that demonstrated Electric Boat was not entirely at fault for the boats' structural issues. (Compl. ¶ 12.) He further alleges that this report was “centrally based on the critical information [he] generated.” (Id.) Following submission of this report, Electric Boat received $850 million from the federal government. (Id.) Based on Daquay's own rendition of the facts, he rendered services in this matter no later than December 22, 1979, as this was the date that proved Electric Boat's lack of fault. (See id.) Consequently, the additional compensation must have been due at a reasonable time ...


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