ST. LOUIS – In response to a motion filed by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a county circuit court judge threw out a jury's $4 million award to Thomas Dunn, the company's former corporate controller who was fired in January 2001.
Judge Jack Koehr agreed with Enterprise's post-verdict motion, ruling that the trial never proved that Dunn's termination came in retaliation for either refusing to violate laws or for reporting illegal acts committed by the company. As a result, the judge decided, Dunn's job wasn't shielded by special whistleblower protections, and Missouri law permitted Enterprise to terminate his position at will.
Judge Koehr also presided over the month-long trial. The jury returned a 9-3 decision in Dunn's favor on April 11. Enterprise attorney Michael Kahn on May 28 filed a motion for the judge to reverse the jury's decision, arguing that the evidence failed to support the verdict.
"We are very pleased with the judge's ruling," said Christy Conrad, a spokesperson for Enterprise. "Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Taylor family did not make the decision to go forward with this case lightly, but the good names and reputation of Enterprise, its owners and many of our employees were being unfairly challenged by erroneous and unfair accusations."
Dunn's attorneys indicated that Dunn will appeal.
Dunn's suit against Enterprise alleged that he was fired because he objected to certain accounting practices the company used while preparing for an initial public offering of stock in 2000. During the trial, Dunn also testified that he questioned the ethics and legality of such company practices as labeling certain customer fees as surcharges, selectively licensing cars in states with smaller licensing fees, and collecting and forwarding sales tax on leased vehicles.
Before the jury began deliberating, however, Judge Koehr threw out Dunn's claims related to the accounting practices because the company ultimately scrapped its IPO plans and the reports in question were never filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.