CHARLESTON -- A former employee is suing Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Chesapeake Appalachia for breach of contract and fraud.
Brian J. Panetta, of Winfield, was employed by the defendants as a senior geologist from March 2006 until April 2009, according to a complaint filed Feb. 10 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
In 2009, the defendants offered certain employees the option of keeping their jobs with Chesapeake Energy by moving to Oklahoma, or losing their jobs and accepting a severance package.
Chesapeake Energy eliminated 215 of its 255 jobs in Charleston to relocate them to the Oklahoma City headquarters, calling it a "company reorganization." When it announced the move, Chesapeake Energy Corporation cited the state Supreme Court's 2008 decision not to review the $404 million verdict in Tawney v. Columbia Natural Resources, saying that signaled a legal climate not friendly to business.
In this newly filed case, Panetta claims in the relocation contract it was included that the defendants would buy his home.
After Panetta entered into the relocation contract, he was informed by the defendants that Chesapeake Energy would not buy his home, breaching its employment contract with him, according to the suit.
Panetta claims he lost income, benefits from employment and the offered severance package and lost the offer of relocation due to the breach of contract. He claims he informed the defendants he could not relocate to Oklahoma because he did not have the finances to do so if they did not buy his home.
The defendants' acts were "reckless, willful, fraudulent and wanton," according to the suit. Panetta claims the defendants intentionally misrepresented the facts to avoid having to pay him severance or to pay his relocation package.
Panetta is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by Marvin W. Masters and Charles M. Love IV of the Masters Law Firm.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Louis Bloom.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 10-C-264