CHARLESTON -- A Winfield man claims he lost his opportunity to receive severance pay and the chance to keep his job after his employer refused to buy him a new home.

Brian J. Panetta filed a lawsuit Feb. 10 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Chesapeake Appalachia.

Panetta claims in 2009 Chesapeake Energy offered him and its other employees the option to either keep their jobs with Chesapeake and move to Oklahoma or to lose their jobs and accept a severance package. Chesapeake agreed to pay for a home for those who agreed to relocate to Oklahoma, according to the complaint.

Panetta, a senior geologist, accepted the offer to move to Oklahoma City, but realized once he arrived that Chesapeake had no intention of buying him a house, the suit states.

Because he couldn't afford to move to Oklahoma City without a pre-paid home, Panetta was forced to resign and missed out on both the opportunity for severance pay and relocation, the complaint says.

The incident caused Panetta to experience severe emotional distress and to lose income and benefits, he claims.

In his suit, Panetta accuses Chesapeake of breach of contract and fraud.

He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Chesapeake removed the case to U.S. District Court on March 9 because Panetta resides in a different state than the Oklahoma-based Chesapeake and because Panetta seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

Marvin W. Masters and Charles M. Love IV of The Masters Law Firm in Charleston will be representing Panetta.

Allison S. Bungard and William E. Robinson of Dinsmore and Shohl in Charleston will be representing Chesapeake.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:10-278

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