Swedish Citizen Wins Round in Lawsuit Against Sandvik Materials Technology
A Swedish citizen who alleges he was fired by a local steel manufacturer to thwart a workers’ compensation injury claim has won a critical round in his wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit against the company. Lackawanna County Judge Carmen Minora issued a recent ruling affirming a state workers’ compensation judge’s findings and refusing to relitigate issues related to Sandvik Materials Technology’s dismissal of Johan Alpensjo. The ruling settles some legal issues in the case before trial and cites explosive findings issued by the workers’ compensation judge. Sandvik manufactures stainless and high-alloy steel products in South Abington Twp. Mr. Alpensjo obtained a work visa and started at the local plant in 2007 before he was promoted in 2008 to a management position in global projects, court files indicate. Internal company emails reflect his supervisors’ approval of his performance before Mr. Alpensjo was injured in a vehicle crash in December 2008 while traveling for work in Connecticut. Mr. Alpensjo allegedly suffered injuries to his right eye, neck and upper back in the crash. He returned to work part-time in January 2009, but his double-vision and sensitivity to light hindered his work performance. Sandvik officials allegedly fired him March 3, 2009, and his work visa expired about two months later. The company filed a petition in June 2009 to suspend his workers compensation benefits, alleging Mr. Alpensjo left Sandvik voluntarily and returned to Sweden. Workers’ Compensation Judge Alan Harris, who reviewed the case in 2010, rejected Sandvik’s petition to suspend Mr. Alpensjo’s benefits and wrote, the conduct of the defendant (Sandvik) in this matter toward the claimant (Mr. Alpensjo) has been, in the opinion of this judge, manipulative and ruthless. He also announced that the purpose of Sandvik’s treatment of Mr. Alpensjo was to force the claimant to leave the United States and go back to Sweden, where the defendant believed it would have no further liability to the claimant. After firing Mr. Alpensjo, the lawsuit alleges, Sandvik informed the U.S. embassy in Stockholm and U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement that he was living in the United States illegally on a work visa, but was unemployed. Mr. Alpensjo did not leave the United States voluntarily. Sandvik argued it did not have full opportunity to present its case to Judge Harris, but Judge Minora concluded, review of the hearing transcripts from the workers’ compensation hearings reveals there was fair opportunity to litigate the issue. Mr. Alpensjo’s two-count complaint seeks unspecified damages. Attempts to reach his lawyer, Michael J. Foley, were unsuccessful.