A wrongful firing suit against Morton Thiokol has been transferred from a federal court in Chicago to its counterpart in Salt Lake City.
The suit was filed by Anthony Wesley Laine and his wife, Donna Jean Laine, both of Maricopa County, Ariz., on Sept. 14, 1988.It names as defendants the company, which has its Space Operations facility 25 miles west of Brigham City; Donald E. Thompson, Brigham City, a manager at the Space Operations facility; John Thirkill, South Ogden, vice president of Thiokol and chief executive officer of Space Operations; Edward G. Dorsey, Brigham City, now retired, a former vice president and chief executive officer of the Space Operations; and ARC Technical Services Inc., a Utah corporation based at Maricopa County, Ariz.
The suit claims that ARC acts as an external entity between Thiokol and certain of its engineering employees so as to shield Thiokol from liability in employment and related matters."
After the Challenger space shuttle exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, NASA, Congress and a presidential commission, the Rogers Commission, all recommended redesigning the solid rocket motor and increased safety analysis, the suit says.
The suit was transferred after Thiokol claimed it would be inconvenient to travel to Chiicago.
According to the lawsuit, NASA paid Thiokol approximately $504 million to replace solid rocket motors, and redesign and increased safety for the solid rocket motors.
The suit says that Laine was wrongly fired by the defendants. It adds, "Termination of an employee for proper performance of his duties to make the solid rocket motor safer, as required by the contract between NASA and Thiokol, and as required to safeguard the lives of future astronauts, is a violation of public policy."
A note in the court file from a Thiokol official said Laine was not a direct Thiokol employee, but a job shopper who worked for a Thiokol contractor.
The note says Laine apparently did not understand that Morton Thiokol was not contractually authorized by NASA to work on systems safety issues. That type of work was being carried out by other NASA contractors, the note adds.