The Court is mindful that under the modern rules of pleading, a plaintiff need only provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief", Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and that "all pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice". Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f).
It is within this framework that the Court addresses the present motion to dismiss the complaint against Flaherty.
1. The "Fair Representation" claim against Colum Flaherty
In Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 8 L. Ed. 2d 462, 82 S. Ct. 1318 (1962), the Supreme Court held that union officers and employees are not individually liable to third parties for acts performed as representatives of the union. In Atkinson, a third party brought an action against the union and individual union officers for allegedly breaching an agreement. The Court stated that "the union as an entity . . . should in the absence of agreement be the sole source of recovery for injury inflicted by it . . ., [and] this policy cannot be evaded or truncated by the simple device of suing union agents or members, whether in contract or in tort, or both, in a separate count or in a separate action for damages . . . ." Id. at 249.
Years later in Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis, 451 U.S. 401, 68 L. Ed. 2d 248, 101 S. Ct. 1836 (1981), the Supreme Court reaffirmed and extended their holding in Atkinson. The Court ruled that even if the individual's conduct was unauthorized by the union and was in violation of an existing collective bargaining agreement, a damage claim may not be brought against individual union officers or members of a union. Id. at 402; see also Peterson v. Kennedy, 771 F.2d 1244, 1257 (9th Cir 1985). The Court restated that "the legislative history of § 301 reveals Congress' intent to shield individual employees from liability for damages arising from their breach of . . . a collective bargaining agreement." Id. 451 U.S. 401 at 407. Here, the plaintiff asserts that Flaherty breached his duty of fair representation by refusing to consider the merits of the plaintiff's claim and by failing to act decisively within the powers afforded him by his position as Trustee of Local 819. As such, according to Morris, Flaherty surrendered the right to have his actions protected from liability because he did not exercise his powers as Trustee and his inaction was detrimental to the plaintiff. The plaintiff asserts that there cannot be a blanket exemption from liability for union officials for acts performed as representatives of the Union that is comparable to the immunity of the President of the United States. Morris claims that Flaherty is not exempt from liability for personal misconduct, malfeasance, impropriety and/or corruption.
Citing the law stated above, Flaherty maintains that the plaintiff's opposition essentially constitutes a disagreement with the law and attempts to avoid this governing precedent by stating that he seeks to hold Flaherty liable for omissions rather than affirmative acts. Flaherty claims that there is no legal basis for this distinction. The Court agrees.
The law on this issue is well-settled. Union officers and employees are not individually liable for acts performed as representatives of the union. Morris does not have any recourse against Flaherty or any other individual union official for his claims for breach of fair representation. His recourse lies with a suit against the Union only. The plaintiff's claims against Flaherty are legally insufficient and his motion to dismiss the Complaint must be granted.
After reviewing the parties submissions, and having heard oral argument, and for the reasons set forth above, it is hereby
ORDERED, that Local 819's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 dismissing the complaint is granted, and it is hereby
ORDERED, that Flaherty's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which the Court can grant relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is also granted, and it is further
ORDERED, that the Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.
Dated: Uniondale, New York
February 14, 1997
ARTHUR D. SPATT
United States District Judge
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