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FALSETTI v. LOCAL UNION NO. 2026 (06/03/60)

June 3, 1960


Appeal, No. 173, March T., 1959, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1956, No. 1180, in case of Frank Falsetti v. Local Union No. 2026, United Mine Workers of America et al. Order affirmed.


Thomas N. Bucar, with him Eddy & Bucar, for appellant.

Harold R. Schmidt, with him Rose, Houston, Cooper and Schmidt, for appellee.

Joseph M. Gaydos, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Jones, Cohen, Bok and McBRIDE, JJ.

Author: Cohen

[ 400 Pa. Page 149]


This is an appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County dismissing appellant's bill in equity on preliminary objections. Appellant's amended complaint alleged that he was a dues paying member in good standing in appellee Local No. 2026, United Mine Workers of America (Union); that he was employed by appellee Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company (Company), with seniority from 1939; that on January 8, 1954, in violation of appellant's seniority rights under the collective bargaining agreement between Union and Company, he was laid off by the Company while at least one, and possibly more, employees with less seniority than he were retained; that appellee Company continues to employ such employee or employees and has rehired others with less seniority than appellant; that appellant's loss of seniority rights came about as a result of an unlawful conspiracy between appellee Company and the named individual appellees (Union officials) under the pretext that appellant was no longer able to fulfill his job obligations; that after appellant filed the original complaint in this action he was expelled from the Union; that he has demanded to be restored to Union membership, but appellee Union has refused, and that all remedies under the Union constitution and collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the Company have been exhausted and further resort thereto would be futile. In his prayer for relief, appellant asks that the Union be compelled to restore appellant's membership; that the appellee Company be compelled to reinstate appellant in his employment with the same job classification he had before the alleged discharge; that damages be awarded appellant for loss of wages;

[ 400 Pa. Page 150]

    and that such other and further relief that may be just and equitable be allowed.

Separate preliminary objections to the amended bill of complaint were filed by appellee Company and by the appellee Union officials John Popp, Albert Cole, William Park, Harry Rossi, John T. Busarello, and Marion Pellegrini. By their preliminary objections, appellees contended in substance (1) that the lower court had no subject-matter jurisdiction because (a) the appellee Company, being engaged in interstate commerce, is subject to the provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq., and that under the doctrine of federal pre-emption, exclusive jurisdiction in this case is in the National Labor Relations Board or in the Federal courts, and (b) that the contract with the Union and the Union constitution provide adequate grievance procedures which were properly followed and concluded unfavorably to plaintiff, (2) that plaintiff's claim is barred by laches; (3) that necessary and indispensable parties were not joined; (4) that there was a misjoinder of causes of action and that the amended complaint is multifarious.

After studying the pleadings and the briefs of counsel, the lower court came to the conclusion that the amended bill of complaint had to be dismissed for misjoinder of causes of action and for multifariousness, stating that it was also apparent from the pleadings that appellant had failed to exhaust his internal remedies, and thus deeming it unnecessary to discuss the other points raised by appellees in their preliminary objections.

Appellant has attempted to join in one amended complaint two separate and distinct causes of action against different defendants. In his initial complaint, appellant asserted against the Company and the individual

[ 400 Pa. Page 151]

    named officials of the Union an equitable claim based on an alleged wrongful discharge from his employment relationship. Appellant therein sought reinstatement in his job with restoration of his seniority rights and damages. Subsequent thereto, appellant was expelled from the Union. He thereupon amended his original bill, joined the Union as defendant, and asserted a new equitable claim based on an alleged wrongful severance of his Union-membership relationship, a claim entirely unrelated in theory to the claim originally asserted. It is the joinder of these separate causes of action that is herein challenged.

A joinder of two or more causes of action cognizable in equity against two or more defendants is permissible under Rule 1508, Pa. R.C.P., provided, however, that the causes of action arise from the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, and a common question of law or fact affecting the rights or liabilities of all the parties exists. Rules 1508, 2229(a), (b), Pa. R.C.P. See also Goodrich-Amram § 1508-2; 10 Anderson Pa. Civ. Pract. 180-181. The bill now before us does not meet these requirements. In his complaint appellant made no allegation that would connect appellee Union with the alleged discharge in disregard of appellant's seniority rights. Nor was there any allegation in the complaint that appellee Company was in any way responsible for appellant's alleged wrongful expulsion from the Union. Appellant's theory in his amended complaint against the Union is obviously that the reason he was wrongfully expelled was because he had filed the original complaint in this action. This indirect connection with appellant's discharge from employment does not constitute the "same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences" to which the Rules refer. Nor is there a common question of law or fact involved in the two causes of action which would affect

[ 400 Pa. Page 152]

    the rights or liabilities of all the parties. A judicial resolution of the issue concerning appellant's discharge and loss of seniority rights would have no bearing whatever on whether the Union had a right to discipline appellant simply for filing suit. The amended complaint thus joins matters entirely distinct, for which appellant claims different rights and in which different parties are concerned. It is therefore objectionable as a misjoinder of causes of action and is properly subject to appellees' preliminary objections. Hornsby v. Lohmeyer, 364 Pa. 271, 274, 72 A.2d 294 (1950); Kelly v. Thomas, 234 Pa. 419, 431-32, 83 Atl. 307 (1912); Elk Brewing Co. v. Neubert, 213 Pa. 171, 62 Atl. 782 (1906); Bovaird v. Seyfang, 200 Pa. 261, 49 Atl. 958 (1901); Artman v. Giles, 155 Pa. 409, 26 Atl. 668 (1893); 13 P.L.E. Equity §§ 94, 96; 8 Stand. Pa. Prac., Chap. 33, §§ 187-196.

It is in the interest of justice that such unrelated claims must be brought in separate bills. The possibility in the instant case that one of the appellees might be prejudiced by the introduction of evidence upon the other claim is strong indeed. Although the question of multifariousness is generally said to be within the discretion of the trial court,*fn1 we think it would have been error for the court below not to have sustained the appellees' preliminary objections on this point.

Upon sustaining an objection to such a procedural defect in a complaint, however, the lower court should not dismiss the bill absolutely. Instead, a time period should be established within which the plaintiff must

[ 400 Pa. Page 153]

    amend on specified terms or conditions upon penalty of the bill's complete dismissal. See Hanna v. Chester Times, 310 Pa. 583, 166 Atl. 243 (1933); MacDougall v. MacDougall, 397 Pa. 340, 155 A.2d 358 (1959); 8 Stand. Pa. Pract., Chap. 33, § 196. However, in view of the further problems involved which we shall now consider, it will not be necessary to remand with leave to amend.

Since our holding is that the amended complaint alleges two distinct claims, each will be treated separately to determine whether, under our own rules and under the pleadings now before us, the courts of the Commonwealth may exercise jurisdiction over either claim upon a severance. First, we will consider appellant's claim that he was wrongfully expelled from appellee Union. Appellees contend in this regard that appellant has failed to exhaust his internal remedies within the Union and therefore the issue presented is not "ripe" for adjudication by our courts. In rebuttal, appellant offers his amended complaint which alleges: "13. Plaintiff's membership in said defendant Local Union and said International Union was governed by the constitution of the International Union which provides administrative remedies within the union itself for grievances presented by the members thereof....

"20. Said expulsion and cancellation was arbitrary, capricious, unlawful and in contravention of the plaintiff's rights under the Constitution and By-laws of the International Union, United Mine Workers of America.

"21. Plaintiff has since demanded restoration of his membership in defendant Local Union, but said defendant has refused and continues to refuse to reinstate the plaintiff therein....

"25. Plaintiff avers that he has exhausted all the remedies afforded him by the Constitution of the International Union, ...

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