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STRYJEWSKI v. LOCAL UNION NO. 830 (05/04/73)

decided: May 4, 1973.


Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Dec. T., 1966, No. 2404, in re Edmund Stryjewski et al. v. Local Union No. 830 et al.


Richard Kirschner, with him Richard H. Markowitz, and Wilderman, Markowitz & Kirschner, for appellants.

Daniel Sherman, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Eagen and Mr. Justice Nix concur in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Roberts

[ 451 Pa. Page 552]

This case was before this Court earlier in Stryjewski v. Local Union No. 830, 426 Pa. 512, 233 A.2d 264 (1967).*fn1 There, we affirmed the trial court's denial of a preliminary injunction. The majority's reasoning was that state court injunctive relief could not be obtained until the National Labor Relations Board had decided, either affirmatively or negatively, to assume jurisdiction.

During the pendency of that appeal (and prior to our decision there) the NLRB declined jurisdiction. Thereafter, the case proceeded to final adjudication in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (Equity Division). Although the issue of continued picketing by the union was resolved by the parties prior to final hearing (thus obviating the need for injunctive relief), the Chancellor (Sloane, J., now deceased) assessed damages against the defendant in the amount of $18,000. Post-trial exceptions were timely filed and denied. The extent of this liability adjudication and its constitutionality are the central issues on this appeal.*fn2

[ 451 Pa. Page 553]

It is well settled that ". . . once equitable jurisdiction has attached, Equity has jurisdiction to do complete justice between the parties and, inter alia, award damages for tort (or for breach of contract), as well as grant other equitable relief: . . ." Wortex Mills v. Textile Workers U. of A., 380 Pa. 3, 11, 109 A.2d 815, 819 (1954) (citations omitted). Further, as this Court stated in Ackerman v. N. Huntingdon Twp. (et al.), 437 Pa. 49, 54-55, 261 A.2d 570, 572-73 (1970): "As to monetary damages, once equity has assumed jurisdiction of an action it may retain jurisdiction to ensure a just result even if that result is merely a money decree." (Citations omitted.) Thus, as a threshold matter, we conclude that the equity court below had jurisdiction to enter a monetary decree, although no disposition was ultimately made of plaintiff's initial application for injunctive relief.

Further, it must be noted that although a state court has power to assess monetary damages, such damages are constitutionally permissible only where they compensate an injured party for damages sustained as a result of violent or otherwise unlawful picketing.*fn3 No damages are recoverable where the activity complained of consists of constitutionally protected peaceful picketing.

As the United States Supreme Court stated in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs : "Our opinions on this subject, frequently announced over weighty arguments in dissent that state remedies were being given too

[ 451 Pa. Page 554]

    broad scope, have approved only remedies carefully limited to the protection of the compelling state interest in the maintenance of domestic peace. Thus, in San Diego Building Trades Council, Millmen's Union, Local 2020 v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S. Ct. 773, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775, we read our prior decisions as only allowing 'the States to grant compensation for the consequences, as defined by the traditional law of torts, of conduct marked by violence and imminent threats to the public order,' id., at 247, 79 S. Ct. at 781, and noted that in Laburnum 'damages were restricted to the "damages directly and proximately caused by wrongful conduct chargeable to the defendants * * *" as defined by the traditional law of torts. * * * Thus there is nothing in the measure of damages to indicate that state power was exerted to compensate for anything more than the direct consequences of the violent conduct.' Id., at 248, n.6, at 249, 79 S. Ct., at 782." 383 U.S. 715, 729-30, 86 S. Ct. 1130, 1141 (1966) (emphasis added).

Our task is not merely to ensure that the damages sustained were proximately caused by the challenged picketing and other activity, but rather is to ensure that such damages, to be constitutionally compensable, resulted solely from unlawful and violent activities which are without the protection of the first amendment.

When the denial of the preliminary injunction was before this Court in early 1967, the appellee made no allegation of violence or mass picketing. However, after our earlier opinion, supra, as the picketing continued by the Union into the Spring of 1967, some sporadic violence and mass picketing did ensue. The extent, duration and severity of such activities was never specifically found by the Chancellor in his adjudication. Rather, the Chancellor merely recited broad conclusions that such conduct had, in fact, occurred. As a result of this "factual determination", appellant was found liable in the amount of $18,000. Although the

[ 451 Pa. Page 555]

Chancellor's adjudication states that "[A]ll damage suffered by Plaintiffs from the Union's activity was substantially caused by the Union's violent and mass activities and picketing . . .", nowhere are supportive and detailed facts found which sustain this determination.

Further, no computations exist within the adjudication which indicate how the damages were apportioned between the constitutionally protected (lawful) and unlawful picketing activities; nor does the opinion indicate the specific injuries to the plaintiff which support the $18,000 damage assessment.*fn4 Cf. Wortex Mills v. Textile Workers U. of A., 380 Pa. 3, 15, 109 A.2d 815, 821 (1954).

In view of this inadequate adjudication, the decree is vacated and the record remanded to the trial court with instructions to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine the damages, if any, proximately caused by defendant's violent and unlawful actions. The court is further directed to make findings of fact and conclusions of law, in accordance with Pa. R. Civ. P. 1517. Community Sports, Inc. v. Oakland Oaks, 429 ...

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