Opinion and Order
In Count I of this action brought under § 301 of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, the plaintiffs United Mine Workers of America and Peter Yankura seek to have the court vacate an arbitration award discharging Yankura on the basis that the award was founded on false evidence. Plaintiffs also request that the court enter an order reinstating Yankura with full seniority, award him back pay, and grant punitive damages.
In Count II, plaintiffs Yankura, Yesenosky and Hager seek compensatory and punitive damages for malicious prosecution. This court's jurisdiction over Count II, which arises under the laws of Pennsylvania, is said to be pendent to the court's jurisdiction over Count I.
The complaint alleges that Ralph F. Willis gave a false written statement about an altercation which occurred between himself and the individual plaintiffs during a work stoppage, which statement was admitted into evidence before a joint board hearing, that defendants Mine Supervisor Skeens and Mine Foreman Tilton testified falsely at the hearing concerning the statement, and that it was only because of this statement that the umpire entered an award affirming the discharge of Yankura.
The complaint further alleges that at the insistence of defendant Skeens, Willis brought criminal charges of assault and battery and surety of the peace against plaintiffs Yankura, Yesenosky and Hager and falsely testified at a probable cause hearing before a magistrate on July 6, 1972, as a result of which Yankura and Hager were bound over for trial.
The complaint also alleges that on September 26, 1972, Willis gave a sworn deposition to Morley M. Azorsky, Esq., one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, averring that the written statement he had given his supervisor, the criminal charges he had initiated, and the testimony he had given at the probable cause hearing before the magistrate had been false.
On October 10, 1972, Willis was found dead in his car as a result of a gunshot wound, which the coroner found was self-inflicted.
All three defendants have filed motions to dismiss the complaint or in the alternative to strike portions of the complaint.
Defendants seek dismissal of Count I on the basis that it was untimely filed. Defendants assert that if Count I is dismissed, Count II must also be dismissed because it arises under the state law and this court has no jurisdiction to hear it other than as a pendent jurisdictional matter. Even if Count I is not dismissed, defendants seek dismissal of Count II on the basis that it may not be properly considered to be within the pendent jurisdiction of this court. Dismissal of Counts I and II is also sought on the theory that a claim for relief has not been stated because the proof of all the allegations of the complaint is dependent upon an inadmissible statement.
Defendant Skeens also moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that Skeens had not been properly served under Pennsylvania law.
Timeliness of Complaint
Defendants contend that Count I of the complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
Accepting as true all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint, as well as all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, as we are required to do in a motion to dismiss, Park View Heights Corporation v. City of Black Jack, 467 F.2d 1208 (8th Cir. 1972), we must determine whether plaintiffs have stated a claim upon which relief could be granted in Count I which is not barred by the statute of limitations.
The following facts are before us: The arbitration award was entered on September 6, 1972.
The statement of Willis, upon which plaintiffs are relying to set aside the arbitration award, was given to Mr. Azorsky twenty days later on September 26, 1972. The complaint was filed on August 8, 1973, approximately eleven months after entry of the arbitration award and ten and one-half months after the statement was given to Mr. Azorsky, one of the attorneys of record filing the complaint on behalf of plaintiffs.
There is no statute of limitations provision governing § 301 suits in the federal law. The Supreme Court has held that the "timeliness of a 301 suit . . . is to be determined, as a matter of federal law, by reference to the appropriate state statute of limitations." International Union v. Hoosier Cardinal Corporation, 383 U.S. 696, 704-705, 16 L. Ed. 2d 192, 86 S. Ct. 1107 (1966).
In choosing the appropriate state statute of limitations, the proper characterization of the 301 suit is decisive. The characterization of the action is a question of federal law. But the characterization that state law would impose is acceptable unless that characterization "is unreasonable or otherwise inconsistent with national labor policy." International Union v. Hoosier Cardinal Corporation, supra, 383 U.S. at 706.
In Hoosier, the union sued on behalf of terminated employees to recover accrued vacation pay due from their employer under the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. The complaint was filed almost seven years after the employees left the company. The Supreme Court accepted the district court's application of the Indiana six-year statute of limitations governing contracts not in writing and rejected the union's position that the twenty-year provision governing written contracts should have been applied.
The Supreme Court analyzed the nature of the 301 suit, noting that the case was not based exclusively upon a written contract. The court reasoned that although the petitioner sought damages based upon a breach of the vacation pay clause in the written collective bargaining agreement, proof of the breach and of the measure of damages depend upon proof of the existence and duration of separate employment contracts (frequently oral contracts) between the employer and each of the employees.
Thus, the court applied the six-year statute and not the twenty-year law and affirmed the dismissal of the suit. As the dissent in Hoosier noted in discussing the majority's holding, "The Court's opinion suggests, for example, that had the present suit been 'exclusively based upon a written contract ', ante, at p. 706, the Indiana 20-year, rather than the six-year, statute would have governed." Hoosier, supra, 383 U.S. at 709.
The imposition of the shorter limitation period was held to be consistent with the federal labor policy goal of the expeditious disposition of labor problems:
". . . the characterization that Indiana law imposes upon this action does not lead to any conflict with federal labor policy. Indeed, to the extent that a policy is manifest in the Labor Management Relations Act, it supports acceptance of the characterization adopted here. The six months' provision governing unfair labor practice proceedings, 61 Stat. 146, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b), suggests that relatively rapid disposition of labor disputes is a goal of federal labor law. Since state statutes of limitations governing contracts not exclusively in writing are generally shorter than those applicable to wholly written agreements, their applicability to § 301 actions comports with that goal. There may, of course, be § 301 actions that can only be characterized fairly as based exclusively upon a written agreement. But since many § 301 actions for wages or other individual benefits will concern employment contracts of the sort involved here, there is no reason to inhibit the achievement of an identifiable goal of labor policy by precluding application of the generally shorter limitations provisions." 383 U.S. at 706, 707, 16 L. Ed. 2d at 200.