Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Yarnall v. Philadelphia School District

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 7, 2013

COLLEEN YARNALL, et al.,
v.
PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.

MEMORANDUM

L. FELIPE RESTREPO, District Judge.

This is a consolidated employment discrimination case. On April 4, 2013, I dismissed, in part, the Amended Complaints of Plaintiffs for failure to state a claim. Doc. No.'s 71-72. Now before the Court are motions to reconsider filed by Plaintiffs, Doc. No. 74, and by various defendants from the School District of Philadelphia ("SDP Defendants"), Doc. No. 73. Because this Court made a clear error as to one part of its Memorandum, the motion of the SDP Defendants will be granted, in part. The motion of the Plaintiffs will be denied in its entirety.

I. Standard of Review

"The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly-discovered evidence. Because federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly." Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Diversified Indus., Inc. , 884 F.Supp. 937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995) (citations and quotations omitted). Further, motions for reconsideration "must be based on either an intervening change in controlling law, the availability of new or previously unavailable evidence, or the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Choi v. Kim , 258 Fed.Appx. 413, 416 (3d Cir. 2007). "A motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded on a request that a court consider repetitive arguments that have been fully examined by the court." Benson v. Giant Food Stores, LLC , No. 09-3194, 2011 WL 722256, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 2011) (quoting Blue Mountain Mushroom Co. v. Monterey Mushroom, Inc. , 246 F.Supp.2d 394, 398 (E.D. Pa. 2002)). Finally, "[a] motion for reconsideration is not an opportunity for a party to re-litigate already decided issues." Tractenberg v. Citigroup Inc. , No. 10-3092, 2011 WL 6747429, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 22, 2011) (citations omitted).

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration[1]

a. Negligence Claims for Failure of PFT to Properly Supervise its Employees

Plaintiffs first seek reconsideration of this Court's dismissal of one tort claim, a negligent failure to supervise employees, which was filed against the School District of Philadelphia ("School District") and against Plaintiffs' union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers ("PFT"). In this Court's Memorandum and Order, the Court dismissed this claim against the School District and the PFT, but only provided an analysis of its dismissal against the School District. This was an error of the Court, but a harmless one, because such a claim cannot succeed against the PFT as a matter of law. However, the Court will explain its dismissal, in order to clarify the record.

The essence of Plaintiffs' claims against the PFT is that a PFT employee failed to file grievances on behalf of Plaintiffs, and thus, PFT should be responsible for a negligence claim for its failure to supervise its employee. Case No. 11-3130, Doc. No. 31 at ¶ 34 ("Plaintiff attempted to file written grievances with the Union regarding Defendant Ray's actions; the Union failed to respond to her and failed to represent her."); Case No. 11-3131, Doc. No. 31 at ¶ 36 ("Plaintiff attempted to file written grievances with the Union regarding Defendant Ray's discriminatory actions; the Union failed to respond to her and failed to represent her."); Case No. 11-3132, Doc. No. 32 at ¶ 34 ("Plaintiff attempted to file written grievances with the Union regarding Defendant Charles Ray's actions; the Union failed to respond to her and failed to represent her."); Case No. 11-3133, Doc. No. 32 at ¶ 36 ("Plaintiff attempted to file written grievances with the Union regarding Defendant Ray's discriminatory actions; the Union failed to respond to her and failed to represent her."). As explained below, such a claim fails as a matter of law.

"A union bears a duty of fair representation to the members of the bargaining unit that it is certified to serve. In return, the members and employees are beneficiaries of a fiduciary obligation owed to them by the union." Plouffe v. Gambone , No. 11-6390, 2012 WL 2343381, at *9 (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2012) (citations omitted). "The fiduciary duty owed the member-employee is by the Union, and not by its individual representatives." Falsetti v. Local Union No. 2026, United Mine Workers of Am. , 161 A.2d 882, 895-96 (Pa. 1960). As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has noted, "a public employee's remedy for his bargaining agent's refusal to submit a grievance to arbitration is an action against the union for damages for breach of its duty of fair representation." Ziccardi v. Com. of Pa. , 456 A.2d 979, 981 (Pa. 1982). "Moreover, a public employees' union can be held liable to its members only for acts of bad faith, and not for negligence in processing a grievance." Waklet-Riker v. Sayre Area Educ. Ass'n , 656 A.2d 138, 141 (Pa. Super. 1995). Here, Plaintiffs pleaded only negligence, not a breach of the duty of fair representation. Thus, the claim was correctly dismissed by this Court.

However, even to the extent the Court reads Plaintiff's negligence count as a claim of the breach of duty of fair representation, that claim would fail as well, because the Amended Complaint must show bad faith through specific facts. See Plouffe , 2012 WL 2343381 at *11; Runski v. Am. Fed'n of State, County and Mun. Employees, Local 2500 , 598 A.2d 347, 351 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1991). It fails to do so, with only short, conclusory statements, claiming that the PFT "failed to respond and/or reply to the teachers' complaints, " Case No. 11-3130, Doc. No. 31 at ¶ 121, and that as a result of these "actions or inactions, " Id. at ¶ 123, Plaintiffs were damaged. This is insufficient. The Amended Complaint fails to make well-pleaded, plausible allegations that establish that the PFT was acting in concert with the School District, or make any other sufficient allegations of bad faith against PFT. S ee Plouffe , 2012 WL 2343381 at *11. As such, no claim for breach of duty of fair representation could survive, either.[2]

Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration is denied on this claim. Further, because a negligence claim is not a proper cause of action against the PFT as a matter of law, Plaintiffs' request to dismiss this count without prejudice is similarly denied.

b. Conspiracy Claims Against the School District and PFT

Plaintiffs also seek reconsideration of the dismissal of their conspiracy claims. As this Court noted in its Memorandum, under Pennsylvania law, "to overcome a motion to dismiss, a party asserting civil conspiracy must allege: (1) a combination of two or more persons acting with a common purpose to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means or for an unlawful purpose; (2) an overt act done in pursuance of the common purpose; and (3) actual legal damage." Combs v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc. , No. 10-5673, 2011 WL 1288686, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 5, 2011) (citation and internal quotations omitted). "A plaintiff alleging conspiracy must plead enough factual matter which, if taken as true, suggests that an agreement was made or, in other words, plausible grounds to infer an agreement." Plouffe , 2012 WL 2343381 at *11 (citing Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP , 615 F.3d 159, 178 (3d Cir. 2010). Further, "[p]roof of malice, i.e., an intent to injure, is essential in proof of a conspiracy." Combs , ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.