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Cox v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 26, 2017

PAUL COX, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC.; and LOCAL UNION 401, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY United States District Court

         Plaintiff Paul Cox (hereinafter “plaintiff”) claims the defendants unlawfully terminated his employment in contravention of his union's Collective Bargaining Agreement (hereinafter “CBA”) and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (hereinafter “LMRA”). Before the court for Disposition is defendant United Parcel Service, Inc.'s (hereinafter “UPS”), and Defendant Local Union 401, International Brotherhood of Teamsters' (hereinafter “Union”), joint motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint with prejudice and award attorneys' fees and costs, pursuant to Rules 37[1] and 41[2] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and brief in support thereof (Doc. 58), filed on May 4, 2017.

         The parties have briefed their respective positions and the motion is ripe for disposition.

         Background[3]

         The instant employment action arises from plaintiff's employment with Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc., (hereinafter “UPS”).[4] Plaintiff worked as full-time night mechanic from approximately May 4, 2014, until June 18, 2015, when plaintiff resigned. (Doc. 1, Compl. (hereinafter “Compl.”) ¶ 5). As a mechanic, plaintiff maintained and inspected UPS's equipment, including vehicles owned and rented by UPS.[5] (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges that during his employment, UPS placed inspection stickers on vehicles that were not roadworthy. (Id. ¶ 8). Plaintiff alleges he objected and insisted on compliance with safety standards and regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10, 16, 28, 32).

         On June 18, 2015, shortly after plaintiff began his 6:00 p.m. shift, plaintiff's immediate supervisor requested plaintiff come to his office. (Id. ¶ 11). The supervisor asked if plaintiff wanted union representation at the meeting and plaintiff declined, signing a waiver of right to representation.[6] (Id. ¶¶ 11, 19). During this meeting, plaintiff's supervisor directed plaintiff to sign a resignation form or the supervisor would call the Pennsylvania State Police. (Id. ¶ 12). The supervisor also directed plaintiff to write “personal” as the reasons for his resignation. (Id.) Plaintiff signed the resignation form. (Id.)

         In response to his forced resignation, plaintiff filed a two-count complaint on October 16, 2015. (Doc. 1). Count I asserts a breach of contract claim pertaining to the CBA against UPS. Count II states a cause of action under the LMRA against the Union.

         UPS answered plaintiff's complaint on February 15, 2016. (Doc. 11). Union filed a motion to dismiss[7] on March 7, 2016 (Doc. 18), which we denied on August 18, 2016. (Doc. 24). Union filed an answer to the complaint on September 8, 2016. (Doc. 27). After a telephonic case management conference during which all parties agreed to the schedule, we issued a case management order on October 3, 2016 directing, among other things, the parties' discovery would be due to be completed by February 1, 2017. (Doc. 33).

         Extraordinary discovery delays ensued shortly thereafter. The defendants jointly filed the instant motion on May 4, 2017 seeking dismissal of the complaint along with attorneys' fees and costs to defendants, (Doc. 58), thus bringing the case to its present posture.

         Jurisdiction

         As plaintiff brings suit pursuant to Section 301 of the LMRA, we have federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”)

         Standard of Review

         The law provides that a court may enter sanctions against a party who fails to cooperate with discovery obligations. See generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 37; Winters v. Textron, Inc., 187 F.R.D. 518 (M.D. Pa. 1999). Where appropriate the district court has great discretion in determining the proper sanction under Rule 37. See, e.g., Nat'l Hockey League v. Metro. Hockey Club, Inc., 427 U.S. 639 (1976).

         Regarding the type of sanction however, “[d]ismissal must be a sanction of last, not first, resort.” Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868-69 (3d Cir. 1984). “Dismissals with prejudice or defaults are drastic sanctions, termed ‘extreme' by the Supreme Court, Nat'l Hockey League, 427 U.S. at 643, and “are to be reserved for comparable cases.” Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868. Nevertheless, “[t]he authority of a federal trial court to dismiss a plaintiff's action with prejudice ...cannot seriously be doubted.” Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629 (1962). “The power to invoke this sanction is necessary in order to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in the calendars of the district courts.” Id. at 629-30. Furthermore, “[t]he most severe in the spectrum of sanctions provided by statute or rule must be available to the district court...not merely to penalize...but to deter those who might be tempted to such conduct in the absence of such a deterrent.” Nat'l Hockey League, 427 U.S. at 643.

         A court must balance the following factors in assessing whether dismissal of a complaint is warranted: (1) the extent of the personal responsibility of the party; (2) prejudice to the adversary caused by failure to meet discovery orders; (3) history of dilatoriness; (4) willfulness or bad faith of the conduct in question; (5) effectiveness of alternative sanctions other than dismissal; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868. Not all six factors need to be met to warrant sanctions, but a consideration and balance of all six factors must be undertaken. Hoxworth v. Blinder, Robinson & Co., 980 F.2d 912, 919 (3d Cir. 1992).

         Discussion

         Initially, motions for extension of time to file pleadings or complete discovery take place normally in the course of litigation. Such motions are usually uncontested and routinely granted. Because defendants seek to dismiss the plaintiff's case as a sanction for failure to comply with discovery rules we will briefly discuss the discovery history of this lawsuit.

         On October 12, 2016 our first case management order issued setting a discovery deadline of February 1, 2017. (Doc. 33). On December 12, 2016, plaintiff filed his answer to the Union's interrogatories. (Doc. 34). On January 11, 2017, Union moved for an extension of time to complete discovery. (Doc. 35). We ordered the discovery deadline moved back to April 3, 2017. (Doc. 36).

         On March 1, 2017, Union counsel filed a letter requesting a discovery conference jointly with UPS. In it, defendants requested our “intervention for the plaintiff's failure to produce and complete discovery responses, as well as for the plaintiff to be submitted for a deposition.” (Doc. 37).[8] During the ensuing telephonic discovery conference we instructed counsel for all three parties to collaborate in drafting an order and submit it to the court, and they complied.

         (See Doc. 38). On March 9, 2017, we issued the following order submitted by the parties:

AND NOW, this 9th day of March, 2017, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED as follows:
1. Plaintiff is Ordered to provide the Defendant, United Parcel Service, full and complete discovery responses to all outstanding discovery within 7 days of the issuance of this order.
2. Plaintiff is Ordered to provide the Defendant, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 401, full and complete responses to all outstanding discovery within 7 days of the issuance of this order.
3. Failure on the part of the plaintiff to comply with paragraphs 1 or 2 above shall result in the Court issuing an order dismissing this case in its entirety.
4. If Plaintiff does comply with both paragraphs 1 and 2 above, Plaintiff is ordered to appear and sit for a deposition on March 23, 2017 in the law offices of Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn, P.C. Should Plaintiff fail to sit for a deposition on March 23, 2017, the ...

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