109 F.3d 993 (4th Cir. 1997), 96-1517, Finley Lines Joint Protective Bd. Unit 200, Broth. Ry. Carmen, a Div. of Transp. Communications Union v. Norfolk Southern Corp.

Docket Nº:96-1517.
Citation:109 F.3d 993
Party Name:FINLEY LINES JOINT PROTECTIVE BOARD UNIT 200, BROTHERHOOD RAILWAY CARMEN, A DIVISION OF TRANSPORTATION COMMUNICATIONS UNION; Jack H. Wright, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. NORFOLK SOUTHERN CORPORATION; Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 03, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 993

109 F.3d 993 (4th Cir. 1997)

FINLEY LINES JOINT PROTECTIVE BOARD UNIT 200, BROTHERHOOD

RAILWAY CARMEN, A DIVISION OF TRANSPORTATION

COMMUNICATIONS UNION; Jack H. Wright,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

NORFOLK SOUTHERN CORPORATION; Norfolk Southern Railway

Company, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 96-1517.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

April 3, 1997

Argued March 5, 1997.

Page 994

ARGUED: Newton G. McCoy, C. Marshall Friedman, P.C., St. Louis, Missouri, for Appellants. Frank Huger Gibbes, III, Gibbes, Gallivan & White, Greenville, South Carolina, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: C. Marshall Friedman, Kenneth E. Rudd, C. Marshall Friedman, P.C., St. Louis, Missouri; Susan Ingles, Greenville, South Carolina, for Appellants. Stephanie H. Burton, Gibbes, Gallivan & White, Greenville, South Carolina; Mark D. Perreault, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellees.

Before RUSSELL, MURNAGHAN, and MOTZ, Circuit Judges.

Reversed by published opinion. Judge MOTZ wrote the opinion, in which Judge RUSSELL and Judge MURNAGHAN joined.

OPINION

DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from an order vacating a notice of voluntary dismissal. Because at the time plaintiffs filed the notice, defendants had not answered the complaint, moved for summary judgment, or filed a motion to dismiss that had been treated as a motion for summary judgment, we reverse.

I.

On November 22, 1995, Finley Lines Joint Protective Board Unit 200, Brotherhood Railway Carmen and J.H. Wright (collectively Finley) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee alleging that the Norfolk Southern Corporation and Norfolk Southern Railway Company (collectively Norfolk) had violated certain provisions of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188 (1994). On December 5, 1995, Norfolk moved to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. On the same day, Norfolk also filed a motion to dismiss the action and attached to its memorandum in support of that motion the affidavits of two Norfolk employees. Two days later, without acting on the motion to dismiss, the district court in Tennessee transferred the case to the District of South Carolina.

Finley then moved to enlarge the time to respond to Norfolk's motion to dismiss. Norfolk opposed the motion and on January 25, 1996, the district court denied it. The next day, January 26, 1996, Finley filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(i). Later that same day, Finley also filed a memorandum in opposition to Norfolk's motion to dismiss and supporting documents.

On February 5, 1996, Norfolk moved to vacate Finley's notice of voluntary dismissal, arguing that Finley was not entitled to voluntarily dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 41 because Norfolk's motion to dismiss and supporting affidavits constituted a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). On March 14, 1996, the district court held a hearing and considered affidavits and memoranda from both sides. Four days later the district court filed a nine page memorandum order in which it granted Norfolk's motion to vacate Finley's notice of voluntary dismissal and also granted the Company's motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The order contained no rationale for granting the motion to vacate; it was solely directed at the motion to dismiss.

Finley appeals, asserting that the district court erred in both rulings. Our conclusion that the district court erred in granting the motion to vacate Finley's notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice disposes of the need, or ability, to review its decision as to Norfolk's motion to dismiss.

Page 995

II.

Determination of the critical issue presented in...

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