842 P.2d 634 (Hawai'i 1992), 15022, Norris v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.

Docket Nº:15022.
Citation:842 P.2d 634, 74 Haw. 235
Opinion Judge:[14] Moon
Party Name:Grant T. NORRIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. HAWAIIAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant-Appellee. Grant T. NORRIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Paul J. FINAZZO, Howard E. Ogden, Hatsuo Honma, and Does 1-10, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:[7] Edward deLappe Boyle (Ernest H. Nomura, with him on the briefs of Cades, Schutte, Fleming & Wright) for plaintiff-appellant. [8] Kenneth Byron Hipp (David J. Dezzani and Mark E. Recktenwald, with him on the brief of Goodsill, Anderson, Quinn & Stifel) for defendants-appellees. [9] On the brie...
Case Date:December 16, 1992
Court:Supreme Court of Hawai'i
 
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Page 634

842 P.2d 634 (Hawai'i 1992)

74 Haw. 235

Grant T. NORRIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Grant T. NORRIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Paul J. FINAZZO, Howard E. Ogden, Hatsuo Honma, and Does

1-10, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 15022.

Supreme Court of Hawai'i.

December 16, 1992

Page 635

Syllabus by the Court

1. A trial court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, reviewable de novo.

2. [74 Haw. 236] Review of a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is based on the contents of the complaint, the allegations of which we accept as true and construe in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Dismissal is improper unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can provide no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.

3. When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure (HRCP) Rule 12(b)(1), the trial court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction.

4. Preemption occurs when Congress, in enacting a federal statute, expresses a clear intent to preempt state law, when there is outright or actual conflict between federal and state law.

5. Whether a state law establishing [74 Haw. 246] a cause of action is preempted in a given case is a question of congressional intent.

6. The Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188 (1988), was enacted to promote stability in labor-management relations by providing a comprehensive framework for resolving labor disputes in the railroad industry and was extended to the airline industry pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 184 (1988).

7. The purposes of the RLA are to provide for, among other things, the prompt and orderly settlement of all disputes concerning rates of pay, rules, or working conditions and the prompt and orderly settlement of all disputes growing out of grievances or out of the interpretation or application of agreements covering rates of pay, rules, or working conditions.

8. [74 Haw. 237] Under the RLA, a "major" dispute relates to disputes over the formation of collective agreements or efforts to secure them. They arise [74 Haw. 247] where there is no such agreement or where it is sought to change the terms of one, and therefore the issue is not whether an existing agreement controls the controversy. They look to the acquisition of rights for the future, not to assertion of rights claimed to have vested in the past.

9. Parties involved in major disputes are required to undergo a lengthy process of bargaining and mediation until they have exhausted those procedures. Once this protracted process ends and no agreement has been reached, the parties may resort to the use of economic force.

10. Under the RLA, a "minor" dispute contemplates the existence of a collective

Page 636

agreement already concluded or, at any rate, a situation in which no effort is made to bring about a formal change in terms or to create a new one. The dispute relates either to the meaning or proper application of a particular provision with reference to a specific situation or to an omitted case. The claim is to rights accrued, not merely to have new ones created for the future.

11. Mandatory arbitration is the exclusive remedy for claims arising from minor disputes.

12. Where airline employee's claim for retaliatory discharge is not dependent on the interpretation of employee's collective bargaining agreement, employee's claims are not preempted under the RLA.

13. Under the holding of Parnar v. Americana Hotels, Inc., 65 Haw. 370, 652 P.2d 625 (1982), the state tort claim for [74 Haw. 259] discharge in violation of public policy is not limited to at-will employees and extends to unionized employees who [74 Haw. 238] are not protected by a mandatory grievance/arbitration procedure and just cause standard for termination under their collective bargaining agreement.

14. Although we agree that Hawaii's public policy as reflected by our Arbitration and Award Statute, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) chapter 658, strongly favors arbitration over litigation, the mere existence of an arbitration agreement does not mean that the parties must submit to an arbitrator disputes which are outside the scope of the arbitration agreement.

15. The arbitral forum must be authorized and competent to resolve the dispute brought before it. Arbitration is a continuation of the collective-bargaining process and the role of the arbitrator is to interpret the labor contract and to apply the agreement to the facts of a dispute. On the other hand, the arbitrator ordinarily cannot consider public interest, and does not determine violations of law or public policy.

16. There is no question that the relevant public policy of the Federal Aviation Act and the Federal Aviation Regulations is to protect the public from shoddy repair and maintenance practices in the aviation industry which may endanger the flying public.

17. Legislative history of the Hawaii Whistleblowers' Protection Act (HWPA), HRS §§ 378-61 through -69 (Supp.1991), reveals that the legislature intended to safeguard the general public by giving certain protections to individual employees who "blow the whistle" for the public good.

18. The legislature did not restrict the protections under the HWPA to at-will employees. On the contrary, it left open for the courts to further determine the development of the common law in retaliatory discharge cases.

[74 Haw. 266] Edward deLappe Boyle (Ernest H. Nomura, with him on the briefs of Cades, Schutte, Fleming & Wright), Honolulu, for plaintiff-appellant.

Kenneth Byron Hipp (David J. Dezzani and Mark E. Recktenwald, with him on the brief of Goodsill, Anderson, Quinn & Stifel), Honolulu, for defendants-appellees.

William W. Watkins and David P. Ledger of Carlsmith, Ball, Wichman, Murray, Case, Mukai & Ichiki, Honolulu, for amicus curiae Hawaii Employers Council.

Richard M. Rand of Torkildson, Katz, Jossem, Fonseca, Jaffe & Moore, Honolulu, for amicus curiae Aloha Airlines, Inc.

Herbert R. Takahashi of Takahashi & Masui, Honolulu (Robert A. Bush of Taylor, Roth, Bush & Geffner, with him on the brief), Burbank, CA, for amicus curiae International Ass'n of Machinists' and Aerospace Workers.

Before [74 Haw. 235] LUM, C.J., and HAYASHI, [*] WAKATSUKI [**] and MOON, JJ., and BURNS, Intermediate Court of Appeals C.J. in place of PADGETT, J., recused.

Page 637

[74 Haw. 239] MOON, Justice.

Plaintiff-appellant Grant T. Norris (Norris) appeals from the final judgment of the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, which was certified as final, pursuant to Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure (HRCP) Rule 54(b), and entered in favor of defendants-appellees Paul J. Finazzo, Howard E. Ogden, and Hatsuo Honma (collectively, defendants). Norris had filed suit against defendants alleging discharge from his employment in violation of public policy. The circuit court granted defendants' motion to dismiss counts I and II of Norris' complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that Norris' claims were preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. § 151-188 (1988). We disagree with the circuit court's determination and hold that the RLA does not preempt Norris' state tort claims. Therefore, we reverse the order of the circuit court dismissing counts I and II of Norris' complaint and vacate the final judgment entered by the circuit court.

  1. STANDARD OF REVIEW

    Defendants moved to dismiss counts I and II of Norris' complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to HRCP Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(h)(3). 1 A trial court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, reviewable de novo. McCarthy v. U.S.,[74 Haw. 240] 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1052, 109 S.Ct. 1312, 103 L.Ed.2d 581 (1989); see also Moir v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Auth., 895 F.2d 266, 269 (6th Cir.1990). Moreover, we adopt the view of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Love v. U.S., 871 F.2d 1488 (9th Cir.1989):

    Our review [of a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction] is based on the contents of the complaint, the allegations of which we accept as true and construe in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Dismissal is improper unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief."

    Id. at 1491 (citations omitted). However, "when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) the [trial] court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction." McCarthy, 850 F.2d at 560 (citations omitted); see also 5A C. Wright & A. Miller, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1350, at 213 (1990). Therefore, based on the applicable standard of review, we set forth the facts below as alleged by Norris in his complaint and in the materials presented to the trial court outside the pleadings. 2

  2. FACTS

    Norris, an aircraft mechanic licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), was employed by [74 Haw. 241] Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. (HAL) from February 2, 1987 to August 3, 1987. Norris' FAA license carried a rating that gave him the authority to approve and return an aircraft to service after he had made, supervised, or inspected certain repairs performed on the aircraft. See Certification: Airmen Other Than Flight Crewmembers, 14 C.F.R. §§ 65.85, 65.87 (1987). Norris, however, was not allowed to approve and return to service any aircraft or aircraft parts to which repairs had been made that did not conform to the applicable Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). Any fraudulent entry by a...

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