Bryan v. Am. Airlines, Inc., No. 20-1690

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLYNCH, Circuit Judge.
Citation988 F.3d 68
Parties Jon L. BRYAN, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC.; Allied Pilots Association, Defendants, Appellees.
Decision Date16 February 2021
Docket NumberNo. 20-1690

988 F.3d 68

Jon L. BRYAN, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC.; Allied Pilots Association, Defendants, Appellees.

No. 20-1690

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

February 16, 2021


Stephen Schultz, with whom Schultz Law LLP was on brief, for appellant.

Mark W. Robertson, with whom Sloane Ackerman and O'Melveny & Myers LLP, New York, NY, were on brief, for appellee American Airlines, Inc.

James P. Clark, with whom Law Offices of James P. Clark, P.C. was on brief, for appellee Allied Pilots Association.

Before Lynch, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

In December 2017, Jon L. Bryan, a former pilot for US Airways who retired in January 1999, brought suit against the Allied Pilots Association ("APA") and American Airlines, Inc. ("American Airlines") under the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq.

In 1999, at Bryan's request, his union at the time submitted a grievance on his behalf against his then-employer US Airways, which US Airways denied. That grievance alleged that US Airways violated the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement by cancelling Bryan's scheduled flight retraining which allegedly led to his premature retirement. Bryan's suit alleges that APA, the successor to the union which first submitted his grievance, breached its statutory duty of fair representation by withdrawing from pursuing his nearly nineteen-year-old grievance to arbitration based on what he alleges was an inadequate investigation into his grievance's merits. He also brings an alleged "hybrid" suit against American Airlines, as the successor to US Airways, for US Airways's alleged breach of the collective bargaining agreement that purportedly led to his premature retirement.

The district court dismissed the claim against American Airlines and later granted APA's motion for summary judgment. Concluding that APA did not breach its duty of fair representation, we affirm.

I.

A. Facts

We refer to the district court's motion to dismiss and summary judgment opinions, which fully set forth the facts and issues in this case. See generally Bryan v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, No. 17-cv-12460-DJC, 2020 WL 3182881 (D. Mass. June 15, 2020) ; Bryan v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, No. 17-cv-12460-DJC, 2018 WL 6697681 (D. Mass. Dec. 19, 2018). We summarize only those facts pertinent to the duty of fair representation claim because we conclude that that claim against APA fails, and Bryan's

988 F.3d 71

counsel conceded at oral argument that if the claim against APA fails, then so does the "hybrid" claim against American Airlines. See Miller v. U.S. Postal Serv., 985 F.2d 9, 10-11 (1st Cir. 1993) (describing a "joint cause" of action against a union for breach of the duty of fair representation and an employer for breach of contract as a "hybrid" suit and explaining that the failure to prove either "results in failure of the entire hybrid action"); Stanton v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 669 F.2d 833, 836 (1st Cir. 1982) (explaining that courts generally do not have jurisdiction over the merits of any employment dispute under the RLA, except to determine whether a union has breached its duty of fair representation).

In the summer of 1998, US Airways scheduled Bryan for flight retraining but later cancelled his training date and did not reschedule it. In January 1999, Bryan retired as a pilot from US Airways under the second phase of an Early Retirement Incentive Program into which he had opted. The program allowed up to 325 pilots to retire no later than May 2000 with certain benefits. He received all benefits called for under the program. In February 1999, Bryan filed a grievance with the Air Line Pilots Association ("ALPA"), the then-certified collective bargaining representative for US Airways pilots, relating to the cancellation of his flight retraining and its consequences.

ALPA initially pursued the grievance at his request. US Airways denied Bryan's grievance in October 1999, and it affirmed that denial in August 2000. On August 29, 2000, ALPA submitted Bryan's dispute to the US Airways Pilots System Board of Adjustment for arbitration pursuant to ALPA's standard practices.

Between August 2000 and September 2014, Bryan's grievance was not scheduled for arbitration. There was a considerable backlog of more than 400 grievances at US Airways during that time, including grievances which were given priority over Bryan's grievance. That backlog was exacerbated by bankruptcies filed by US Airways in 2002 and 2004. During that period, Bryan contacted union representatives several times regarding his grievance.

In January 2004, Bryan sent a letter to the National President of ALPA inquiring as to the status of his grievance and requesting that it be scheduled for arbitration. There is no evidence that he received a response from the National President, and his grievance was not scheduled for arbitration after that inquiry. In June 2004, he emailed Captain Tracy Parrella, the Grievance Committee chair for ALPA, requesting that she schedule his grievance for arbitration because he believed the delay in processing his grievance was excessive. In or around August 2004, Parrella responded to Bryan and advised him that his "grandchildren would be dead before the arbitration [of his grievance] was scheduled," and Bryan interpreted this statement as hyperbole referring to the union's lack of resources to process the backlog of grievances. In December 2005, Bryan emailed Parrella with a settlement proposal and threatened to initiate litigation if no settlement was reached with US Airways regarding advancing his grievance to arbitration. ALPA did not conduct settlement negotiations with US Airways and Bryan did not initiate litigation. In January 2006, Parrella notified Bryan that his grievance would not be scheduled for arbitration in the "foreseeable future." In October 2007, Bryan sent a letter to the National President of ALPA stating that ALPA had failed to schedule his grievance for arbitration, referencing a duty of fair representation on the part of ALPA, and indicating that if no settlement could be reached with US Airways, he would pursue legal action. ALPA did not schedule

988 F.3d 72

Bryan's grievance for arbitration following that letter nor did Bryan commence litigation against ALPA or US Airways.

In or around May 2008, the US Airways Pilots Association ("USAPA") replaced ALPA as the certified collective bargaining representative for US Airways pilots. Parrella remained the Grievance Committee chair for USAPA from 2008 through 2012. At some point during her tenure as Grievance Committee chair, Parrella placed Bryan's grievance on a list of grievances that the union would not pursue because the union had determined it had no merit. In December 2011, Bryan contacted Parrella again to ask about the status of his grievance and again threatened litigation for the union's failure to take his grievance to arbitration. Following this communication with Parrella, his grievance was still not scheduled for arbitration and he did not pursue legal action. Bryan had no further communication with USAPA regarding his grievance between December 2011 and October 2014.

In or around 2013, Captain David Ciabattoni, who had replaced Parrella as USAPA's Grievance Committee chair, reviewed Bryan's grievance. He discussed that grievance with Captain Doug Mowery, the former ALPA Grievance Committee chair at the time Bryan's grievance was filed, who Ciabattoni considered a subject-matter expert regarding that grievance. Based in part on that discussion with Mowery, Ciabattoni concluded that Bryan's grievance lacked merit and he placed Bryan's grievance on an internal list of grievances that were candidates for withdrawal by the union.

In or around December 2013, US Airways completed a merger into American Airlines. At the time of the merger, USAPA was still the certified collective bargaining representative for the US Airways pilots and APA was the representative for the American Airlines pilots. In or around September 2014, APA became the certified collective bargaining representative for the pilots of the merged American Airlines. In October 2014, Ciabattoni notified Bryan by email of this change in representation and the grievance processing going forward.

In 2015, APA set up a process for reviewing the hundreds of outstanding USAPA grievances by having former USAPA representatives review grievance files and recommend which grievances APA should pursue either through arbitration or settlement. APA relied on the USAPA representatives as subject-matter experts because they had more knowledge and information as...

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10 practice notes
  • United States v. Farmer, No. 19-1603
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 16, 2021
    ...his mitigating factors, which he claims were weightier than Sperow's. The record shows, however, that the district court considered 988 F.3d 68 the mitigating factors and, as a result, gave Farmer a lower sentence than the one it had initially intended to give. Furthermore, the court explai......
  • Alston v. Int'l Ass'n of Firefighters, No. 20-1434
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 19, 2021
    ...acted in bad faith. "A union acts in bad faith when it acts with an improper intent, purpose, or motive." Bryan v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 988 F.3d 68, 74 (1st Cir. 2021) (quoting Good Samaritan Med. Ctr. v. NLRB, 858 F.3d 617, 630 (1st Cir. 2017) ). To establish that the Union's exercise of ju......
  • Bumpus v. Airline Pilots Ass'n, 21 CV 5557
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • June 10, 2022
    ...v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 390 F.3d 601, 608-09 (8th Cir. 2004), and the First Circuit has expressed skepticism, see Bryan v. Am. Airlines, 988 F.3d 68, 76 (1st Cir. 2021). These disagreements mostly stem from differing ideas about the statute's purpose. The Third and Sixth Circuits say the Act......
  • Serrano-Colon v. Dep't of Homeland Sec., Civ. 16-1268 (SCC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 22, 2021
    ...23, 35 (1st Cir. 2021). In evaluating the record, we construe it in favor of the nonmovant, Serrano-Colón. Bryan v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 988 F.3d 68, 74 (1st Cir. 2021). But she still “bears the burden of producing specific facts sufficient to deflect the swing of the summary judgment scythe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • United States v. Farmer, No. 19-1603
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 16, 2021
    ...his mitigating factors, which he claims were weightier than Sperow's. The record shows, however, that the district court considered 988 F.3d 68 the mitigating factors and, as a result, gave Farmer a lower sentence than the one it had initially intended to give. Furthermore, the court explai......
  • Alston v. Int'l Ass'n of Firefighters, No. 20-1434
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 19, 2021
    ...acted in bad faith. "A union acts in bad faith when it acts with an improper intent, purpose, or motive." Bryan v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 988 F.3d 68, 74 (1st Cir. 2021) (quoting Good Samaritan Med. Ctr. v. NLRB, 858 F.3d 617, 630 (1st Cir. 2017) ). To establish that the Union's exercise of ju......
  • Bumpus v. Airline Pilots Ass'n, 21 CV 5557
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • June 10, 2022
    ...v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 390 F.3d 601, 608-09 (8th Cir. 2004), and the First Circuit has expressed skepticism, see Bryan v. Am. Airlines, 988 F.3d 68, 76 (1st Cir. 2021). These disagreements mostly stem from differing ideas about the statute's purpose. The Third and Sixth Circuits say the Act......
  • Serrano-Colon v. Dep't of Homeland Sec., Civ. 16-1268 (SCC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 22, 2021
    ...23, 35 (1st Cir. 2021). In evaluating the record, we construe it in favor of the nonmovant, Serrano-Colón. Bryan v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 988 F.3d 68, 74 (1st Cir. 2021). But she still “bears the burden of producing specific facts sufficient to deflect the swing of the summary judgment scythe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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