Edwards v. Sea-Land Service, Inc., SEA-LAND

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Citation678 F.2d 1276
Docket NumberNo. 81-2283,SEA-LAND,81-2283
Parties110 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3029, 94 Lab.Cas. P 13,692 Norman E. EDWARDS and Bobby Wayne Mize, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v.SERVICE, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date24 June 1982

Page 1276

678 F.2d 1276
110 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3029, 94 Lab.Cas. P 13,692
Norman E. EDWARDS and Bobby Wayne Mize, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
SEA-LAND SERVICE, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 81-2283.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
June 24, 1982.

Page 1278

Walter Jefferson, Steven L. Weathered, Houston, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Fulbright & Jaworski, A. Martin Wickliff, Jr., Robert J. Attaway, Barlow & Attaway, Princeton, N. J., for Sealand Service.

Hicks, Gillespie, James & Agee, James L. Hicks, Jr., for Intern. Broth. of Teamsters, et al.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before THORNBERRY, REAVLEY and RANDALL, Circuit Judges.

RANDALL, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-Appellants Norman E. Edwards and Bobby Wayne Mize (hereinafter collectively "Plaintiffs") appeal the decision of the district court dismissing their suit for breach of a collective bargaining agreement by Defendant-Appellee Sea-Land Service, Inc. ("Sea-Land") and breach of duty of fair representation by Defendant-Appellee International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers, Local No. 988 (the "Union"). The district court held that Plaintiffs' claims were barred by the Texas and federal statutes of limitations. We reverse the district court as to the applicable statutes of limitations and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Facts and Procedural History

The facts necessary to a determination of the statute of limitations questions before us may be summarized very briefly.

On December 27, 1978, after several years of employment by Sea-Land, both Mize and Edwards received layoff notices pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement in effect between Sea-Land and the Union. On January 2, 1979, Mize and Edwards filed contractual grievance reports protesting their layoff. On January 15, 1979, Sea-Land amended the reasons for its layoff notice. On April 1, 1980, Mize and Edwards received notice that, pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, their claims had been submitted to arbitration and furthermore, that they had been denied. On April 21, 1981, Mize and Edwards filed suit in the district court pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act 1 (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185, alleging that Sea-Land violated the collective bargaining agreement by laying off and ultimately dismissing them and that the Union violated its duty of "fair representation" by its manner of representing them in the contractual arbitration procedure. They also alleged that they were not reinstated because of age discrimination. Jurisdiction was predicated on 28 U.S.C. § 1337.

The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against Sea-Land and the Union upon its conclusion that the ninety-day period of limitation under the Texas General

Page 1279

Arbitration Act, 2 Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 237(B) (Vernon 1979), or the three-month period under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 12, 3 barred Plaintiffs' claims.

The district court reasoned that the recent United States Supreme Court decision of United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. 56, 101 S.Ct. 1559, 67 L.Ed.2d 732 (1981), indicated that this action was in the nature of an action to vacate an arbitration award and mandated that the Texas ninety-day limitation on applications to vacate arbitration awards was the most appropriate statute of limitations as to both the claim of breach of the collective bargaining agreement and the claim of breach of the duty of fair representation. The court held that an exclusion in the Texas General Arbitration Act which specifically removed from the coverage of the act arbitration agreements resulting from "any collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a labor union," Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 224(a) (Vernon 1979), did not preclude applicability of the ninety-day limitation as "an action to vacate an arbitration award pursuant to § 301 (29 U.S.C. § 185) is not such an action in a collective bargaining agreement as would bring the statutory bar into play." The court relied on language from Mitchell that "the unfair representation claim ... is more a creature of 'labor law' as it has developed since the enactment of § 301 than it is of general contract law." United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. at 63, 101 S.Ct. at 1564.

The district court further held that the three month limitation of the Federal Arbitration Act barred the action.

(T)he case at bar is brought under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185-it follows that the Court should incline towards the application of federal law: "the dimensions of § 301 require the conclusion that substantive principles of federal labor law must be paramount in the area covered by the (federal) statute." Id. (Matter of Communication Workers of America v. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co., 462 F.Supp. 736) at 738. Although the Federal Arbitration Act technically exempts contracts of employment from its coverage, 9 U.S.C. § 1, "it has been held that judicial decisions making arbitration clauses specifically enforceable, have the effect of making labor contracts governed by the (Federal Arbitration Act)." Gas Workers Local No. 80 v. Mich. Consolidated Gas, 503 F.Supp. 155, 157 (E.D.Mich.1980); Keystone Metal Molding, Etc. v. R. & W. Metals, 486 F.Supp. 813 (D.Mont.1980). Moreover, in the case at bar Texas law need not apply since this action, by Plaintiffs' own admission, involves interstate commerce. Plaintiffs' Original Complaint, Paragraphs 2 and 4. See, Miller v. Puritan Fashions Corporation, 516 S.W.2d 234, 238 (Tex.Civ.App.-Waco 1974, writ ref'd n.r.e.). Since this case indisputably involves interstate commerce, there is no question that this Court may do what was suggested in the dissent in Hoosier Cardinal, supra (383 U.S.) at 709, (86 S.Ct. at 1115) and "fashion a uniform rule after consideration of the relevant federal and state statutes." Keystone Metal, supra at 813. In such a case the three-month limitation period expressed in 9 U.S.C. § 12 would clearly be applicable.


In light of the foregoing, it is clear that either the federal three-month or state 90-day statute of limitations on actions to vacate an arbitration award is applicable.

Page 1280

Mize and Edwards appeal, claiming that although a Texas (rather than federal) statute of limitations is to be applied, citing International Union, United Automobile Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), AFL-CIO v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 86 S.Ct. 1107, 16 L.Ed.2d 192 (1966), the ninety-day limitation found in the Texas Arbitration Act is not applicable because of the collective bargaining exclusion; rather the four year limitation as to contracts is applicable. 4 In the alternative, Mize and Edwards claim that if the ninety-day limitation is to be applied, it should not be applied retroactively to bar their suit brought prior to the Court's decision in Mitchell.

Sea-Land and the Union defend, claiming that the Texas ninety-day limitation applies despite the collective bargaining exclusion. In the alternative, according to Sea-Land and the Union, if the Texas Act does not apply, either the three month limitation of the Federal Arbitration Act, or the six month limitation of the National Labor Relations Act 5 (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. § 160(b), applicable to unfair labor practices, applies. Moreover, the applicable statute of limitations should be applied retroactively to bar the Plaintiffs' action.

The Union also alleges that this appeal should be dismissed because it was not timely brought.

II. Timeliness of Appeal

On May 4, 1981, Sea-Land moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, alleging it was barred by the statute of limitations. On June 22, 1981, the district court granted Sea-Land's motion stating that "(i)n light of the disposition made herein, the other points raised by Defendant need not be addressed." On July 2, 1981, the Union moved to dismiss the complaint. On July 22, 1981, the Plaintiffs filed notice of appeal from the court's dismissal order of June 22, 1981 as to Sea-Land. On July 24, 1981, the district court granted the Union's motion to dismiss. On August 14, 1981, the Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal from the court's dismissal of the action against the Union. On August 31, 1981, the district court rendered judgment on the action, ordering that the action be dismissed on the merits and that Plaintiffs be assessed costs.

The Union moved this court to dismiss the appeals claiming that Plaintiffs appealed before "final judgment" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291. They allege that Plaintiffs' age discrimination complaints had not been addressed, and additionally, that any appeal brought before the August 31, 1981 judgment was premature. On October 14, 1981, this court denied the motion to dismiss. The Union has urged us again to consider its contention. We have. It has not improved with age.

The first contention, that the district court had not dismissed all claims, is frivolous. The two district court orders dismissing the complaint clearly show that the court completely dismissed all of Plaintiffs' claims against both Sea-Land and the Union.

The second contention, that an appeal taken after entry of an order dismissing the complaint but prior to any entry of judgment on the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 58, is untimely, has been implicitly rejected by this court:

Page 1281

The requirements of Rule 58 may be satisfied by the district court after an appeal is docketed. Stokes v. Peyton's Inc., 5 Cir. 1975, 508 F.2d 1287; Markham v. Holt, 5 Cir. 1966, 369 F.2d 940; Bates v. Batte, 5 Cir. 1951, 187 F.2d 142, cert. denied, 342 U.S. 815, 72 S.Ct. 29, 96 L.Ed. 616.

Kirtland v. J. Ray McDermott & Co., 568 F.2d 1166, 1169 (5th Cir. 1978). Thus, the sequence of events wherein the district court dismissed the...

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