United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 243

Citation383 U.S. 715,16 L.Ed.2d 218,86 S.Ct. 1130
Decision Date28 March 1966
Docket NumberNo. 243,243
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 715-717 intentionally omitted] Willard P. Owens, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Clarence Walker, Chattanooga, Tenn., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent Paul Gibbs was awarded compensatory and punitive damages in this action against petitioner United Mine Workers of America (NMW) for alleged violations of § 303 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 61 Stat. 158, as amended,1 and of the common law of Tennessee. The case grew out of the rivalry between the United Mine Workers and the Southern Labor Union over representation of workers in the southern Appalachian coal fields. Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company, not a party here, laid off 100 miners of the UMW's Local 5881 when it closed one of its mines in southern Tennessee during the spring of 1960. Late that summer, Grundy Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Consolidated, hired respondent as mine superintendent to attempt to open a new mine on Consolidated's property at nearby Gray's Creek through use of members of the Southern Labor Union. As part of the arrangement, Grundy also gave respondent a contract to haul the mine's coal to the nearest railroad loading point.

On August 15 and 16, 1960, armed members of Local 5881 forcibly prevented the opening of the mine, threatening respondent and beating an organizer for the rival union.2 The members of the local believed Consolidated had promised them the jobs at the new mine; they insisted that if anyone would do the work, they would. At this time, no representative of the UMW, their international union, was present. George Gilbert, the UMW's field representative for the area including Local 5881, was away at Middlesboro, Kentucky, attending an Executive Board meeting when the members of the local discovered Grundy's plan; 3 he did not return to the area until late in the day of August 16. There was uncontradicted testimony that he first learned of the violence while at the meeting, and returned with explicit instructions from his international union superiors to establish a limited picket line, to prevent any further violence, and to see to it that the strike did not spread to neighboring mines. There was no further violence at the mine site; a picket line was maintained there for nine months; and no further attempts were made to open the mine during that period.4

Respondent lost his job as superintendent, and never entered into performance of his haulage contract. He testified that he soon began to lose other trucking contracts and mine leases he held in nearby areas. Claiming these effects to be the result of a concerted union plan against him, he sought recovery not against Local 5881 or its members, but only against petitioner, the international union. The suit was brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, see, and jurisdiction was premised on allegations of secondary boycotts under s 303. The state law claim, for which jurisdiction was based upon the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction, asserted 'an unlawful conspiracy and an unlawful boycott aimed at him and (Grundy) to maliciously, wantonly and willfully interfere with his contract of employment and with his contract of haulage.'5

The trial judge refused to submit to the jury the claims of pressure intended to cause mining firms other than Grundy to cease doing business with Gibbs; he found those claims unsupported by the evidence. The jury's verdict was that the UMW had violated both § 303 and state law. Gibbs was awarded $60,000 as damages under the employment contract and $14,500 under the haulage contract; he was also awarded $100,000 punitive damages. On motion, the trial court set aside the award of damages with respect to the haulage contract on the ground that damage was unproved. It also held that union pressure on Grundy to discharge respondent as supervisor would constitute only a primary dispute with Grundy, as respondent's employer, and hence was not cognizable as a claim under § 303. Interference with the employment relationship was cognizable as a state claim, however, and a remitted award was sustained on the state law claim.6 220 F.Supp. 871. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. 343 F.2d 609. We granted certiorari. 382 U.S. 809, 86 S.Ct. 59, 15 L.Ed.2d 58. We reverse.


A threshold question is whether the District Court properly entertained jurisdiction of the claim based on Tennessee law. There was no need to decide a like question in Local 20, Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Helpers Union v. Morton, 337 U.S. 252, 84 S.Ct. 1253, 12 L.Ed.2d 280, since the pertinent state claim there was based on peaceful secondary activities and we held that state law based on such activities had been pre-empted by § 303. But here respondent's claim is based in part on proofs of violence and intimidation. '(W)e have allowed the States to grant compensation for the consequences, as defined by the traditional law of torts, of conduct marked by violence and imminent threats to the public order. International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers, etc. v. Russell, 356 U.S. 634, 78 S.Ct. 932, 2 L.Ed.2d 1030; United Construction Workers, etc. v. Laburnum Const.Corp., 347 U.S. 656, 74 S.Ct. 833, 98 L.Ed. 1025. * * * State jurisdiction has prevailed in these situations because the compelling state interest, in the scheme of our federalism, in the maintenance of domestic peace is not overridden in the absence of clearly expressed congressional direction.' San Diego Building Trades Council Millmen's Union Local 2020 v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 247, 79 S.Ct. 773, 781, 3 L.Ed.2d 775.

The fact that state remedies were not entirely pre-empted does not, however, answer the question whether the state claim was properly adjudicated in the District Court absent diversity jurisdiction. The Court held in Hurn v. Oursler, 289 U.S. 238, 53 S.Ct. 586, 77 L.Ed. 1148, that state law claims are appropriate for federal court determination if they form a separate but parallel ground for relief also sought in a substantial claim based on federal law. The Court distinguished permissible from non-permissible exercises of federal judicial power over state law claims by contrasting 'a case where two distinct grounds in support of a single cause of action are alleged, one only of which presents a federal question, and a case where two separate and distinct causes of action are alleged, one only of which is federal in character. In the former, where the federal question averred is not plainly wanting in substance, the federal court, even though the federal ground be not established, may nevertheless retain and dispose of the case upon the nonfederal ground; in the latter it may not do so upon the nonfederal cause of action.' 289 U.S., at 246, 53 S.Ct., at 589. The question is into which category the present action fell.

Hurn was decided in 1933, before the unification of law and equity by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. At the time, the meaning of 'cause of action' was a subject of serious dispute;7 the phrase might 'mean one thing for one purpose and something different for an- other.' United States v. Memphis Cotton Oil Co., 288 U.S. 62, 67 68, 53 S.Ct. 278, 280, 77 L.Ed. 619.8 The Court in Hurn identified what it meant by the term by citation of Baltimore S.S. Co. v. Phillips, 274 U.S. 316, 47 S.Ct. 600, 71 L.Ed. 1069, a case in which 'cause of action' had been used to identify the operative scope of the doctrine of res judicata. In that case the Court had noted that "the whole tendency of our decisions is to require a plaintiff to try his whole cause of action and his whole case at one time," 274 U.S., at 320, 47 S.Ct., at 602. It stated its holding in the following language, quoted in part in the Hurn opinion:

'Upon principle, it is perfectly plain that the respondent (a seaman suing for an injury sustained while working aboard ship) suffered but one actionable wrong, and was entitled to but one recovery, whether his injury was due to one or the other of several distinct acts of alleged negligence, or to a combination of some or all of them. In either view, there would be but a single wrongful invasion of a single primary right of the plaintiff, namely, the right of bodily safety, whether the acts constituting such invasion were one or many, simple or complex.

'A cause of action does not consist of facts, but of the unlawful violation of a right which the facts show. The number and variety of the facts alleged do not establish more than one cause of action so long as their result, whether they be considered severally or in combination, is the violation of but one right by a single legal wrong. The mere multiplication of grounds of negligence alleged as causing the same injury does not result in multiplying the causes of action. 'The facts are merely the means and not the end. They do not constitute the cause of action, but they show its existence by making the wrong appear." Id., at 321, 47 S.Ct. at 602.

Had the Court found a jurisdictional bar to reaching the state claim in Hurn, we assume that the doctrine of res judicata would not have been applicable in any subsequent state suit. But the citation of Baltimore S.S. Co. shows that the Court found that the weighty policies of judicial economy and fairness to parties reflected in res judicata doctrine were in themselves strong counsel for the adoption of a rule which would permit federal courts to dispose of the state as well as the federal claims.

With the adoption of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the unified form of action, Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 2, much of the controversy over 'cause of action' abated. The phrase remained as the keystone of the Hurn test, however, and, as commentators...

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