United Steelworkers of America v. American Mfg. Co., 13666.

Citation264 F.2d 624
Decision Date19 March 1959
Docket NumberNo. 13666.,13666.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)

Jerome A. Cooper, Birmingham, Ala. (Arthur J. Goldberg, Gen. Counsel, David E. Feller, Associate Gen. Counsel, United Steelworkers of America, Washington, D. C., Van Derveer & Parks, Chattanooga, Tenn., Cooper, Mitch, Black & Crawford, Birmingham, Ala., on the brief), for appellant.

John S. Carriger, of Strang, Fletcher, Carriger & Walker, Chattanooga, Tenn. (Harold M. Humphreys, Chattanooga, Tenn., on the brief), for appellee.

Before ALLEN, McALLISTER and MILLER, Circuit Judges.


This action was brought by the appellant, a labor organization, under Sec. 301(a) of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, Sec. 185(a), Title 29 U.S.C.A. to compel the appellee employer to arbitrate a grievance as provided by the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement between the parties. The District Judge denied the relief prayed for and entered summary judgment for the appellee.

The grievance, upon which arbitration was sought, arose out of the following circumstances. On or about March 29, 1957, James Sparks, an employee of the appellee and who was a plating tank operator, suffered a work-connected injury to his back. It was necessary for Sparks to discontinue his employment by reason of this injury. By virtue of proceedings under the Workmen's Compensation Act of Tennessee, T.C.A. § 50-901 et seq., Sparks obtained a compromise settlement and award under which the appellee was ordered to pay to Sparks in addition to the payment of certain hospital and medical expenses in the total amount of $541.80, the sum of $3,006.24, which compromise award was approved by the State Court having jurisdiction of the cause on September 9, 1957. This settlement was negotiated and effected upon the representation of Sparks' attorney and the written report of Sparks' physician made on August 14, 1957, that Sparks had a permanent partial disability to his spine of about 25 per cent. The court order approving the settlement and making the award referred to the serious dispute between the parties as to the amount of temporary total disability and as to the amount of permanent partial disability suffered by Sparks, but made no finding with respect thereto.

The award was promptly paid. Some two weeks thereafter Sparks applied to be returned to his old job with the appellee, taking the position that he was fully capable of performing all of the duties involved in the job. This position was based in part upon a written and signed statement of September 16, 1957, by the same physician who made the report of August 14, 1957, reading as follows, "To Whom It May Concern: Mr. James Sparks is now able to return to his former duties without danger to himself or to others." On September 23, 1957, the appellant filed a Grievance demanding that the appellee return Sparks to his regular job and pay him for all time lost since September 16, 1957. On October 30, 1957, appellee's attorneys wrote Sparks, sending a copy to his attorney, that his present position with regard to his capability to do the work was inconsistent with his position taken in the compensation case and requested a conference. No answer to this letter was received from Sparks or his attorney. On November 19, 1957, appellee wrote the appellant, "The Company feels at this time that the James Sparks question is not arbitrable, since a Hamilton County Circuit Court has adjudicated the matter." This action followed on December 19, 1957.

The District Judge was of the opinion that the appellee would be prejudiced if it was required to hire, as physically unimpaired, a former employee who had received a lump sum payment for a disability, the term of which coincided with the term of proposed service, and that it would be manifestly inequitable for Sparks, by repudiating the very conduct by which he induced the appellee to act, to now take a position inconsistent with such conduct and compel appellee to incur a loss. Applying the foregoing principle of estoppel he sustained appellee's motion for summary judgment.

It may be that the principle of estoppel is applicable to this case and would bar Sparks from reinstatement to his former position. But appellant contends that the District Court did not have the authority or jurisdiction to make such a ruling. The collective bargaining agreement did not confer such authority upon it. On the contrary, Article IV of that agreement providing for grievance procedure states that if a satisfactory agreement with respect to a complaint can not be reached through the procedure provided, "the same shall be submitted to arbitration for a decision as hereinafter provided, and such decision shall be final and binding on both parties." If the grievance is an arbitrable one under the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, appellant has the right to have this issue, including appellee's defense of estoppel, decided by the arbitrators instead of by the Court. Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills of Alabama, 353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972; Local 19, Warehouse, etc. v. Buckeye Cotton Oil Co., 6 Cir., 236 F.2d 776.

We recognize that under the ruling of this Court the question of whether an issue is an arbitrable one under the collective bargaining agreement is a question of law for determination by the Court. International Union, etc. v. Benton Harbor Malleable Industries, 6 Cir., 242 F.2d 536, 539-540, certiorari denied, 355 U.S. 814, 78 S.Ct. 15, 2 L.Ed. 2d 31; Local No. 149, etc., v. General Electric Co., 1 Cir., 250 F.2d 922, certiorari denied, 356 U.S. 938, 78 S.Ct. 780, 2 L.Ed.2d 813. In American Lava Corporation v. Local Union No. 222, etc., 6 Cir., 250 F.2d 137, we held the grievance there involved to be arbitrable and required the employer to arbitrate. We did not, however, attempt to adjudicate the grievance on its merits.

Nor do we think that arbitration could be denied as a matter of law on the ground relied upon by the appellee, namely, that the issue involved had previously been adjudicated by the Hamilton County Circuit Court. Contrary to appellee's contention, there has been no adjudication that Sparks was 25 per cent permanently disabled. The State Court judgment in the Workmen's Compensation proceeding referred to the dispute existing between the parties with respect to the injuries and approved a compromise settlement without making a finding on the extent of the injuries. The question of estoppel may be involved, but the nature and extent of Sparks' injuries were not judicially determined.

However, it is settled law that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed if the appellate court is of the opinion that it is correct, even though for reasons different from those relied upon by the trial judge. Helvering v. Gowran, 302 U.S. 238, 245, 58 S.Ct. 154, 82 L.Ed. 224; J. E. Riley Investment Co. v....

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  • Dann v. Studebaker-Packard Corporation, 13940.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • February 6, 1961
    ...77 S.Ct. 307, 1 L.Ed.2d 314; LeTulle v. Scofield, 1940, 308 U.S. 415, 421, 60 S.Ct. 313, 84 L.Ed. 355. 6 United Steelworkers of America v. American Mfg. Co., 6 Cir., 264 F.2d 624, 626, certiorari granted 1959, 361 U.S. 881, 80 S.Ct. 152, 4 L.Ed.2d 118; Sherman v. Air Reduction Sales Co., 6 ......
  • Refinery Employees Union v. Continental Oil Co.
    • United States
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    • June 25, 1959
    ...1 Cir., 1957, 250 F.2d 922, certiorari denied, 1958, 356 U. S. 938, 78 S.Ct. 780, 2 L.Ed.2d 813; United Steelworkers of America v. American Manufacturing Co., 6 Cir., 264 F.2d 624. The power to determine arbitrability carries with it the power to define and limit the arbitrable issue. See C......
  • Fitzgerald v. General Elec. Co.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • June 10, 1965
    ...attorney's representation that he had a permanent partial disability, was entitled to return to his job (for a statement of facts, see 6 Cir., 264 F.2d 624). This, or course, raised an arbitrable question of interpretation, as the contract allowed management to discharge an employee 'for ca......
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • November 10, 1981
    ...court had denied a petition to compel arbitration on the ground that the grievance was "a frivolous patently baseless one," 264 F.2d 624, 628 (6th Cir. 1959). It was this kind of implicit determination of the merits of labor disputes that the Court believed should be avoided whenever arbitr......
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