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Teamsters Local 331 v. Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

December 20, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez

Memorandum Order

This matter comes before the Court upon the motion of Defendant Philadelphia CocaCola Bottling Company (hereinafter "Coca-Cola" or "Defendant") seeking to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Teamsters Local 331 (hereinafter "Teamsters" or "Plaintiff") pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff has filed a complaint on behalf of its constituent, John King, III, who was employed as a full service driver for Coca-Cola. The complaint seeks enforcement of an arbitration award pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 (hereinafter the "Taft-Hartley Act"), 29 U.S.C.A. § 185. Defendant argues that subject mater jurisdiction is lacking in this case in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Circuit City Stores v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105 (2001), which held that the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C 1, et. seq., excludes coverage for transportation workers. The Court finds that Defendant's reliance on Circuit City Stores v. Adams, is misplaced as jurisdiction in this case is conferred by the Taft-Hartley Act and, therefore, denies Defendant's motion to dismiss.

I. Procedural History and Background Facts

Teamsters member John King, III, a full service driver, was terminated on October 31, 2006 following a medical exam, conducted by Coca-Cola's doctors, which concluded that Mr. King was unable to perform his duties due to a work-related injury. (Compl. at ¶3) Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, Teamsters filed a grievance on Mr. King's behalf and the matter was arbitrated. (Compl. at ¶¶4-6) Following the issuance of an award for reinstatement and back pay on July 1, 2005, Coca-Cola refused to comply with the award, citing the need for Mr. King to be medically evaluated before returning to work. (Compl. at ¶8) Consequently, the arbitrator ordered Mr. King to submit to a medical examination. The Teamsters' doctor and Coca-Cola's doctor came to opposing conclusions on the issue of Mr. King's physical ability to do his job, causing the arbitrator to order an independent medical examination. (Id.) This evaluation concluded that Mr. King was qualified to do his former job, but not the "newly assigned" tasks described in the job task analysis. ( Id.)

After a hearing on June 21, 2006, the arbitrator re-opened the record and issued an additional award, finding that the job tasks were invalid and that Mr. King be reinstated to his former position. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10) Teamsters contends that Coca-Cola has refused to comply with the Award, necessitating the Complaint filed with this Court. Coca-Cola submits in its Reply Brief that Mr. King has been reinstated and offered ninety days of back pay which has not yet been tendered because Teamsters disputes the amount. (Def. Reply at 1)

II. Standard

"It is a principle of first importance that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." 13 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3522 (2d ed. 1984). Accordingly, federal courts are duty-bound to ensure that they have jurisdiction over the matters before them. The instant motion was filed as one to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

A motion challenging a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) differs from a challenge made pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) in that it does not afford a plaintiff the benefit of all of the same procedural safeguards. Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1021 (3d Cir. 1997); Cohen v. Kurtzman, 45 F. Supp. 2d 423, 428 (D.N.J. 1999). Instead, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) attacks the right of a plaintiff to even be heard in federal court. Id. As such, a court cannot dismiss a claim under 12(b)(6) without first assuming subject matter jurisdiction; thus, a claim can be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or failure to state a claim, but not both. See Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991) (holding court must assume jurisdiction over a case before deciding legal issues on the merits); see also Spencer v. Casavilla, 903 F.2d 171, 173 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding "even if court believes that it would dismiss the complaint in response to a motion under [12(b)(6)], that is not reason to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction").

Dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(1) only when the claim "clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or . . . is wholly insubstantial and frivolous." Kehr, 926 F.2d at 1408-09 (citing Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)). A claim is insubstantial only if "'its unsoundness so clearly results from the previous decisions of this court as to foreclose the subject and leave no room for the inference that the questions sought to be raised can be the subject of controversy.'" Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 538 (1973) (citing Ex parte Poresky, 290 U.S. 30, 32 (1933)). Under a 12(b)(1) motion, unlike a 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion. Kehr, 926 F.2d at 1409. Here, the facts are not in dispute. The question to be decided is whether the exclusion in Section 1 of the FAA deprives the Court of jurisdiction in this action filed under the Taft-Hartley Act.

III. Analysis

The Taft-Hartley Act confers this Court with jurisdiction in this case and the exclusion contained in the Federal Arbitration Act does not impact this finding. Section 1 of The Federal Arbitration Act 9 U.S.C 1, et. seq. provides:

§ 1. "Maritime transactions" and "commerce" defined; exceptions to operation of title

"Maritime transactions", as herein defined, means charter parties, bills of lading of water carriers, agreements relating to wharfage, supplies furnished vessels or repairs to vessels, collisions, or any other matters in foreign commerce which, if the subject of controversy, would be embraced within admiralty jurisdiction; "commerce", as herein defined, means commerce among the several States or with foreign nations, or in any Territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia, or between any such Territory and another, or between any such Territory and any State or foreign nation, or between the District of Columbia and any State or Territory or foreign nation, but nothing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.

(emphasis added) The Taft Hartly Act, ยง301 Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 29 U.S.C.A. ...

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