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International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 701 v. CBF Trucking

June 10, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.


This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff International Brotherhood for Teamsters, Local 701's ("Local 701") Motion to Dismiss Defendant CBF Trucking, Inc.'s ("CBF") Counterclaim and to Confirm the Arbitration Award [docket # 8], and upon CBF's Cross-Motion to Vacate or Modify the Arbitration Award [docket # 9]. The Court has decided the motions upon the parties' written submissions, without oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons given below, Local 701's Motion to Dismiss CBF's Counterclaim and to Confirm the Arbitration Award is granted, and CBF's Motion to Vacate or Modify the Arbitration Award is denied.

I. Background

Local 701 and CBF are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") effective January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2011. (Arbitration Award 1.) CBF is a privately held company which contracts with the United States Postal Service to transport mail between facilities. A dispute between the parties arose after CBF terminated union member Michael Mickens ("Mickens") for failure to complete one of his scheduled mail runs, Trip 816, on the evening of November 25, 2008.

At a meeting between the parties on December 16, 2008, Mickens denied any wrongdoing and insisted he had completed all of his assigned runs. (Id. at 12.) Thereafter, CBF obtained documentation confirming that Mickens did not make the scheduled mail run and consequently issued a termination letter on December 23, 2008. (Id. at 13.) The union submitted a grievance over the termination, which was denied by CBF. (Id. at 2.) The Union then filed a demand for arbitration consistent with Article 6 of the CBA. (Id.)

At arbitration, Mickens claimed that Security Guard Bratton ("Bratton"), whom he believed to be transmitting directions from the dispatcher, informed him that he did not need to complete the run. (Id. at 18-20.) Bratton could not confirm that he had told Mickens that he did not need to complete the trip in question. However, he confirmed Mickens's general testimony that security guards sometimes relay communications from dispatch to truck drivers and that it was "possible" he gave Mickens the alleged instructions. (Id. at 18-19.) Noting Bratton's testimony and the fact that Mickens went on to complete his next scheduled run, the arbitrator found Mickens's testimony credible. (Id. at 18-20.) The arbitrator further found that CBF failed to submit substantial, non-hearsay evidence to refute Mickens's testimony and thus did not carry its burden to establish just cause for the termination. (Id. at 20.) On September 9, 2009, the arbitrator issued an opinion and award granting Mickens reinstatement to his former position along with full back pay and benefits from the date of his termination to the date of his reinstatement. (Id. at 21.)

On October 23, 2009, Local 701 filed a complaint pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C § 185, and the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et. seq., seeking to enforce the arbitration award ordering reinstatement. On December 8, 2009, CBF filed a counterclaim to vacate or, in the alternative, to modify the award. Local 701 then filed a motion to dismiss CBF's counterclaim and to confirm the arbitration award on March 12, 2010. On March 26, 2010, CBF filed a cross-motion to vacate or modify the arbitration award.

II. Analysis

"In a proceeding to confirm or vacate an arbitration award, a court's review is exceedingly narrow." Eichleay Corp. v. International Ass'n of Bridge, 944 F.2d 1047, 1055-56 (3d Cir. 1991). The Third Circuit has repeatedly stressed that there is a strong presumption in favor of confirming arbitration awards. See Major League Umpires Ass'n v. Am. League of Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 357 F.3d 272, 280 (3d Cir. 2004); see also Dluhos v. Strasburg, 321 F.3d 365, 370 (3d Cir. 2003).

The FAA sets out the exclusive grounds under which a court can vacate or modify an arbitration award. Hall Street Associates, L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 584 (2008). The FAA allows a court to vacate an arbitration award only where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means, where there was evident partiality or corruption on the part of the arbitrators, where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct, or where the arbitrators exceeded their powers or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite award was not made. 9 U.S.C. § 10(a). CBF makes several arguments for why the Court must vacate the award: (1) because it was "procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means," (2) because the arbitrator acted with "manifest disregard for the law," and (3) because the award violates public policy.

A. Award Procured by Fraud or Undue Means

In order to vacate an award on the basis of fraud, the party seeking to vacate must: 1) establish the existence of the fraud by clear and convincing evidence; 2) show that the fraud could not have been discoverable upon the exercise of due diligence prior to or during the arbitration; and 3) demonstrate that the fraud materially related to an issue in the arbitration. Bapu, 2010 WL at *5. Courts have applied this same three-part test to claims of undue means. See, e.g., A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc. v. McCollough, 967 F.2d 1401, 1404 (9th Cir. 1992).Therefore, the Court's analysis of CBF's fraud claim applies with equal force to CBF's undue means claim.

CBF alleges that the Mickens fraudulently withheld critical evidence directly related to his termination in an effort to mislead and defraud the arbitrator.*fn1 (Mem. Opp'n Pl.'s Mot. Dismiss 2.) The evidence at issue is one or more tape recordings, which CBF contends Mickens secretly made, of meetings between Mickens and CBF prior to the arbitration. During these meetings, Mickens repeatedly insisted that he had completed all trips, including Trip 816. At the arbitration hearing, however, Mickens conceded that he had not completed the run because he had been following what he believed to be official instructions from Bratton. (Id.) CBF argues that these tape recordings would have called Mickens's credibility into question and led the arbitrator to a different result. (Id. at 16.)

The Court first notes that Mickens' failure to provide CBF with the tape recordings until after the arbitration award had been finalized is fraudulent or undue conduct that could be grounds for vacating the arbitration award. Willful destruction or withholding of evidence constitutes fraud under the FAA. Trans Chemical Ltd. v. China Nat. Machinery Import and Export Corp., 161 F.3d 314, 319 (5th Cir. 1998). Withholding the tapes denied the arbitrator relevant evidence that may have clarified CBF's and Mickens' positions regarding what happened on the night of November 25, 2008 ...

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