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Ritz Hotels Services, LLC v. Brotherhood of Amalgamated Trades Local Union 514

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 30, 2019

RITZ HOTELS SERVICES, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
BROTHERHOOD OF AMALGAMATED TRADES LOCAL UNION 514, et al Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D J.

         This matter arises out of a labor dispute between Plaintiff Ritz Hotels Services, LLC ("Plaintiff) and Defendants Brotherhood of Amalgamated Trades Local Union 514 ("Local 514") and its president, Joshua Gottlieb (with Local 514, "Defendants"). The matter comes before the Court upon Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 23. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are set forth in the Court's June 28, 2019 opinion ("June Opinion"), familiarity with which is assumed. ECF No. 18. In short, while Defendants attempted to organize Plaintiffs employees into Local 514, they published statements accusing Plaintiff of "commit[ing] numerous unfair labor practices." Amend. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF No. 20 ("AC") (emphasis omitted). As a result, Plaintiff sued for defamation (Count 1), defamation per se (Count Two), false light invasion of privacy (Count Three), trade libel (Count Four), tortious interference with contract (Count Five), tortious interference with contractual relations (Count Six), and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage (Count Seven).

         In the June Opinion, the Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction but provided Plaintiff with leave to amend its complaint. Id. Plaintiff filed the AC on July 15, 2019. Now before the Court is Defendant's second motion to dismiss pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(1). ECF No. 23; Def. Mem. in Support, ECF No. 26 ("Def. Mem.").

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         "A challenge to subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may be either a facial or a factual attack. The former challenges subject matter jurisdiction without disputing the facts alleged in the complaint." Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir. 2016). Courts "accept the Plaintiffs' well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the Plaintiffs' favor." In re Horizon Healthcare Servs. Inc. Data Breach Litig., 846 F.3d 625, 633 (3d Cir. 2017). In contrast, factual challenges attack "the factual allegations underlying the complaint's assertion of jurisdiction." Davis, 824 F.3d at 346 (cleaned up).

         Here, Defendants appear to launch both facial and factual attacks on the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. While Defendants regurgitate the Court's previous articulation of the legal standard for a facial attack and cite to outside evidence, see Def. Mem. at 5, 12, most of Defendants' argument relates to deficiencies in the AC, id. at 10-12. Thus, the Court will analyze both the facial and factual sufficiency of its subject matter jurisdiction.

         B. Garmon Preemption Generally

         Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Court's jurisdiction is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., and the claims are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"). Pursuant to San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 245 (1959), "if a cause of action implicates [Section 7 or 8] of the NLRA, the cause of action is preempted" (hereinafter, "Garmon Preemption"). Voilas v. Gen. Motors Corp., 170 F.3d 367, 378 (3d Cir. 1999). Thus, state "causes of action are presumptively preempted if they concern conduct that is actually or arguably either prohibited or protected by [Sections 7 or 8]." Id.

         As the Court previously explained, the conduct at issue here "arguably falls within the jurisdiction of the NLRB." June Op. at 4. Defendants "sought to persuade [Plaintiffs] employees to join Local 514 and exerted economic pressure on [Plaintiffs] customers. Such conduct is entitled to protection under the NLRA." Id. Thus, Garmon Preemption applies. Id.

         C. Exceptions to Garmon Preemption

         Garmon Preemption is not unlimited. As the Court previously explained, "conduct that actually or arguably falls under Sections 7 or 8 may escape NLRB's primary jurisdiction if the claim touches interests [] deeply rooted in local feeling and responsibility. Examples include claims involving violence or threats of violence[] and malicious libel." Id. at 3 (cleaned up). Thus, for a defamation claim to escape Garmon Preemption, plaintiffs must allege defendants acted with malice. Id. Further, other causes of action predicated on allegedly defamatory statements require the same level of culpability as direct defamation claims. See Compuware Corp. v. Moody's Inv'rs Servs., Inc., 499 F.3d 520, 529-30 (6th Cir. 2007) (discussing tortious interference and breach of contract claims). ...


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