Union banquet server's claim dismissed by appeals court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Dec 23, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – Judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have found a banquet server’s complaint against his union employer failed to state a proper and sufficient claim, in keeping with the view of the case’s trial court.

On Dec. 20, Judges Michael A. Chagares, Cheryl Ann Krause and Jane R. Roth decided to uphold the dismissal of a motion for reconsideration from plaintiff Joseph DiGenova filed against union Unite Here Local 274 and its previous incarnations, for failure to state any plausible claim.

DiGenova is employed as a banquet server with Unite Here Local 274. The Third Circuit disclosed DiGenova had filed numerous complaints against his union over the years, including a series of lawsuits in 2013 the District Court dismissed as “unintelligible”, and for which DiGenova did not appeal.

This action concerns another such complaint, though the District Court dismissed it without prejudice for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a) and for failure to state a claim.

The District Court interpreted DiGenova’s complaint as an attempt to allege a claim for age discrimination, but concluded “the complaint did not adequately set forth any basis for such a claim” and further granted DiGenova leave to amend.

DiGenova then filed an amended complaint, which the District Court also dismissed (this time with prejudice) for failure to comply with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

This rule dictates a pleading which states a claim for relief must contain: “A short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support; a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.”

The District Court decided DiGenova had “cobbled together a number of documents with incoherent statements, attachments, and letters from third parties” and “once again did not set forth any discernible claim.” DiGenova additionally filed a document ostensibly seen as a motion for reconsideration. The District Court denied that motion, leading DiGenova to appeal.

The Third Circuit decided the District Court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 8, since DiGenova did not make “a short and plain statement” of any of his claims.

“DiGenova’s amended complaint also fails to state any plausible claim to relief on the merits. DiGenova’s amended complaint makes stray references to ‘discrimination’, but none of his filings – including his brief on appeal – suggests any basis for any plausible claim in that regard. DiGenova’s amended complaint otherwise consists entirely of conclusory assertions in various documents of fraud and other misconduct dating back to 2005. Thus, we conclude that DiGenova failed to state any plausible claim. We further conclude that the District Court did not err in denying reconsideration or in declining to grant DiGenova leave to further amend,” the Third Circuit said.

“We briefly address four other issues. First, DiGenova asserts in his notice of appeal that ‘there is nothing confusing about this case’ because ‘it is about Lilly Ledbetter Law equal pay for equal work,” the Third Circuit commented. “The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 enacted a statute of limitations that is not related to the District Court’s reason for dismissing DiGenova’s amended complaint or to the reasons why it fails to state a plausible claim to relief.”

The appellate court further determined DiGenova made no plausible claim in reference to the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), had no basis to remand this matter to the District Court, nor had any cause to request appointment of counsel since he didn’t appear to have any potentially meritorious claim.

“Without any basis to conclude that any such claims might be potentially valid we cannot say that the District Court erred by not appointing counsel or in dismissing DiGenova’s amended complaint,” the appellate court said.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 15-3358

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-04143

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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