PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia man’s lawsuit surrounding an internal dispute with his employment union has been ordered to return to the Philadelphia Municipal Court.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit judges Patty Shwartz, Marjorie O. Rendell and D. Michael Fisher determined in a per curiam ruling on Sept. 29 that a complaint filed by Michael Wiggins against Service Employees International Union Local 32 BJ and Wayne MacManaman was vacated and remanded to state court for further proceedings.
Wiggins is a member of SEIU Local 32 BJ and initially filed suit in state court against SEIU and his union representative, alleging the union failed to investigate and bring to arbitration, his grievance over his employer’s decision not to award him a certain position.
SEIU removed Wiggins’ complaint to federal court, claiming his legal challenge would fall under the auspices of federal law, and permitted the plaintiff to amend his complaint – denying the union’s motion as moot. The union then filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim.
Wiggins did not file a brief in opposition to that motion as required. Subsequently, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the union’s motion as unopposed and with no further analysis, dismissed Wiggins’ complaint with prejudice, leading Wiggins to appeal.
“We will vacate and remand. We have long recognized 'the policy of law which favors disposition of litigation on its merits.' Thus, we have held that District Courts may not grant a Rule 12(b)(6) (dismissal) motion as unopposed and dismiss a complaint 'solely on the basis of a local rule without any analysis of whether the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,' as provided in [Rule] 12(b)(6). That is because such a dismissal is not really a dismissal for failure to state a claim, but is instead a sanction,” the Third Circuit said.
“The District Court failed to do so. We could still affirm if we concluded that Wiggins’s amended complaint does indeed fail to state a claim, but we decline to decide that issue in the first instance. We note merely that our review of Wiggins’s amended complaint and the Union’s motion suggests that Wiggins’s allegations warrant at least some consideration on the merits by the District Court,” the Third Circuit concluded.
The defendants are represented by Katchen Locke of SEIU Local 32 BJ in New York City and Samuel L. Spear of Spear Wilderman Borish Endy Spear & Runckel, in Philadelphia.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 17-2148
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:17-cv-00376
Philadelphia Municipal Court Small Claims case SC-17-01-03-3140
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org