Gachett v. Retail Wholesale Department Store Union
ORDER granting 25 Motion to Dismiss and Gachett's 24 Amended Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Honorable Judge Mark E. Fuller on 2/18/2014. (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DEPARTMENT STORE UNION,
CASE NO. 2:11-cv-398-MEF
(WO – Do Not Publish)
This cause is before the Court on Defendant Retail Wholesale Department Store
Union’s (“the Union”) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #25). The Union moves to dismiss Plaintiff
Henry Gachett’s (“Gachett”) First Amended Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 41(b)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the Union’s motion
is due to be GRANTED.
Facts and Procedural History
On April 11, 2011, Gachett filed this suit in the Circuit Court of Bullock County,
Alabama. Gachett sued the Union for misrepresentation, fraud, negligence/wantonness,
breach of contract, and bad faith. (Doc. #1-1.) Gachett claims that the Union refused to
provide him with representation after he was terminated by Wayne Farms even though he
had paid union dues. The Union timely removed the case to this Court on May 25, 2011, on
the grounds of federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. #1.) The Union argued that three of
Gachett’s five claims were preempted by § 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act
(“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185. The LMRA preempts any state law clam that is “inextricably
intertwined” with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. See Allis-Chalmers v.
Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 211 (1985).
Gachett filed a motion to remand and disputed that Counts One through Three were
preempted by § 301 of the LMRA. The Court denied Gachett’s motion to remand on January
17, 2012, and held that the first three counts of Gachett’s complaint were preempted by § 301
of the LMRA since Gachett’s claims necessarily required interpretation of a collective
bargaining agreement. (Doc. #12.) The Court exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the
remaining state law claims for bad faith and breach of contract.
The Union then filed a motion to dismiss the remaining counts of Gachett’s complaint
on the grounds that they too were preempted by the LMRA, and that the statute of limitations
for the duty of fair representation claims had run. (Docs. #15, 16.) The Court agreed that
Counts Four and Five were preempted as “hybrid” claims for a § 301/breach of the fair duty
of representation.1 (Doc. #23.) The Court also noted in its order on the Union’s motion to
dismiss that Gachett ignored the Court’s prior order on the motion to remand by arguing that
none of Gachett’s claims were preempted, rather than only Counts Four and Five. (Doc. #23,
at 3.) However, the Court further held that whether Gachett’s claims were barred by the sixmonth statute of limitations was a matter for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court
Count Six was dismissed with prejudice on the grounds that fictitious party practice is
impermissible in federal courts.
ordered Gachett to “file an amended complaint clarifying the precise nature of his federal
claims on or before April 29, 2013.” (Doc. #23, at 15) (emphasis added).
In blatant disregard of the Court’s March 29, 2013 order on the Union’s motion to
dismiss, Gachett filed an amended complaint that stated:
Plaintiff incorporates all pertinent provisions of the original
Complaint and re-asserts and re-alleges that Counts 1–6 of this
Amended Complaint are brought solely under Alabama state law
and denies that said Counts asserted herein are governed by the
collective bargaining agreement between Wayne Farms and the
Union, the duty of fair representation . . . or any another [sic]
federal law or statute.
(Doc. #24, at 1.) The factual basis of Gachett’s claims were essentially the same as in his
original complaint, namely, that the Union refused to represent him in an appeal of his
termination by Wayne Farms despite paying his dues. (Doc. #24, at 2–3.) The Union
subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on the grounds that Gachett’s
claims were preempted by the LMRA and that his claims were due to be dismissed under
Rule 41(b) for failure to follow a court order. (Docs. #25, 26.) More specifically, the Union
argued that Gachett’s amended complaint should be dismissed under Rule 41(b) because he
failed to follow the Court’s express directives in its March 29, 2013 order to file an amended
complaint pleading his claims as federal claims. (Doc. #26, at 3.) In his response brief,
Gachett states, without any supporting argument, that “Plaintiff has complied with the
Court’s March 29, 2013 Order . . . .” (Doc. #28, at 3.)
Gachett’s amended complaint is due to be dismissed with prejudice under Rule 41(b)
for failure to follow the Court’s order to re-plead his claims as federal claims. Rule 41(b)
states that “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order,
a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b)
(emphasis added). This rule recognizes a district court’s “inherent authority to manage its
own docket so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.” Equity
Lifestyle Props., Inc. v. Fla. Mowing & Landscape Serv., Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th
Cir. 2009) (quotation and citation omitted). A district court may dismiss an action with
prejudice under Rule 41(b) if there is “a clear record of delay or willful contempt and a
finding that lesser sanctions would not suffice.” Jones v. Graham, 709 F.2d 1457, 1458
(11th Cir. 1983). The Court finds that Gachett’s violation of the Court’s March 29, 2013
order was in willful contempt and that a lesser sanction than dismissal with prejudice will not
Gachett’s filing of an amended complaint that expressly asserts only state law claims
is in willful contempt of this Court’s March 29, 2013 order, because that order found all of
Gachett’s claims to be preempted by the LMRA and expressly commanded Gachett to “file
an amended complaint clarifying the precise nature of his federal claims . . . .” (Doc. #23,
at 15) (emphasis added). Nevertheless, Gachett filed an amended complaint pleading only
state law claims and stated in the amended complaint that all claims “are brought solely
under Alabama state law and [Plaintiff] denies that said Counts asserted” in the amended
complaint were federal claims. (Doc. #24, at 1.)
In essence, Gachett, through filing the amended complaint, is acting in concerted
defiance of this Court’s clear and unequivocal order. The claims in the amended complaint
arise out of the same facts alleged in the original complaint, and the Court has already held
any claims arising out of these facts are preempted by the LMRA and must be pled
accordingly. “A district court need not tolerate defiance of reasonable orders.” Equity
Lifestyle, 556 at 1241 (citation omitted). In Equity Lifestyle, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the
district court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice under Rule 41(b) when
the plaintiff failed to file an amended complaint that followed the district court’s order to
plead certain claims. Id. at 1239. Like the plaintiff in Equity Lifestyle, Gachett “simply
ignored the court’s instruction” and used the Court’s order allowing him to re-plead his state
law claims as “an opportunity to reconsider [his] strategy.” Id. The Court finds such
disregard of a court order to be willful contempt as required for dismissal with prejudice
under Rule 41(b).
The Court further finds that a lesser sanction than dismissal with prejudice will not
serve the ends of justice. Gachett ignored the Court’s order on his motion to remand when
he argued in his response to the Union’s first motion to dismiss that none of his claims were
preempted, even though the Court held Counts One through Three were preempted in its
earlier order. Gachett subsequently disregarded the Court’s order that he re-plead his state
law claims as federal claims and even boldly claimed in his response brief to the Union’s
second motion to dismiss that “Plaintiff has complied with the Court’s March 29, 2013 Order
. . . .” (Doc. #28, at 3.) Gachett has thus disregarded two of this Court’s orders and claims
in a filing submitted to this Court to have complied with an order he expressly defies.
Gachett’s disregard for the orders of this Court demonstrate that any lesser sanction for
violation of a court order would not suffice. See Jones, 709 F.2d at 1463 (stating that
“demonstrated disregard of court orders” led to reasonable conclusion that “further attempts
to try lesser sanctions would be futile”).
Further, a lesser sanction would punish the Union, which has already litigated the
issue of preemption in both its opposition to the motion to remand and its first motion to
dismiss. The Union has been forced to file another brief arguing the issue of preemption in
its second motion to dismiss even though the preemption of Gachett’s state law claims was
decided by two previous orders of the Court. Gachett’s amended complaint serves only to
delay the proceedings and prejudices the Union by attempting to introduce new state law
claims. See Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir. 1985) (“As any further delay
would have greatly prejudiced defendants, a lesser sanction than dismissal would not have
served the interests of justice.”).
Therefore, since Gachett’s actions were in willful contempt of the Court’s March 29,
2013 order and because a lesser sanction would not suffice to serve the interests of justice,
it is hereby
ORDERED that the Union’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #25) is GRANTED and
Gachett’s Amended Complaint (Doc. #24) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
A separate final judgment will be entered in accordance with this order.
DONE this the 18th day of February, 2014.
/s/ Mark E. Fuller
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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