RIVERS v. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 673 et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler on 6/13/17. (sr, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 15-3070 (SRC)
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER :
CARRIERS, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 673 et al., :
This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation issued by
Magistrate Judge Waldor on August 16, 2016, and the Report and Recommendation issued by
Magistrate Judge Waldor on May 9, 2017. For the reasons stated below, this Court agrees with
both Reports and Recommendations and will adopt them as the Opinion of this Court.
In 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging discrimination by a labor union which asserted
four claims: 1) breach of the duty of fair representation; 2) violation of the right to equal
protection; 3) violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”); and 4) violation
of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (“NJCRA”). The Complaint named as defendants three labor
union entities and three individuals alleged to be officers or administrators of these labor union
On February 6, 2016, this Court granted in part a motion to dismiss and dismissed some
parts of the first three claims with prejudice and some parts of the first three claims without
prejudice. On April 13, 2016, this Court granted Defendant Daniel Cunningham’s motion to
dismiss the Complaint and dismissed the claims against him without prejudice.
Although the Order of February 6, 2016 did not grant Plaintiff leave to file an Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff did so on April 4, 2016, followed by a motion for leave to file an Amended
Complaint. On August 9, 2016, Magistrate Judge Waldor denied the motion for leave to file an
Amended Complaint. After the time to appeal the Magistrate Judge’s decision had run, this Court
sua sponte closed the case, as there were no pending claims. On September 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed
a motion for reconsideration of Magistrate Judge Waldor’s decision, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59(e). On April 11, 2017, this Court reopened the case, and ruled that: 1)
Magistrate Judge Waldor’s decision of August 9, 2016 would be construed as a Report and
Recommendation; and 2) the pending motion for reconsideration would be heard by Magistrate
This Court now has before it two decisions of Magistrate Judge Waldor. both of which it
construes as a Report and Recommendation: 1) the August 9, 2016 Report and Recommendation,
which recommended that the motion for leave to amend be denied; and 2) the May 9, 2017 Report
and Recommendation, which found no grounds to reconsider the August 9, 2016 Report and
Recommendation. A magistrate judge's recommended disposition of a dispositive matter is subject
to de novo review. In re U.S. Healthcare, 159 F.3d 142, 145-46 (3d Cir. 1998); Fed. R. Civ. P.
In moving for reconsideration, Plaintiff raised two objections to Magistrate Judge Waldor’s
recommendation to deny leave to amend the Complaint: 1) the ruling on the duty of fair
representation is based on a mistake of fact; and 2) the ruling on the NJLAD claim is based on a
mistake of fact.
Plaintiff first argued that the Magistrate Judge’s decision with regard to the duty of fair
representation claim rests on a mistake of fact, but does not explain what constitutes that mistake
of fact. This Court reviews the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation de novo. As to Plaintiff’s
duty of fair representation claim against NALC and NALC 15, this Court dismissed that claim
without prejudice on February 1, 2016. A six-month statute of limitations applies to this claim.
Hersh v. Allen Products Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986). “[T]he statutory period begins to
run when the plaintiff receives notice that the union will proceed no further with the grievance.”
Id. Thus, the latest possible date on which the limitations period could have commenced is the
date that the original Complaint was filed, which is April 30, 2015. “[A] complaint that is
subsequently dismissed without prejudice is treated for statute of limitations purposes as if it never
existed.” Brennan v. Kulick, 407 F.3d 603, 606 (3d Cir. 2005). Plaintiff moved for leave to file an
Amended Complaint on April 24, 2016. The six-month statute of limitations period on the duty of
fair representation claim had run out at least six months previously. The Magistrate Judge did not
err in concluding that this claim was time-barred.
The next issue concerns the claim against NALC Branch 38. The original complaint
named as a defendant NALC Local 673, which never appeared in the case. In Plaintiff’s amended
motion for leave to amend, Plaintiff stated: “NALC Local Union 673 was dissolved and became
Branch 38. Branch 38 is the successor Local to Local 673.” (Pl.’s Br. at 2, Docket Entry No. 35.)
In moving to file an Amended Complaint, Plaintiff submitted a proposed Second Amended
Complaint with a duty of fair representation claim against Branch 38. Magistrate Judge Waldor
correctly held that such a claim could only avoid the six-month statute of limitations if it related
back to the Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1), which states, in
(1) When an Amendment Relates Back. An amendment to a pleading relates back
to the date of the original pleading when: . . .
(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a
claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided
by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by
(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending
on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought
against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.
Because the proposed claim against Branch 38 changes the party or the naming of the party against
whom the claim is asserted, Rule 15(c)(1)(C) controls the decision on whether the proposed
amendment relates back, and Magistrate Judge Waldor correctly recognized this. The Magistrate
Judge’s Report and Recommendation contains a detailed analysis of this issue.
Notice may be actual or constructive. Garvin v. City of Philadelphia, 354 F.3d 215, 222
(3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff does not contend that Branch 38 received actual notice. Therefore,
Plaintiff must demonstrate that Branch 38 received constructive notice. The Third Circuit has
recognized two methods for demonstrating constructive notice:
The first is the “shared attorney” method, which is based on the notion that when
the originally named party and the parties sought to be added are represented by the
same attorney, “the attorney is likely to have communicated to the latter party that
he may very well be joined in the action.” Singletary, 266 F.3d at 196. The second
is the “identity of interest” method, and is related to the shared attorney method.
“Identity of interest generally means that the parties are so closely related in their
business operations or other activities that the institution of an action against one
serves to provide notice of the litigation to the other.” Id. at 197.
Garvin, 354 F.3d at 222-223. Magistrate Judge Waldor made two key observations. First,
Plaintiff’s original brief in support of its motion to amend says nothing about the statute of
limitations, relation back or notice, whether constructive or actual. Plaintiff’s brief states that
Local 38 is the successor to Local 673, but does not address any legal issues regarding the
substitution of Local 38 for Local 673 as a defendant. Second, over a year elapsed between the
filing of the Complaint and the filing of Plaintiff’s amended motion for leave to file an amended
Complaint, and Plaintiff actively litigated the case throughout that time, but took no action to
address the fact that neither Local 673 nor Local 38 had appeared in this action.
Based on the record before her, the Magistrate Judge had no basis to allow Plaintiff to file
an Amended Complaint against Local 38. Plaintiff had not raised any of the relevant issues to the
In Plaintiff’s subsequent Rule 59(e) motion, now construed as a motion for reconsideration,
Plaintiff makes a number of arguments about relation back and notice to Local 38. These
arguments are made by Plaintiff for the first time in this case. Magistrate Judge Waldor correctly
ruled that Plaintiff had not demonstrated a basis to reconsider her decision under Third Circuit law.
Plaintiff next argues that the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation with regard to the
NJLAD claim rests on a mistake of fact: the Magistrate Judge erred in finding that the proposed
Amended Complaint did not plead sufficient facts to support a NJLAD claim against NALC. This
Court reviews the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation de novo. In brief, the Magistrate Judge
concluded that the proposed Amended Complaint did not plead sufficient facts to support a
NJLAD claim against a labor union. Plaintiff, on reconsideration, points to paragraphs 38 through
40 in the proposed Amended Complaint. This Court has reviewed the proposed Amended
Complaint and agrees with the Magistrate Judge that the proposed Amended Complaint did not
plead sufficient facts to support a NJLAD claim against a labor union. The Magistrate Judge did
not err in this decision.
This Court has reviewed de novo both the initial Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge, which denied Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend the Complaint, as well as the
subsequent Report and Recommendation, which denied Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration.
Both decisions are correct, and this Court will adopt Magistrate Judge Waldor’s Report and
Recommendation filed August 16, 2016 as the Opinion of this Court. Plaintiff’s motion to amend
the Complaint (Docket Entry No. 35) is hereby denied. Plaintiff has not filed an appeal of the
Magistrate Judge’s decision to the District Court. The time to do so has run, and so the decision is
s/ Stanley R. Chesler
Stanley R. Chesler, U.S.D.J.
Dated: June 13, 2017
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