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General Teamsters Local Union No. 114 v. Castellini Co.

January 25, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: S. Arthur Spiegel United States Senior District Judge


This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 10), Defendant's Combined Response and Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (docs. 14, 15), and Plaintiff's Combined Reply in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment and Response to Defendant's Cross Motion (docs. 16, 17). For the reasons indicated herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion, GRANTS Defendant's Motion, and DISMISSES this case from the Court's docket.

I. Background

Plaintiff General Teamsters Local Union 114 ("Union") brought its Complaint on April 3, 2006, alleging that Defendant Castellini Company ("Castellini") violated Section 301 of the Labor Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185, when it unilaterally changed health benefits provided to employees, while ignoring terms of the collective bargaining agreement mandating that any change in health insurance benefits must be reasonably similar to benefits currently in existence (doc. 1). Plaintiff appealed Defendant's change in health insurance benefits through the grievance procedure provided in the collective bargaining agreement, which culminated in arbitration before Arbitrator Michael Paolucci (Id.). Arbitrator Paolucci issued his Opinion and Award denying Plaintiff's grievance on February 9, 2006 (Id.). Plaintiff requests this Court vacate the Arbitrator's decision, to declare that Defendant's actions constitute a breach of the collective bargaining agreement because the changes in question did not result in "reasonably similar" health benefits, and to award Plaintiff its costs and reasonable attorneys' fees (Id.). Defendant argues the Court should confirm the Arbitrator's decision and award it reasonable attorneys' fees (doc. 5). As the Union has its principal place of business in Ohio, and Castellini is a Delaware corporation, there is no dispute that the Court has both federal subject matter and diversity jurisdiction over the dispute.

II. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Although a grant of summary judgment is not a substitute for trial, it is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; see also, e.g., Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464 (1962); LaPointe v. United Autoworkers Local 600, 8 F.3d 376, 378 (6th Cir.1993); Osborn v. Ashland County Bd. of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Servs., 979 F.2d 1131, 1133 (6th Cir.1992)(per curiam). In reviewing the instant motion, "this Court must determine whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Patton v. Bearden, 8 F.3d 343, 346 (6th Cir.1993), quoting in part Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)(internal quotation marks omitted).

The process of moving for and evaluating a motion for summary judgment and the respective burdens it imposes upon the movant and the non-movant are well settled. First, "a party seeking summary judgment. . . bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact[.]" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also LaPointe, 8 F.3d at 378; Guarino v. Brookfield Township Trustees, 980 F.2d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 1992); Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989). The movant may do so by merely identifying that the non-moving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case. See Barnhart v. Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling Co., L.P.A., 12 F.3d 1382, 1389 (6th Cir. 1993).

Faced with such a motion, the non-movant, after completion of sufficient discovery, must submit evidence in support of any material element of a claim or defense at issue in the motion on which it would bear the burden of proof at trial, even if the moving party has not submitted evidence to negate the existence of that material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. 317; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). As the "requirement [of the Rule] is that there be no genuine issue of material fact," an "alleged factual dispute between the parties" as to some ancillary matter "will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis added); see generally Booker v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., Inc., 879 F.2d 1304, 1310 (6th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see also Gregory v. Hunt, 24 F.3d 781, 784 (6th Cir. 1994). Accordingly, the non-movant must present "significant probative evidence" demonstrating that "there is [more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" to survive summary judgment and proceed to trial on the merits. Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339-40 (6th Cir. 1993); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Guarino, 980 F.2d at 405.

Although the non-movant need not cite specific page numbers of the record in support of its claims or defenses, "the designated portions of the record must be presented with enough specificity that the district court can readily identify the facts upon which the non-moving party relies." Guarino, 980 F.2d at 405, quoting Inter-Royal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir.1989)(internal quotation marks omitted). In contrast, mere conclusory allegations are patently insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See McDonald v. Union Camp Corp., 898 F .2d 1155, 1162 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court must view all submitted evidence, facts, and reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970); United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654 (1962). Furthermore, the district court may not weigh evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses in deciding the motion. See Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375, 378 (6th Cir. 1994).

Ultimately, the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that no material facts are in dispute. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. The fact that the non-moving party fails to respond to the motion does not lessen the burden on either the moving party or the Court to demonstrate that summary judgment is appropriate. See Guarino, 980 F.2d at 410; Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454-55 (6th Cir. 1991).

III. The Parties' Cross Motions

The dispute between the parties involves differing interpretations of Section 28:12 of the 2004 collective bargaining agreement, which provides:

28:12 The Employer reserves the right to select the insurance carrier to provide insurance benefits, including benefits under the Plus Plan, and to change insurance carriers or to self-insure for any or all of the benefits, provided the benefits remain reasonably similar to those which existed before the change. Prior to any adverse change in health insurance benefits, the Employer agrees to review such contemplated benefit change(s) with the Union prior to the time such change(s) become effective. After such review, the Employer need not have the Union's agreement to implement the change(s). If a contemplated benefit change(s) in health insurance is reasonably similar to that which already exists, the Employer need not review such contemplated change(s) with the Union prior to the time such change(s) become effective.

Plaintiff views the entire provision as controlled by its first sentence, such that the provision only allows for changes to the health insurance benefits at issue when such changes result in benefits that are reasonably similar to those that existed before the change (doc. 10). Because the changes effected by Defendant resulted in changes to the "Plus Plan," including a new deductible, an increase in the out-of-pocket expenses for family plans, increases in certain co-payments, as well as changes to the "PPO Plan" including increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses by one hundred percent, and new co-payments, Plaintiff argues it is readily apparent that such changes do not result in "reasonably similar" benefits (Id.). Plaintiff argues Arbitrator Paolucci failed to address whether the ...

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