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GOINS v. TEAMSTERS LOCAL 639

April 12, 1984

Robert K. GOINS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TEAMSTERS LOCAL 639--EMPLOYERS HEALTH AND PENSION TRUST, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

 BARRINGTON D. PARKER, District Judge:

 This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The defendants who request summary judgment are the Drivers, Chauffeurs & Helpers, Local Union No. 639 ("Union") and James Woodward, a business agent for the Union. The remaining defendants, the Teamsters Local 639 -- Employers Health & Pension Trust ("Local 639 Trust") and the trustees, are not involved in the pending motion. The plaintiffs are representatives of the estate of Huston Goins, deceased. They claim that Huston Goins, as a participant in the Local 639 Trust, was denied a disability pension as a result of a 1978 amendment to the eligibility requirements which precluded him from receiving these benefits.

 The plaintiffs assert three claims against the Union and the Trust: that the Union violated its duty of fair representation by failing to negotiate a fair and equitable pension plan; that Woodward violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1140 and 1141 in willfully and deliberately making false statements to Goins concerning his pension rights; and lastly, that Woodward is guilty of common law fraud, deceit, negligence, and breach of trust in connection with these false statements.

 The Local 639 Trust is an employee benefit plan as defined in ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. In 1972, the plan provided that a participant with five years of credited service would be eligible for monthly disability benefits. It was amended in 1978 to require at least ten years of credited service during the contribution period before a participant could receive monthly disability benefits. In 1978, the trust agreement provided that the Board of Trustees had full authority to define the nature and extent of all disability benefits, and to amend all conditions and qualifications for benefits. The uncontradicted affidavit of Joseph Connors, a trustee of the Local 639 Trust, states that the pension trustees exercised their exclusive power and authority to institute and amend the disability benefit provision in 1978, and that neither the Union nor defendant Woodward played any role in establishing or amending the plan.

 By the end of 1977, Huston Goins had accumulated more than five years of continuous participation under the terms of the Trust agreement. When he became disabled in 1979, he was unable to satisfy the more restrictive ten-year requirement imposed by the 1978 amendment. His application for monthly disability benefits was denied on August 20, 1980 and the trustees subsequently denied his appeal from that decision on September 22, 1980. *fn1"

 The plaintiffs filed this law suit on September 22, 1983. The plaintiffs allege that summary judgment cannot be granted in favor of the Union and Woodward because there are two disputed facts. First, they assert that the nature and extent of the Union participation in the 1978 amendment is disputed. Second, they contend that there is an issue of fact as to whether Woodward intentionally provided Goins with false information concerning his eligibility for disability benefits. In this regard, Woodward flatly denies that he told Goins that the ten-year rule was not applicable to employees who had already satisfied the five-year rule.

 For the reasons set out below, the Court determines that resolution of the dispositive legal issues renders resolution of these disputed factual issues unnecessary. Accordingly, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted on the claims for relief asserted against the Union and Woodward.

 LEGAL ANALYSIS

 A.

 Breach of the Duty of Fair Representation

 A cause of action for a breach of the duty of fair representation is governed by the six-month statute of limitations for such claims, as set forth in the recent United States Supreme Court decision in DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 103 S. Ct. 2281, 2285, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1983). For statute of limitations purposes, the Court declined to distinguish various claims for breach of the duty of fair representation, and in fact, suggested that all such claims should be treated in a similar fashion. Id., 103 S. Ct. at 2285, 2293-94. Since the plaintiffs' claim was brought more than six months after Mr. Goins' cause of action accrued, it is time-barred under DelCostello.

 Moreover, judicial willingness to preclude retroactive applications of certain decisions, as set forth in Chevron Oil Co. v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 92 S. Ct. 349, 30 L. Ed. 2d 296 (1971), does not afford the plaintiffs any protection. First, the Chevron court decided only that a new statute of limitations period should not "be applied retroactively to bar actions filed before the date of its announcement." Id., 404 U.S. at 99, 92 S. Ct. at 351-52. Since this action was filed after the announcement of the six-month limitations period in DelCostello, the Chevron test is facially inapplicable. Moreover, the circuit courts that have considered the retrospective application of the DelCostello rule have looked at cases pending at the time DelCostello was decided, not cases brought after the DelCostello decision was announced. See, e.g. McNaughton v. Dillingham Corp., 722 F.2d 1459, 1460 (9th Cir.1984).

 Second, even if the Chevron test is applied as broadly as plaintiffs suggest, the United States Supreme Court has applied the six-month statute of limitations period to bar suit under circumstances similar to those now before the Court. In DelCostello, the Court applied the just-announced statute of limitations to bar a cause of action which the plaintiff would otherwise have enjoyed under earlier law. Id., 103 S. Ct. at 2287, 2294. In addition, the six-month limitations period has been given retroactive effect by every circuit which has considered the issue, see e.g., Perez ...


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