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Flight Options, LLC v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 1, 2018

FLIGHT OPTIONS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, AIRLINE DIVISION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge

         Flight Options, LLC seeks to vacate an arbitration award that reinstated discharged pilot Captain John Hodges. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Airline Division and Teamsters Local Union No. 1108 (Local 1108) move to dismiss the complaint or to transfer venue to the Northern District of Ohio, where both Flight Options and Local 1108 are located. Flight Options, as Plaintiff, has selected the District of Columbia as its preferred forum; Defendant IBT Airline Division, the certified bargaining representative and signatory to the parties' collective bargaining agreement, is located in D.C. All parties agreed to arbitrate Captain Hodges' discharge in the District; the arbitration that is the focus of this case began and continued for two days in D.C.; and Defendant Local 1108 thereby had substantial contacts with D.C. and can be deemed to have consented to jurisdiction in D.C. The Court will deny the motion.

         I. FACTS

         According to the papers, Flight Options is a luxury jet fractional air carrier headquartered in Richmond Heights, Ohio. Flight Options is signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with IBT Airline Division that covers its pilots. IBT and IBT Airline Division are located in the District of Columbia. Local 1108, which “implement[s]” the collective bargaining agreement, see Defendants' Mot. to Dismiss or Transfer Venue (Defs.' Mot.) [Dkt. 5] at 2, is located in Richmond Heights, Ohio. The contract is governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. Flight Options seeks to vacate an arbitration award of the parties' System Board of Adjustment (Board), which was issued by Homer La Rue as Impartial Arbitrator and Board Chair from his place of business in Columbia, Maryland.[1] The parties' post-hearing briefs were submitted to the Board in Cleveland, Ohio, and to Arbitrator La Rue in Columbia, Maryland. The first two days of the arbitration hearing were conducted in Washington, D.C., and the last three days were conducted at various locations in or near Cleveland, Ohio. See Ex. 2, Defs.' Mot., Declaration of Business Agent Laddie J. Hostalek (Hostalek Decl.) [Dkt. 5-2] ¶ 2 (“IBT Local 1108 acts on behalf of Defendants” IBT and IBT Airline Division.); see Id. ¶ 19 (arbitration hearings in D.C. and Cleveland).

         “International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division, (‘IBT ALD”) [sic] is the National Mediation Board certified representative of the craft or class of pilots at Flight Options for labor law purposes under the RLA.” Id. ¶ 23. IBT Airline Division is “an administrative unit of IBT.” Id. ¶ 14. Neither “had any involvement in representing [Capt.] Hodges regarding his termination, ” as it was handled by Local 1108. Id. ¶ 24.

         Flight Options filed its Petition to Vacate Arbitration Award in this Court on September 12, 2017. [Dkt. 1]. On that same date, Local 1108 and IBT Airline Division filed an Action to Enforce Arbitration Award in the District Court of the Northern District of Ohio, where the parties are already conducting other, unrelated, litigation.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The parties argue over whether this Court in the District of Columbia has jurisdiction over Local 1108, which is an unincorporated association headquartered in Richmond, Ohio, where Flight Options is also headquartered. Specifically, each side cites 28 U.S.C. § 1391, which provides in relevant part:

(b) Venue in general.-A civil action may be brought in-
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . . .; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.
(c) Residency.-For all venue purposes- . . . (2) an entity with the capacity to sue and be sued in its common name under applicable law, whether or not incorporated, shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question . . . .

Id. § 1391(c)(2). Contending that “Local 1108 is the local affiliate of the IBT that handles the day-to-day representation of the pilots at Flight Options and actually prosecuted the grievance and arbitration from its headquarters in Richmond Heights, Ohio, ” Defendants argue that “[n]o substantial part of events or omissions giving rise to the claim for relief occurred in the District of Columbia, ” so that jurisdiction cannot be predicated on 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). Defs.' Mot. ...


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