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Roney v. Indianapolis Power and Light Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 23, 2016

BEVERLY A. CADE RONEY, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANAPOLIS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY, LOCAL UNION 1395 OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff Beverly Cade Roney's Motion for Relief Judgment and Order and Request to Amend Complaint [Docket No. 40] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), filed on September 25, 2015. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Roney worked for Defendant Indianapolis Power and Light Company (“IPL”) until October 12, 2012, when her employment was terminated. She concedes that her termination was classified as a retirement, but she has alleged that IPL forced her to retire due to favoritism and racial discrimination. During the relevant period of Roney's employment, there was a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between IPL and co-defendant, Local Union 1395 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (“the Union”) that required IPL to have “just cause” to discipline or discharge an employee, and allowed employees to file grievances challenging disciplinary actions or discharge decisions within fourteen days of the date on which such action was taken. At the time Roney's employment was terminated, there were grievances pending against her related to discipline that she had received while employed. Immediately following her termination, Roney met with a Union representative to report that her retirement was involuntary and discriminatory. She also complained of IPL's failure to hear and resolve her prior disciplinary grievances. Around the same time, she met with an attorney and asked in writing to the Union that any grievance filed on her behalf be fully processed. In February 2013, the Union responded to her by letter indicating that Roney's only two pending grievances against IPL dealt with discipline she had received prior to her termination and that both grievances had been processed completely pursuant to the contract provisions. No grievance, however, was ever filed relating to Roney's October 2012 termination, and she was not in contact with the Union regarding the disciplinary grievances after February 2013.

         Twenty months thereafter, on October 8, 2014, Roney brought an action in this Court against IPL and the Union pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act “(LMRA”), alleging that IPL breached the CBA by unlawfully terminating her and was liable for breach of contract, wrongful discharge, and constructive discharge [Docket No. 1 (Complaint)]. In her complaint, she also alleged that the Union breached its duty of fair representation in the manner in which it had handled her grievances [id.].

         On December 4, 2014, the Union filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6) [Docket No. 16]. IPL filed a separate Motion to Dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(c) on December 31, 2014, seeking judgment on the pleadings based on the allegations and the referenced documents in the Complaint central to Roney's claims [Docket No. 19].

         Roney's response to the Union's and to IPL's separate motions to dismiss were due on December 22, 2014, and January 2, 2015, respectively. She did not file a response on the earlier date and, on December 31, 2015, requested an extension of time until March 1, 2015, to respond to Defendants' motions. As of March 1, 2015, the Court had not yet ruled on Roney's motion but she did not file a response by that date. On March 4, 2015, IPL filed a Motion for Summary Ruling, citing the fact that Roney did not responded to its request for dismissal [Docket No. 26]. That same day, Roney sought another extension of time until April 15, 2015, to respond, stating that her counsel did not file a response because the extension motion had not been adjudicated. But Roney, through counsel, again did not respond by April 15, 2015. Finally, on August 31, 2015, we ordered Roney to file a response “forthwith” (this word was chosen in lieu of setting a specific date, given the history of the litigation). Following her counsel's request for another, short extension to respond to Defendants' motions to dismiss, on September 3, 2015, we ordered Roney to file a response immediately. The next day, Roney filed only a partial response- characterized as such because three days later, she filed a declaration in support of her response which, apparently, was intended to complete her response. This prompted Defendants to file a joint motion to strike Roney's response as non-compliant with the Court's September 3rd order [Docket No. 35].

         On September 21, 2015 [Docket No. 38], we issued a ruling on the pending motions. Noting that “we certainly [did] not condone Plaintiff's counsel's dilatoriness and lack of diligence in representing this client, ” we nonetheless considered Roney's response in ruling on Defendants' motions [Docket No. 38, fn 1]. We denied Defendant IPL's Motion for Summary Ruling [Docket No. 26] and Defendants' Joint Motion to Strike Roney's Declaration and Response [Docket No. 35], but granted Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Roney's Complaint [Docket Nos. 16 and 19] with prejudice. In so ruling, we held that Roney's claims relating to her discharge were filed long after the applicable six-month statute of limitations had expired [Docket No. 38 at pp. 7-8]. Further, her claims relating to the Union's failure to pursue her two disciplinary grievances had also passed and were thus clearly time-barred [Docket No. 38 at pp. 8-10].[1]

         Alternatively, we held that, even assuming that Roney had filed her Complaint within the six-month statute of limitations period applicable to hybrid § 301 claims, she failed to address the IPL's and the Union's arguments regarding her breach of the fair duty of representation; accordingly, this claim-and her hybrid section 301 in its entirely-necessarily failed [Docket No. 38 at pp. 10-11]. More specifically, Roney did not address Defendants' arguments that her Complaint failed to properly allege that the Union's actions in handling her grievances were “arbitrary, discriminatory, or taken in bad faith, ” Truhlar v. U.S. Postal Serv., 600 F.3d 888, 892 (7th Cir. 2010), an element necessary to state a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation [Docket No. 38 at pp. 10-11] (citing, inter alia, Goodpaster v. City of Indianapolis, 736 F.3d 1060, 1075 (7th Cir. 2013)).

         Similarly, and finally, we held that, by failing to respond in any fashion to IPL's argument that Roney's state law claims, including breach of contract, wrongful discharge, and constructive discharge, must be dismissed because they are all preempted by federal law, she had waived these state law claims [Docket No. 38 at p. 12] (citing, e.g., Goodpaster, 736 F.3d at 1075). Accordingly, final judgment issued, from which Roney apparently elected to appeal. Instead, as discussed below, Roney seeks post-judgment relief through this litigation.

         Roney's Request for Post-Judgment Relief

         On September 25, 2015, four days following the issuance of the final judgment in this case, Roney, through counsel, filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment and Order and Request to Amend Complaint [Docket No. 40], which is the subject of this order.[2] The motion invokes Fed. Rule of Civil. Procedure 60(b), but it does not identify any particular subsection of the Rule [id. at p. 1, p. 2 paras. 6-10]. In her motion, Roney states that our September 21, 2015, order “asserts Counsel's dilatoriness or lack of diligence in representing his client, ” while at the same time “concedes it did not provide Plaintiff with a date certain to respond until on or about September 3, 2015 when the Court ordered an immediate response” [id. at para. 4] (emphasis in original). She argued that her declaration “clearly places at issue her request for a grievance filed at the time of her termination” and that her complaint “noticed adequately for Defendant[s] this allegation” [id. at paras. 5-6]. According to Roney, “[a]rguably no competent or experienced business agent would not have filed a grievance relative to the Plaintiff's discharge and failure to do so under the facts of this case constituted arguable breach of duty of fair representation on the part of Local 1395, in and of itself” [id. at para. 7]. She further argues that her complaint “alleges bad faith and hostility on the part of the union in failing to process all of her grievances past and as regards this termination, ” and again that her affidavit and complaint “adequately noticed timely requests for a grievance relative to the discharge.” [id. at paras. 8, 10]. Finally, she asserts that “any alleged lack of diligence on the part of Counsel is attributable to inadvertence or excusable neglect as your Movant has had five (5) surgeries in calendar year 2015 with four (4) hospitalizations and subsequent rehabilitations to 2 of the surgical procedures.” [id. at para. 9]. She then requests that the Court set aside the September 21, 2015 order, reinstate her case, and allowed her to amend the complaint [id. at pp. 2-3].

         The Union opposes this request [Docket No. 43]. Requesting to join in the Union's response, IPL has filed its own opposition, adopting the arguments set ...


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