S&C Scores Pair of Precedent-Setting Victories for Fiat

November 30, 2018

In its second monumental win in less than four months for long-standing client Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), S&C successfully persuaded Judge Jack Zouhary of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to dismiss, with prejudice, a putative class action brought by members of the United Auto Workers (UAW). S&C obtained the dismissal with prejudice of a related class action in the Eastern District of Michigan in August 2018.

In both cases, the plaintiffs asserted a so-called “hybrid” claim for violation of contracts by FCA and breach by the UAW of its duty of fair representation under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). The claims stem from recent indictments and plea agreements of former FCA and UAW employees for violating the LMRA's criminal anti-bribery provision.

In the Ohio case, Judge Zouhary ultimately held that the plaintiffs' claims were barred by the LMRA's six-month statute of limitations, as the six-month clock started running in 2012 when plaintiffs either were terminated or treated as new hires, not when the indictments were unsealed. Judge Zouhary also held, just as Judge Gershwin A. Drain did in the Michigan case, that the plaintiffs had not alleged that FCA breached any agreement with the UAW. Lastly, the court dismissed plaintiffs' age discrimination claims under Ohio law, accepting S&C's argument that the claim was preempted by the LMRA.

Achieving these victories for FCA not only eliminated hundreds of millions in potential liability for the company, but clarified important labor law principles in the Sixth Circuit. Through these victories, S&C continues to set essential precedent for labor union disputes.

The S&C team representing FCA was led by Julia Jordan, who argued the motion to dismiss, and Jacob Cohen. Julia was named “Litigator of the Week” Runner-up twice by AmLaw Litigation Daily for these victories.