DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

RESPONDENT: International Brotherhood of Teamsters
LOCATION: Residence of Senator Ernie Chambers

DOCKET NO.: 81-2386
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 462 US 151 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 08, 1983

Bernard S. Goldfarb - on behalf of the Respondents in No. 81-2386
Isaac N. Groner - on behalf of the Respondents in No. 81-2408 (appointed by this court)
Robert M. Weinberg - on behalf of the Petitioners in No. 81-2408
William H. Zinman - on behalf of the Petitioner in No. 81-2386

Facts of the case


Media for DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1983 in DelCostello v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Costello against the International Teamsters and the consolidated case.

Mr. Zinman, I think you may proceed when you are ready.

William H. Zinman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

The issue in this case is should this Court apply the Maryland arbitral statute of 30 days or the six-month statute of limitations contained in 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act or a longer statute of limitations to this hybrid action.

If, on the other hand, this Court applies the Maryland arbitral statute to this hybrid action, the next issue would be whether or not it should be applied prospectively or retrospectively in this case.

The facts in this case are as follows: Philip Del Costello, the Petitioner in this case, was employed by Anchor Motor Freight, the Respondent, as an over-the-road truck driver at the time of his termination on June 27, 1977.

At that time he was also a dissident member of PROD, a national Teamsters organization and was engaged in a campaign of truck safety several months proceeding his termination.

On that date he was assigned to drive a truck from Baltimore to Canada and during the course of his inspections he found a number of safety defects with respect to the truck.

When the company insisted that he drive the truck he refused, and he was terminated on the spot.

Consistent with the company union contract, he initiated a grievance at that time which was not resolved amicably.

As a result, the grievance took the form of a hearing before a committee consisting of an equal number of employer and union representatives.

I believe this was in July of 1977.

At that time he was represented by his business agent who is his exclusive representative.

He did not have the right to an attorney.

The business agent conducted no investigation into the facts which preceded the termination, nor did the business agent introduce any evidence and particularly it failed to introduce the mechanic who supported Mr. Del Costello's position that the truck was unsafe.

The only evidence that was introduced was through a company supervisor at that time who Mr. Del Costello claimed was not even there.

This was contrary to the conference rules and if that evidence was excluded, of course, the company would not have met its burden of proof.

Mr. Del Costello related to his business agent that this man was not even there.

The business agent failed to object.

As a result of this hearing, the committee upheld the discharge.

Subsequent to that the business agent engaged in a course of conduct which reasonably led Mr. Del Costello to believe that he had yet to exhaust his contract remedies and that the decision was not final until December of 1977.

Several months thereafter, I believe it was in March of 1978, Mr. Del Costello initiated suit in the federal district court for the district of Maryland.

Several months thereafter both Respondents answered the suit.

However, Local 557 never even raised the issue of limitations in its answer.

While Anchor Motor Freight did raise the question of limitations it did not specify which limitation period it had mind.

This was understandable at that time because the Maryland arbitral statute by its own terms is expressly inapplicable to labor disputes.

In any event, for the next 32 months during which time the parties engaged in rather extensive discovery, not one time did Anchor Motor Freight or Local 557 ever raise the question of limitations until they filed their motion for summary judgment in November of 1980, one month after this Court granted certiorari in Mitchell.

We contend that if this Court applies the arbitral limitation statute of 30 days for all intents and purposes the hybrid cause of action is destroyed.

I say that because most of these arbitration statutes were initially passed by the state legislatures to apply to commercial disputes and in commercial disputes from the arbitrator to the courts the parties are usually represented by the same counsel.

And it is a matter of smoothly shifting gears from the arbitrator to the court in terms of the filing of appeal which in that instance only takes hours to possibly one day.