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International Marble and Granite, Inc., et al v. United of American

March 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Amy J. St. Eve

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Court Judge:



The present case stems from labor-arbitration hearings that took place on February 18, 2009 (R. 31-1 at 13-15), and December 16, 2009 (R. 26-1 at 4-9), between Plaintiffs International Marble and Granite, Inc., et al. ("International Marble") and the Defendant labor organizations (collectively, "the Union"). The February 18 hearing concluded both that a collective-bargaining agreement ("CBA") bound Plaintiffs to its terms "since at least September 22, 2004" and that Plaintiffs were liable for any violations of the same. (R. 31-1 at 15.) The labor-arbitration board also observed that Defendants "may present a further claim against" Plaintiffs if they wish "to do so in order to claim violations or seek damages for specific conduct or individual jobs." (Id.) In rendering their decision ("the first decision"), the board observed that the "representatives of Local 21 explained that they were not seeking damages or any monetary award through this grievance and hearing[,] but were only seeking a determination on their claims as to who is bound to the contracts and responsible for any violations of them." (Id. at 14.) Defendants served copies of the decision on Plaintiffs by letter of April 2, 2009. (R. 32 at 4.) Plaintiffs did not initiate any legal action to challenge the first decision within ninety days.

After holding a subsequent hearing on December 16, 2009, the board noted its prior determination as to the CBA's application to Plaintiffs and observed that it "did not consider it to be an issue before us." (R. 26-1 at 5.) The board then awarded $612,035.47 in damages to the Union (the "second decision"). (Id. at 8.) Plaintiffs filed a complaint to vacate the arbitration award on May 7, 2010. (R. 1.) This filing was within sixty days of the board's February 12, 2010, damages determination. (R. 49 at 4.)

Defendants have filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to the board's first decision. (R. 30.) They contend that, because Plaintiffs failed to challenge that decision within ninety days, the statute of limitations bars them from challenging it and from raising any defenses to Defendants' confirmation action. (R. 32 at 4-5.) Defendants oppose this argument, contending that the first decision was not a "mutual, final, and definite award under the Federal Arbitration Act," and thus did not trigger the ninety-day limitations period. (R. 49 at 4-9.)

Plaintiffs have also filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (R. 47.) They submit that, if the Court agrees that the first decision was not final and appealable or that the one-year statute of limitations bars Defendants from confirming such an award, "Plaintiffs not signatory to the applicable collective bargaining agreements can successfully raise the defense that they never consented to the authority or jurisdiction of the JAB." (Id. at 1.)

For reasons explained below, the Court grants Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment (R. 30) and denies Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment (R. 47).


Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining summary-judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After "a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party 'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (quotation omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2) (requiring adverse party to "set out specific facts"). "The party opposing summary judgment . . . bears the burden of coming forward with properly supported arguments or evidence to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact." Treadwell v. Office of Ill. Sec'y of State, 455 F.3d 778, 781 (7th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).


I. The First Decision Was Final and Appealable

The Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act ("the IUAA") provides that, upon application of a party, a court shall vacate an arbitration award on one of five grounds. 710 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/12(a). The statute requires a party to make such an application, however, "within 90 days after delivery of a copy of the award to the applicant." Id. at § 12(b). Federal law incorporates this provision through section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"). See Plumbers' Pension Fund, Local 130, U.A. v. Domas Mech. Contractors, Inc., 778 F.2d 1266, 1268 (7th Cir. 1985) (citing UAW v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 704-05 (1966)).

The parties agree that the "Union mailed copies of the [first decision] to the Contractors on or around April 2, 2009" and that the "Contractors received the [first decision] shortly after April 2, 2009." (R. 30 at 4-5; R. 45 at 6.) The Union points out that Plaintiffs failed to bring a legal action to challenge that decision until May 2010, which was considerably beyond the IUAA's 90-day requirement. (R. 32 at 4-5.) As a result, Defendants argue, the law entitles them to summary judgment, confirming the first decision. (Id. at 5.) Specifically, the Union argues that, even if Plaintiffs "could conclusively demonstrate that they were not bound to the CBA and were not subject to the jurisdiction ...

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