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Mero v. National Railroad Adjustment Board

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

September 30, 2019




         Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss, filed by Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen ("BLET") [Record Document 60] and the Public Law Board 6884 [Record Document 68].[1] Pro se plaintiff Pershing Mero ("Mero") opposes both of these motions. Upon due consideration of the briefing, the Court hereby GRANTS the Defendants' motions to dismiss for the reasons set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mero worked for Kansas City Southern Railway ("KCSR") for sixteen years before he was terminated. Record Document 56. At the time he was discharged from the railroad, he was an engineer. Id. Mero was fired because a train he was operating collided with a stopped, empty train located on the railroad tracks. Id. Mero's union, BLET, pursued a formal investigation on his behalf. Id. At the conclusion of the investigation, Mero was dismissed from KCSR effective immediately. Id. That decision was appealed to the KCSR Labor Relations Department, which denied his appeal. Id. The decision was further pursued to Public Law Board 6884, which is a three-person arbitration board designed to resolve disputes arising between the railway and its employees. Id. Public Law Board 6884 denied Mero's appeal based both on his conduct on the day of the accident as well as his discipline history.[2] Id.

         Mero filed the instant suit in federal court against Public Law Board 6884, KCSR, and BLET, seeking review of the denial of his appeal.[3] He asserts federal jurisdiction is based upon the Administrative Procedure Act and the Railway Labor Act, codified at 45 U.S.C. § 153. Mero complains extensively about how ill-prepared his BLET representative was to proceed to arbitration. See Record Document 56, p. 3 (“[t]here was no way the Union was prepared to defend the Plaintiff. . ."; the Union representative "only spoke with Plaintiff about 30 minutes on his defense the night before the Plaintiff was to appear before the Arbitrator."). Mero also faults BLET and KCSR for Public Law Board 6884's receipt of an incorrect discipline record.[4] Mero contends that Public Law Board 6884 "exceeded [its] jurisdiction in failing to interpret the [collective bargaining agreement] and Federal Railroad Administration . . . rules." Record Document 56. He also "sees Fraud and Corruption with KCSR and the Board in their dealings with Plaintiff disciple [sic] report." Record Document 56, p. 3. Lastly, he asserts that BLET's failure to adequately prepare for arbitration was the cause of his inability to return to work.

         Mero asks this Court to do a myriad of things, including: (1) set aside Public Law Board 6884's findings; (2) award back pay with commensurate seniority and vacation benefits; (3) reinstate him as an engineer for KCSR; (4) remove the crash from his record; (5) award $350, 000 in damages (property loss, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life), payable by BLET; and (6) award $350, 000 in damages (for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) against KCSR.

         Both BLET and Public Law Board 6884 have filed motions to dismiss. BLET argues that as Mero's union, it is not a proper party to a suit under the Railway Labor Act to have his appeal reviewed. Record Document 60. It also argues there is no legal basis allowing this Court to enter a monetary damages award against it as requested by Mero. Id. Public Law Board 6884, which is the arbitration panel that denied Mero's appeal, likewise moves for dismissal, arguing that Mero's claim against it is barred by sovereign immunity, that it is not a proper party to this action under the Railway Labor Act, and that the Administrative Procedure Act does not provide jurisdiction over Mero's suit. Record Document 68.


         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         Motions filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allow a party to challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case. "Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be found in any one of three instances: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction. See id. In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, "the district court is empowered to consider matters of fact which may be in dispute." Id. "Ultimately, a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be granted only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief." Id.

         "A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case." Home Builders Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Madison. Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir. 1996)). If sovereign immunity is not expressly waived for purposes of the Railway Labor Act, this Court is deprived of subject matter jurisdiction over Mero's claims against Public Law Board 6884. See Wagstaff v. U.S. Dep't of Educ, 509 F.3d 661, 664 (5th Cir. 2007) (holding that the absence of a waiver of sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional defect).

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief. A complaint is not required to contain detailed factual allegations, however, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal marks and citations omitted). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2008) (internal marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id, This plausibility requirement "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. However, the complaint cannot be simply "unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]." Id.

         As the Fifth Circuit has explained, in order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "the complaint must contain either direct allegations on every material point necessary to sustain a recovery or contain allegations from which an inference fairly may be drawn that evidence on these material points will be introduced at trial." Rios v. City of Del ...

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