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Yeager v. Local Union 20, Teamsters

Supreme Court of Ohio

August 31, 1983, Decided

No. 82-1424


 [*371]   [**668]  The first issue before this court is whether summary judgment was properly granted upon the trial court's determination that the defendants-appellees' actions were conducted within the context of a labor dispute.

Appellant contends that the trial court erred in characterizing the picketing incident as a labor dispute because neither TAP nor PROD had any labor agreement with BFI. Continuing, appellant argues that the picketing incident was a result of personal animosity against him and not over working conditions. Furthermore, appellant submits that if either the March 1978 or the June 1979 incident was not part of a labor dispute, his cause of action for defamation is not subject to the "actual malice" standard enunciated in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), 376 U.S. 254.

] The term "labor dispute" is defined in Section 152 (9), Title 29,  [***6]  U.S. Code, as follows:

"The term 'labor dispute' includes any controversy concerning terms, tenure or conditions of employment, or concerning the association or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing, or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of employment, regardless of whether the disputants stand in the proximate relation of employer and employee." (Emphasis added.)

 [**669]  ] The question of whether certain conduct constitutes a labor dispute is necessarily a question of law which a court must answer on the basis of the whole record. Hansbrouck v. Sheet Metal Workers Local 232 (C.A. 9, 1978), 586 F. 2d 691, 694. Therefore, we believe that the court of appeals was correct in affirming the trial court because this is an issue for the court, not the jury, to decide and the record in the instant case convinces us that the activity alleged does constitute a labor dispute as defined by federal law. Moreover, such concerted activity as took place outside BFI's plant, does not have to be undertaken exclusively by a labor union in order to be protected under the federal labor laws. The National Labor Relations Board and courts have recognized [***7]  that concerted activity undertaken by or on behalf of PROD is protected activity. See, e.g., Roadway Express, Inc. (1978), 239 NLRB 653.

] Once it has been determined that concerted activity constitutes a labor dispute, the United States Supreme Court has held that an action for defamation within this context must be adjudicated under the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan "actual malice" standard. Linn, supra. In this regard, the plaintiff must prove that the defendants did not merely fail to investigate the truth of their publication, but that they actually entertained serious doubts about its truth before publishing it. St. Amant v. Thompson (1968), 390 U.S. 727, 731.

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6 Ohio St. 3d 369 *; 453 N.E.2d 666 **; 1983 Ohio LEXIS 839 ***; 6 Ohio B. Rep. 421; 116 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P56,408


Prior History:  [***1]  APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Lucas County.

Disposition: Judgment accordingly.


cause of action, emotional distress, labor dispute, serious emotional distress, court of appeals, intentionally, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction, outrageous, invasion of privacy, defamatory, emotional, courts, words

Business & Corporate Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Collective Bargaining & Labor Relations, Bargaining Subjects, Labor & Employment Law, Labor Arbitration, Judicial Review, General Overview, Torts, Intentional Torts, Defamation, Invasion of Privacy, False Light, Defenses, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Elements, Pain & Suffering, Emotional Distress, Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Types of Damages, Punitive Damages, Aggravating Circumstances, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Procedural Matters, Constitutional Law, Supremacy Clause