Overnite’s Texas Tort Suit Proceeds

Overnite Transp. Co. may proceed with its claim that the Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters unlawfully interfered with the firm’s business relationships by distributing an allegedly defamatory flier to Overnite customers, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled Mar. 29. Reversing summary judgment granted to IBT, the appeals court found that because IBT admitted, solely for purposes of the motion, that it published a defamatory flier for the purpose of injuring Overnite’s business, IBT failed to show its actions were legally justified.

IBT also failed to show the tort claim was preempted by the Nat’l Labor Relations Act, the appeals court decided, because the union did not show that handbilling based on defamatory statements is protected union activity. Justice Jan P. Patterson wrote the decision.

The case stems from IBT’s long-running effort, marred by union violence, to unionize Overnite. In addition to the Texas suit, Overnite has cases pending in Georgia and Virginia involving defamation and libel claims against IBT.

In Sept. 1999, IBT issued a press release stating that NLRB had found the firm guilty of hundreds of labor law violations. In fact, the agency had only issued a complaint charging the company with violating the NLRA. IBT also distributed a flier to Overnite customers in Texas stating the firm was “on the brink of a national strike which could cause interrupted service to your business” and warning that union workers would be picketing customer locations where pickups and deliveries were made. Overnite sued IBT and Local 657 in Travis County Dist. Ct. in Oct. 1999, claiming defamation and tortious interference. [BNA 4/5/01]

“As a Clinton appointee, Ms. White has reportedly submitted a letter of resignation. It needs to be accepted forthwith.”
 -Washington Times, Editorial, Apr. 2, 2001, criticizing U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White for her failing prosecution of the Teamsters money-laundering scandal and noting that important statute of limitations in the case will run this August.