Minnesota Local Liable to Overnite for Property Damage

The Minn. Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 14 that Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 120 is liable for damage to an Overnite Transp. Co. facility in Blaine, Minn., caused by striking employees in 1999 who were not IBT members, and for two-thirds of the firm’s increased security costs. IBT was certified to represent Blaine employees in 1995, but most of the employees are not IBT members because the union made an election promise not to charge fees or dues until it secured a contract, which IBT has failed to do. The amount of Local 120’s liability was not reported.

Affirming a decision by the Anoka County Dist. Court, the appeals court found the union had an agency relationship with the picketers, and thus, was vicariously liable for the damage caused by their misconduct. Further, Judge Daniel Foley said, “[T]he evidence indicates that while the union was aware of the picketers’ repeated acts of misconduct, it was either ‘unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to control its pickets.'”

During the 1999 strike, the trial court issued a permanent injunction, enjoining both sides from committing damaging, injurious, or threatening acts. The court heard testimony and viewed videotapes of strike-related activity and decided both sides violated the injunction, with the union committing more violations. The court decided that the picketers deliberately caused damage to Overnite property and that the union was vicariously liable regardless of whether the picketers were union members. Also, finding both sides responsible for Overnite’s increased security costs, the court ordered the union to pay two-thirds of the employer’s increased security costs.

John Raudabaugh of Matkov, Salzman, Madoff & Gunn in Chicago and Douglas P. Seaton and Alec J. Beck of Seaton, Beck & Peters in Edina, Minn., represented Overnite. Martin Costello of Hughes & Costello in St. Paul represented the Local 120.[BNA 8/20/01]