On petition of Judith Lipka, Special Administrator of the Estate of Marianne Bohl, we review a decision of the court of appeals affirming the summary judgment of dismissal of the plaintiff Marianne Bohl's complaint to recover damages for misconduct allegedly committed by her union and by a co-worker who also served as the president of the union's local chapter. Because there exist no genuine issues of material fact with regard to the issues preserved for review,
Plaintiff Marianne Bohl was a special education bus driver for the Bemidji school district, Independent School District No. 31, from May 15, 1986 to October 29, 1992. As a school district employee, she was a member of defendants Minnesota School Employees' Association Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, CLC Local 1980 (MSEA) and the local Bemidji chapter of the union (Local).
This action appears to be the consequence of a poor working relationship between Bohl and Stevens. For example, shortly after Bohl commenced her employment, she had been assigned to ride with Stevens on two occasions; later she reported his allegedly unsafe driving to Larry Bahls, the school district transportation and safety coordinator, and to Doyle Tomhave, the school district transportation coordinator. Although, in response to the reports, Tomhave spoke with Stevens regarding the incidents, it does not appear that any further action was taken.
Several years prior to the events at issue, Tomhave delegated to Stevens Bahls' task of assigning the bus routes for special education students. While Stevens seems to have discharged that responsibility for the most part without incident, on September 2, 1992, he unilaterally reduced Bohl's route hours from 8 to 6 and, at the same time, reduced hours of other bus drivers.
On September 15, 1992, Bohl complained to the school district human rights office about the "turmoil" associated with her claim of unfair scheduling and also provided anecdotal information to substantiate her claims of harassment and assault by Stevens and other union members. The school district investigated these complaints but concluded
In October 1992, Bohl requested that the union investigate her complaints against Stevens and the union. Following an independent investigation into the district's conduct, the MSEA field representative concluded that the delegation of bus route assignment authority to Stevens did not constitute a violation of the CBA and that no grievance existed. It confined its investigation to the district's conduct because it had concluded that the CBA was not implicated by the complaints against Stevens. As a result, Bohl filed a written complaint against Stevens on October 13, 1992 with the MSEA president, in accordance with the union constitution and its bylaws.
At the end of October 1992, Bohl arranged for a transfer to a custodial position within the school district.
On March 15, 1993, Bohl filed a discrimination charge against the school district with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. In April 1993, Bohl commenced this action against MSEA, Local and Kenneth Stevens in both his individual and official capacities, alleging nineteen counts, including whistleblower claims and claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994).
Concluding that Bohl had failed to establish a prima facie case on any of the claims, on January 4, 1995 the trial court entered summary judgment of dismissal of all twelve counts. A month later, on February 2, 1995, Bohl died from causes unrelated to this litigation. Judith Lipka, special administrator of Bohl's estate, was substituted as plaintiff
On appeal, rather than confining its review to the summary judgment, the court of appeals inquired first whether the claims survived Bohl's death, and concluded that: (1) the claims for breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and unfair representation did not abate upon Bohl's death; but (2) the claims for assault, emotional distress, and violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act would abate unless special damages were pleaded and proved. The court then affirmed the judgment of dismissal of the surviving claims for Bohl's failure to make a prima facie showing. Lipka v. Minnesota School Employees Association, Local 1980, 537 N.W.2d 624 (Minn.App.1995).
For our purposes, Lipka has conceded that the assault and emotional distress claims have abated and our review thus focuses on the remaining claims of unfair representation, breach of contract based on the union constitution, tortious interference with contractual relations, and reprisal.
Actions predicated on claims of breach of duty of fair representation normally require review of the substantive positions taken and policies pursued by a union in negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement and in its implementation of the grievance machinery. Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 181, 87 S.Ct. 903, 912, 17 L.Ed.2d 842 (1967); Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 96 S.Ct. 1048, 47 L.Ed.2d 231 (1976); Eisen v. State, Dep't of Public Welfare, 352 N.W.2d 731 (Minn.1984).
Bohl also asserted breach of contract and tortious interference with contractual relations claims based on the union constitution, but as the trial court concluded, Bohl was not the beneficiary of the union constitutional provision on which her claims were grounded.
Inasmuch as we agree with the trial court's conclusions that Bohl failed to make a prima
Accordingly, we refrain from expressing any opinion on either the abatement or the survival of any of the claims remaining after the abatement of the assault and emotional distress claims had been conceded.