ILA V. DAVIS, 476 U. S. 380 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

ILA v. Davis, 476 U.S. 380 (1986)

International Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO v. Davis

No. 85-217

Argued February 25, 1986

Decided May 27, 1986

476 U.S. 380


Appellee was formerly employed as a ship superintendent for a stevedoring company. When he, with others, attempted to organize the company's ship superintendents and to affiliate with appellant Union, a union official allegedly assured them that the Union would get them their jobs back if they were discharged for participating in union-related activities. After he was discharged apparently because of such activities, appellee filed a suit against appellant in an Alabama Circuit Court, alleging fraud and misrepresentation under an Alabama statute. The case proceeded to trial, and a jury entered a verdict in appellee's favor. Throughout the trial, appellant defended the suit on the merits, and not until its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict did it claim that the Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction because the suit was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Circuit Court denied the motion and entered judgment on the verdict. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the preemption claim was a waivable defense that was required to be affirmatively pleaded under Alabama law, and that since it was not so pleaded, it was deemed waived.


1. The Alabama Supreme Court's holding that appellant had waived its preemption claim by noncompliance with state procedural rules governing affirmative defenses did not present an independent and adequate state ground supporting the court's judgment, and the court erred in declining to address that claim on the merits. Pp. 476 U. S. 387-393.

2. The general standard for determining whether state proceedings are preempted by the NLRA, i.e., whether the conduct at issue was arguably protected or prohibited by the NLRA, San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U. S. 236, is applicable to this case. Where state law is preempted by the NLRA under Garmon and its progeny, the state courts lack the power to adjudicate the claims that trigger preemption. Here, if appellee was arguably an employee, rather than a supervisor, the preemption issue should be initially decided by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), not the state courts. Because the preemption issue turns on appellee's status, the appellant's preemption claim must be supported by a showing sufficient to permit the NLRB to find that appellee was an employee. On the

Page 476 U. S. 381

record, appellant has made no such showing. The mere lack of a conclusive determination by the NLRB as to appellee's status does not make out an arguable case for preemption. Pp. 476 U. S. 394-399.

470 So.2d 1215, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in Part I of which all other Members joined, in Part II of which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, and in Part III of which all other Members, except BLACKMUN, J., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which POWELL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 476 U. S. 399. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 476 U. S. 403.

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