Dakin Matthews: A Layman Looks at the Lawsuit

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Dakin Matthews

I’m no lawyer, but here’s my quick take on the lawsuit in more or less plain English.

Who is being sued? AEA and Mary McColl, sometimes together, sometimes separately.

Who is suing? Eighteen parties, all but two, apparently, members of AEA. But not all parties have the same standing; that is, the same basis for a suit: that they have sustained or will sustain harm from an action or decision. This is key—and complex, because there is a fair amount of overlapping.

The lawsuit itself occasionally divides the plaintiffs into two groups, certain parties are identified as “third party beneficiary plaintiffs.” But it’s more complicated than that. To understand this distinction, it is necessary to understand the complexity of the complaint.

Some parties could conceivably sue as people who are trying to ply their trade. They are granted certain rights and protections from harm by state and federal business law: all the plaintiffs conceivably would fit this description.

Some plaintiffs could sue as union members: they are also guaranteed certain rights and protections by labor law and by their own union’s constitution and by-laws. (Some of the plaintiffs are both union members and interested parties in the original Settlement Agreement and/or members of the Review Committee.)

And some plaintiffs could sue because of certain rights granted them and certain procedures required by the Settlement Agreement. Members of the current Review Committee and original plaintiffs (and their representatives) have primary standing in these grievances; all AEA members have additional standing because they too are guaranteed certain protections by the Settlement Agreement.

People who are plying their trade have the right to do so without unreasonable obstruction, limitation, or elimination—“Restraint of Trade.” (The original lawsuit was apparently based primarily on this, and was a strong enough complaint to bring AEA to the table for an out-of-court settlement.) BUT—and this is very striking—not one of the current complaints is made on this basis, and no plaintiff is suing anybody for “Restraint of Trade.”

Union members are entitled to certain rights and protections both by labor law and by their union’s own Constitution and by-laws. Among these are the right to fair and democratic representation, the right not to be lied to and misinformed by their union, and the right not to have their money misused. Seven plaintiffs who are both union members and primary parties to the Settlement Agreement or members of the Review Committee have excused themselves (for possible conflict-of-interest, it would seem) from two of the three union member claims.

Parties to the Settlement Agreement, both primary and third-party, have expectations of whatever rights, protections, and procedures as are explicitly detailed in the Settlement Agreement.

The lawsuit itself lists five separate complaints, for which it seeks equitable relief and damages (including punitive damages, to prevent this from happening again).

(1) BREACH OF CONTRACT;
(2) BREACH OF THE COVENENT OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING;
(3) BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY;
(4) BREACH OF THE DUTY OF FAIR REPRESENTATION;
(5) VIOLATION OF LMRDA’S EQUAL RIGHTS GUARANTEE .
(Labor Management Disclosure Act of 1959, aka Landrum-Griffith Act)

The first claim (by all plaintiffs) avers direct violation by AEA of certain terms of the Settlement Agreement.

The second claim (by all plaintiffs) avers bad faith dealing by AEA in the means used to promote and politic for its proposal.

The third claim (by Equity members, so 16 of the 18, against McColl) avers that Ms McColl misused union funds in her campaign to put together the proposal and later to promote it, by acting in bad faith and in violation of certain sections of the Settlement Agreement.

The fourth claim (by Third Party Beneficiary Plaintiffs, i.e., Equity members who were not plaintiffs in original settlement or their representatives, nor members of the Review Committee, so 11 of the 18) avers that AEA deprived those members of fair representation.

The fifth claim (by Third Party Beneficiary Plaintiffs, again 11 of the 18, vs. AEA and McColl) aver that both AEA and McColl violated the Landrum-Griffith Act by denying them equal rights in participating and voting.

The lawsuit itself has an introduction (1-5), identification of the jurisdiction and the parties (6-12), and a lengthy summary of the “facts”—essentially a history of waiver and the attempts to eliminate it (13-47). It closes this section with a listing of the Damages (48), then makes its Five Claims for Relief (49-78), and closes with a “Prayer” for Relief and—in an attachment—a Request for a Jury Trial.

While AEA’s “minimum wage” proposal is mentioned frequently in the Facts and History sections, and clearly referenced in the complaints, “Minimum Wage” and “Restraint of Trade” do not seem to play a crucial part in the Plaintiffs’ complaints.

Originally published October 26, 2015 on Facebook.  Reprinted with permission.

Dakin Matthews was interviewed in May 2015 by American Theatre regarding the 99-Seat Plan and Equity’s actions.  Read the Full Text of the LA Actor Lawsuit against AEA and Mary McColl.

And for Dakin’s layman analysis on Equity’s Motion to Dismiss this lawsuit, go here.

About Tracey Paleo

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Tracey Paleo is Associate Editor at FootLights Magazine. She's also the Founder and Chief Editor of the arts and culture site, Gia On The Move, where she often reviews live performance events.

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