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American Maritime Officers Union Litigants in Hearn v. McKay

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By FindLaw Staff on April 15, 2010 1:52 PM

Hearn v. McKay, No. 08-16697, involved an action by several members of the American Maritime Officers Union ("AMO") against current and former officers of the AMO, alleging violations of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA).  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendants, on the grounds that 1) when a union official is acting in his role as an ERISA benefit plan trustee, he does so exclusively for the benefit (or to the detriment) of the plan participants and beneficiaries, not the union or its members as a group; 2) undisclosed witnesses may still be used at trial if the disclosure failure was substantially justified or if it was harmless; and 3) plaintiffs failed to show that the district court's account of the evidence was entirely implausible, and thus there was no clear error.

As the court wrote:  "This appeal is by several members of the American Maritime Officers Union ("AMO") in their unsuccessful civil action against current and former officers of the AMO. Appellant-Plaintiffs contend that the district court erred in this way: (1) granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the issue of whether a union officer violates the fiduciary duties established by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 501(a), if that officer aids, abets, or fails to remedy the misuse of assets belonging to a jointly administered benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq; and (2) making an erroneous factual finding and abusing its discretion in two evidentiary rulings during the bench trial."

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