PortandTerminal.com, January 7, 2020
A longstanding feud over two dockworker jobs may just end up putting the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) into bankruptcy unless they can get a $93.6 million judgement against it reversed or reduced
PORTLAND, OR – The International Longshore and Harbor Workers Union (ILWU) is asking a federal district judge to reverse or reduce a jury verdict that awarded the former operator of the container terminal in the Port of Portland, Oregon, $93.6 million.
Last November, a federal jury awarded $93.6 million to the former operator of the Port of Portland’s container terminal, ICTSI, Oregon Inc, finding that the dockworkers union ILWU had sabotaged shipping traffic through years of labor slowdowns and stoppages.
The problem is that the ILWU doesn’t have that kind of money and could be pushed into bankruptcy if forced to pay the amount.
Here’s what the judge who presided over the trial had to say at the time:
“The amount of damages found by the jury is quite high and may result in the bankruptcy of a union that traces its beginnings to at least 1933 and arguably into the 19th century,”U.S. District Judge Michael Simon
In a 59-page motion filed Jan. 3, 2020 the ILWU moved for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) or alternatively, for remittitur (a reduction in the award) or a new trial. The ILWU argued that the verdict was “not only excessive but that it is fundamentally unreasonable.”
“The jury’s verdict in this case is contrary to law and lacks a legally sufficient evidentiary basis. Indeed, entry of judgment based on the erroneous verdict and excessive damages award would subvert our national labor policy,” ILWU argued. “Instead, the court should grant JMOL for the ILWU. If that does not dispose of this case entirely, the court should reduce the damages award to $3,983,669. And if ICTSI rejects that remittitur, the court should grant a new trial.”
The ILWU also argued that when making the award, the jury did not understand the law, the facts and the economic reality of what they were doing.
“The verdict shows that the jury misunderstood the law, the facts and economic reality. Indeed, this is not merely a case of excessive damages — though it is certainly that. The jury also misunderstood the substantive law under the Taft-Hartley Act. For example, the jury found that neither the International nor Local 8 participated in any lawful labor activities at any time from August 14, 2013, to March 31, 2017,” it said. “But the undisputed evidence — including the testimony of ICTSI’s own witnesses — proves that the ILWU certainly participated in at least some lawful labor activities in that period.”
The ILWU was critical of calculations by ICTSI’s damages experts, including assumptions that ICTSI would be able to instantaneously replace 80% of its business after Hanjin Shipping Company became insolvent in 2016.
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