Monday, September 17, 2012

Longest-running civil law case in U.S. may be nearing end

A civil back-pay/ benefits case that started back in 1969 and has proceeded thru federal bankruptcy court, corporate reorganization, and 43 years of litigation and arbitration, challenge & cross-challenge in three jurisdictions, may finally being nearing a close according to Cleveland Plain Dealer and Ashland (Ohio) Times Gazette articles last week. It is, without much question, one longest-running cases in U.S. history.

It's a case that has gone on for so long that only two of the 32 original people filing the suit are still alive, and one in which, had defendant Penn Central settled back in 1968, would cost them $564,820, according to court records. That amount now – with interest added in – is $14.7 million.

U.S. District Court (Eastern Pennsylvania) Judge Harvey Bartle last month, in Philadelphia, ruled in favor of a $14,761,238 judgment entered against "the Penn Central" in United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, confirming an arbitration award, modified by the Surface Transportation Board ("STB"), in favor of claimants for benefits and pre-judgment interest owed under a 1964 collective bargaining agreement.

The case started back in 1968, when the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads merged, a short time later furloughing 29 employees of the Central Union Terminals Company, a subsidy of New York Central, without extending time served or other benefits because, in their view, the merger agreement didn’t include them. In 1969, 17 of the 29 furloughed employees filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio. (Knapik v. Penn Central, case 69-722).

Judge Bartle's memorandum on Aug. 28th. details how complicated and involved the proceedings got from there over the next intervening forty-three years.

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