Union Member Cannot Sue Union’s Lawyer For Malpractice

Dr. Steven Weiner worked for the Clark County, Nevada School District from 1973 until his termination in 1997. When the District terminated Weiner in 1997, Weiner’s labor organization, the Clark County Association of School Administrators, challenged the termination in arbitration.

An arbitrator upheld Weiner’s termination. Weiner then sued Thomas Beatty, the Association’s attorney, for legal malpractice. Weiner contended that the manner in which Beatty conducted the arbitration on behalf of the Association resulted in the Arbitrator’s decision, and that Beatty’s conduct did not meet the minimum standards for effective legal representation. The Nevada Supreme Court dismissed Weiner’s lawsuit.

Drawing heavily on federal precedent, the Court found that Weiner’s remedy was a breach of a duty of fair representation claim against the Association, not a personal lawsuit against Beatty. As the Court noted, “a majority of courts have concluded that a rule imposing personal liability on public-employee union agents would be inconsistent with the standard of conduct required of the union. Union agents should not be held to a negligent standard of care, when the union for whom they work is liable only if its representation is ‘arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith’ and breaches the duty of fair representation.”

The Court concluded that “we see no reason to adopt a rule imposing malpractice liability on union lawyers representing public employees, when the same lawyer would have no liability under federal labor law representing a non-public employee union member.”

Weiner v. Beatty, 121 Nev. Adv.Op. 26 (August 8, 2005).

This article appears in the September 2005 issue