A federal judge has dismissed Frances Fisher’s lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA, in which the actress accused the union and several of its former and current leaders of breaching their duty of fair representation over the raising of eligibility requirements for coverage under the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan
. U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder dismissed the suit with prejudice Thursday, meaning that Fisher and her co-plaintiffs cannot refile it. Snyder previously has dismissed the suit without prejudice and allowed Fisher to file an amended complaint.
Fisher, who is first vice president of the union’s Los Angeles Local and a member of its national board of directors, named former SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, former national executive director David White, chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez and several other SAG-AFTRA officials as defendants. Other plaintiffs in the case included SAG-AFTRA members David Andrews, Belinda Balaski, Stephen Hart, Raymond Harry Johnson, Anne Lockhart and Toby Stone-Mandelberg.
Read the judge’s ruling here.
“With respect to plaintiffs’ DFR [Duty of Fair Representation] claim,” the judge wrote, “the Court finds that amendment would be futile, as plaintiffs’ have been unable in successive complaints to allege facts that meet the causation standard or overcome the six-month statute of limitations. Likewise, plaintiffs have been unable to state a cognizable Section 501 claim in successive complaints, and plaintiffs – in their briefing and in oral argument – did not proffer any further allegations that they could plead that would suggest, for example, that the Defendants’ nondisclosures harmed the Union as a whole, or that Carteris, White, or Crabtree-Ireland received any personal benefits as a result of their challenged actions that could sustain a Section 501 claim.”
Section 501 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and Fisher maintained that the union’s changes in eligibility for health coverage disproportionately affected older members.
Her case was separate but similar to a lawsuit filed in December against the trustees of the Health Plan, which claims that that the changes in its eligibility rules “illegally discriminate based on age” – a charge flatly denied by the plan’s trustees, who say the changes were necessary to keep the plan afloat. Like Fisher, two of the plaintiffs in that case – former SAG president Ed Asner and L.A. Local second vice president David Jolliffe – are aligned with MembershipFirst, the union’s opposition party.
“We are pleased to finally and forcefully put this matter behind us,” a spokesperson for the union said. “The court correctly found that plaintiff’s duty of fair representation claims were doomed. The court additionally found no plausible claims of breach of fiduciary duty by any defendant. This was plaintiffs’ third attempt and the court has now shut the door on any future attempts. We will move ahead and continue fighting for our members.”
Deadline reached out to Fisher and will update if she responds.