The Martin Rule, Which Prohibits Actions Against Unincorporated Associations Unless the Actions Complained of Were Authorized or Ratified, Does Not Prohibit Actions Against Individual Association Members

The Second Department, over a dissent, determined that, although the Martin rule prohibited the “defamation/tortious interference with business relations” actions against the union, the actions against individual union members were not prohibited.  The Martin rule bars suit against unincorporated voluntary membership associations (here the union) unless the actions complained of were authorized or ratified by the union. But the Martin rule does not bar suit against union members in their individual capacities:

… [T]he Martin rule (see Martin v Curran, 303 NY 276…) … bars all actions against an unincorporated voluntary membership association, and bars claims against the officers of such an association in their representative capacities where there is no allegation that the members of the association authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct complained of.

However, neither the Martin rule nor any other authority precludes causes of action from being asserted against individual members of the union defendants in their individual capacities … . In Martin, only the claims asserted against union members in their representative capacities as officers of the union were dismissed. Notably, the Court of Appeals specifically allowed the libel claims in that action to proceed against the same defendant union members, in their individual capacities … . Cablevision Sys. Corp. v Communications Workers of Am. Dist. 1, 2015 NY Slip Op 06873, 2nd Dept 9-23-15


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