Kelly et al v. Honeywell International Inc.
ORDER granting 43 Motion for Preliminary Injunction pursuant to the attached decision. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 06/27/2017. (Lee, E.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
DAVID KELLY, RICHARD NORKO,
ANNETTE DOBBS, PETER DELLOLIO,
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC.
Civil Case Number
June 27, 2017
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR
PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [DKT. 43]
Plaintiffs are former union members represented by UAW Locals 376 and
1010 who worked at the Stratford plant and retired from Honeywell or AlliedSignal
after October 28, 1994, and their surviving spouses. In December 2015 Honeywell
announced that at the end of 2016 it would terminate the medical coverage benefits
Plaintiffs had been receiving since retirement. [Dkt. 44-2 (Pls.’ Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Stmt.), ¶ 67; Dkt. 55-1 (Defs.’ Local 56(a)(2) Stmt.), ¶ 67].
Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on October 31, 2016 in light
of the upcoming coverage termination deadline.
[See Dkt. 43].
subsequently held a telephonic conference to discuss this issue and others, and
upon the parties’ agreement the Court held in abeyance the preliminary injunction
pending the ruling on summary judgment. [See Dkt. 52]. On February 28, 2017, the
Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant as to Subclass B: retirees
who retired after the expiration of the Agreements and their surviving spouses.
[See Dkt. 64].
This conclusion led the Court to find as moot the Motion for
Preliminary Injunction. [See Dkt. 65]. Defendant terminated the medical coverage
for Subclass B the following day. [See Dkt. 83 (Joint Report) at 1].
Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the summary
judgment ruling as to Subclass B, [see Dkt. 70], as well as an appeal of the
summary judgment ruling, the preliminary injunction ruling, and the judgment, [see
Dkt. 75]. The Court granted the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Reconsideration and ordered
the parties to report whether there is reason to revisit the preliminary injunction.
On June 15, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Notice indicating that Defendant
terminated the medical benefits of Subclass B retirees and their surviving spouses
on March 1, 2017, the day after the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the
Defendant as to Subclass B. [See Dkt. 83]. Two Subclass B members submitted
declarations along with the Joint Notice, and they indicated that they did not
receive notice of the termination of their benefits until approximately three weeks
later. See [Dkt. 83-1 (Ex. 1, Keegan Decl.) ¶ 6 (receiving notice March 22, 2017); Dkt.
83-1 (Ex. 2, Far Decl.) ¶ 6 (receiving notice March 24, 2017)].
specifically reported that she underwent three chemotherapy treatments during the
month of March when she did not know her medical benefits had been terminated.
[Dkt. 83-1 ¶ 9]. Mary Ann Far stated that she obtained prescription drugs in March
during the time she unknowingly did not have medical coverage benefits, and her
provider informed her the cost of these prescriptions was approximately $16,180
(although she has not yet been billed). [Dkt. 83-2 ¶ 10].
Upon the Court’s Order, Defendant filed a Response to the Motion for
Preliminary Injunction, [see Dkt. 86], to which Plaintiffs replied, [see Dkt. 87]. For
the following reasons, Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED.
To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must establish “(a)
irreparable harm and (b) either (1) likelihood of success on the merits or (2)
sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for
litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party requesting
the preliminary relief.” Citigroup Glob. Markets, Inc. v. VCG Special Opportunities
Master Fund Ltd., 598 F.3d 30, 35 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). The value of this standard “lies in its flexibility in the face of
varying factual scenarios and the greater uncertainties inherent at the outset of
particularly complex litigation.”
Plaintiffs request that the Court order
Defendant to reinstate medical coverage benefits that, until recently, they have
been receiving for approximately 20 years and to which they believe they are
entitled. This constitutes the “normal function” of a preliminary injunction: “to
maintain the status quo pending a full hearing on the merits.” Treibwasser & Katz
v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 535 F.2d 1356, 1360 (2d Cir. 1976).
A. Irreparable Harm
Both the threat of termination as well as the actual termination of medical
coverage benefits constitute irreparable harm. See Whelan v. Colgan, 602 F.2d
1060, 1062 (2d Cir. 1979) (“In fact, the threatened termination of benefits such as
medical coverage for workers and their families obviously raised the spectre of
irreparable injury.”); Commc’ns Workers of Am., Dist. One, AFL-CIO v. NYNEX
Corp., 898 F.2d 887, 891 (2d Cir. 1990) (“In this circuit, the threat of termination of
medical benefits to striking workers has been held to constitute irreparable
harm.”); Fishman v. Paolucci, 628 F. App’x 797, 801 (2d Cir. 2015) (“A lack of
medical services is exactly the sort of irreparable harm that preliminary injunctions
are designed to address.”); LaForest v. Honeywell, No. 03-CV-6248T, 2003 WL
23180220, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 19, 2003) (“If the mere threat of termination of
medical benefits constitutes irreparable harm, then the actual termination of
medical benefits certainly constitutes irreparable harm.”) (internal citations
omitted). Factors demonstrating retirees will experience irreparable harm include:
(1) most retired union members are not rich, (2) most live on fixed
incomes, (3) many will get sick and need medical care, (4) medical
care is expensive, (5) medical insurance is, therefore, a necessity,
and (6) some retired workers may find it difficult to obtain medical
insurance on their own while others can pay for it only out of
money that they need for other necessities of life.
United Steelworkers of Am., AFL-CIO v. Textron, Inc., 836 F.2d 6, 8 (1st Cir. 1987);
see LaForest, 2003 WL 23180220, at *1 (citing United Steelworkers of Am. in a case
where the plaintiffs argued irreparable harm because the loss of medical coverage
caused “(1) substantial risk to plaintiffs’ health; (2) severe financial hardship; (3)
the inability to purchase life’s necessities; and (4) anxiety associated with
Plaintiffs submitted two declarations demonstrating they have experienced
and will experience irreparable harm due to Defendant’s decision to terminate their
medical coverage benefits. Ms. Keegan receives chemotherapy treatment for AL
amyloidosis, a rare malignant blood disorder. [Dkt. 83-1 ¶ 4]. Although she has
found replacement medical coverage, she and her husband must pay an additional
$550 a month. Id. ¶ 7. They receive pension and Social Security benefits. Id. ¶ 6.
Ms. Keegan did not receive chemotherapy in the last week of March as a result of
the expenses incurred. Id. ¶ 9. Ms. Far similarly experiences rising costs for the
prescription medication that she must take for her heart condition, high blood
pressure, and pre-diabetic issues and that her husband must take for multiple
sclerosis. See [Dkt. 83-2 ¶ 4, 7-8]. Their family now has an additional expense of
$12,000 per year with possibly an additional cost of $16,180 for prescription
medication, which they obtained during the period they were unknowingly
uninsured; such expenses cause financial stress given they live on disability
income and one full-time income. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. As such, the declarations clearly
show Defendant’s decision to terminate their medical coverage benefits can lead
to irreparable harm, as the individuals report to rely at least in part on fixed
incomes, they need medical care that is expensive, medical insurance is expensive,
and they are struggling to make ends meet given other expenses in life. The Court
finds irreparable harm has been established.
B. Sufficiently Serious Questions for the Merits
The purpose of a preliminary injunction is “to give temporary relief based on
a preliminary estimate of the strength of a plaintiff’s suit, prior to the resolution at
trial of the factual disputes and difficulties presented by the case.” Citigroup, 598
F.3d at 35. A preliminary injunction therefore is not to be limited just to cases that
will more likely than not be successful at trial; otherwise, the “sufficiently serious
questions” element would provide no purpose. See id. “The ‘serious questions’
standard permits a district court to grant a preliminary injunction in situations
where it cannot determine with certainty that the moving party is more likely than
not to prevail on the merits of the underlying claims, but where the costs outweigh
the benefits of not granting the injunction.” Id.
As the Court has acknowledged in its reconsideration decision, there exists
a triable issue of fact as to the ambiguous language of the collective bargaining
agreement and its associated agreements (“Agreements”) regarding the vesting of
lifetime medical coverage benefits to Subclass B, which only the jury can evaluate
The Court determined in its initial decision denying summary
judgment that the language of the Agreements was ambiguous as to Subclass B.
See [Dkt. 58 at 26]. Former Union President and current President of the Local 1010
Retiree Chapter, David Kelly, drafted a Summary about the effects bargaining
agreement (“EBA”) for union members to review prior to ratification, which states
that “benefits will be provided to all Local 1010 employees and retirees who are
laid-off or retire during this agreement.” [Dkt. 24-11 (Opp’n Mot. Dismiss Ex. 11,
EBA Summary) at 1]. However, he avers that this Summary was drafted in haste
and is inaccurate, and the record contains numerous examples supporting this
proposition. [See, e.g., Dkt. 24-12 (Opp’n Mot. Dismiss Ex. 12, Pension Board
Letters); Dkt. 24-14 (Opp’n Mot. Dismiss Ex. 14, AlliedSignal Plant Closure Letter);
Dkt. 24-21 (Opp’n Mot. Dismiss Ex. 21, Honeywell Letter)]. Indeed, Defendant has
been providing medical coverage benefits for approximately 20 years until March
1, 2017, when it purportedly terminated their coverage without first providing
written notice. Accordingly, there exists a sufficiently serious question going to
the merits as to whether the language in the Agreements conferred vested lifetime
medical coverage benefits for retirees who retired after the expiration of the
Agreements and their surviving spouses.
The costs also clearly outweigh the benefits of not granting a preliminary
injunction. Subclass B retirees and their surviving spouses already have elevated
medical care and prescription drug costs due to Defendant’s termination of
medical coverage benefits, a reality that may curtail the ability for some to receive
appropriate treatment. See, e.g., [Dkt. 83-1 ¶ 9]. These retirees and their surviving
spouses generally live on a fixed income and are less capable of supplementing
their income. It is widely understood that the availability of health care coverage
is now uncertain. See, e.g., Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”), H.R. 1628,
https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52752 (estimating that “14 million more people
will be uninsured in 2018 under the American Health Care Act passed by the House
of Representatives than under the current law.”); CBO, HR 1628, Better Care
https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52849 (estimating that “15 million more people
would be uninsured under this legislation than under current law”). In addition, the
costs of health care for some are increasing and older individuals in particular may
experience rising premiums or find it difficult to obtain health insurance should
Congress approve current proposals. Id. Requiring Subclass B individuals—many
of whom have presented life threatening health issues to the Court—to personally
pay for medical benefits they are potentially entitled to receive from Defendant,
comes at a great cost. The balance tips decidedly in favor of the Plaintiffs because
Defendant neither claims nor can the Court conceive of any reason why continuing
to provide benefits the Defendant has been providing for nearly 20 years
constitutes a hardship. Should Defendant ultimately prevail as to Subclass B, it
can later recover any losses incurred.
Plaintiffs have stated the Court need not hold a hearing, a request to which
the Defendant does not object. Indeed, the Court is not required to hold a hearing
on the motion for preliminary injunction. Maryland Cas. Co. v. Realty Advisory Bd.
on Labor Relations, 107 F.3d 979, 984 (2d Cir. 1997) (“[T]here is no hard and fast
rule in this circuit that oral testimony must be taken on a motion for a preliminary
injunction or that the court can in no circumstances dispose of the motion on the
papers before it.”). Based on the parties’ briefing and the Plaintiffs’ submitted
declarations, the Court finds there is sufficient evidence to rule on the preliminary
injunction and GRANTS this motion.
Defendant has indicated that it contemplates appealing the Court’s
preliminary injunction ruling and may file a motion to stay the case pending the
outcome of the pending appeals. [Dkt. 83 at 2]. The Court is disinclined to grant a
motion to stay as there is a general preference for the court of appeals to address
a final judgment rather than engage in “piecemeal appellate review of trial court
decisions which do not terminate the litigation.” In re World Trade Ctr. Disaster
Site Litig., 521 F.3d 169, 178 (2d Cir. 2008). The Court acknowledges that Defendant
can elect to file an interlocutory appeal of the preliminary injunction decision. See
28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1). In the interest of judicial economy and efficiency the Court
is more than willing to schedule an early trial date before the end of the year so that
the case can be tried on its merits and Defendant can appeal a final judgment.
The Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs’ Motion for a preliminary injunction and
ORDERS Defendant to reinstate their previously existing medical coverage
benefits. The parties are ORDERED to conduct a Rule 26(f) planning meeting and
file a report by July 31, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
_ ______ /s/ ______________
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: June 27, 2017
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