IUE-CWA, et al v. General Electric Company
Memorandum of Opinion and Order For the reasons set forth herein and those that have been articulated in the memoranda of points and authorities on which Defendant relies in support of the motion, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 46 ) is granted. Judge Benita Y. Pearson on 7/28/2017. (JLG)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
IUE-CWA, et al.,
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY,
CASE NO. 4:15CV2301
JUDGE BENITA Y. PEARSON
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
[Resolving ECF No. 46]
Pending is Defendant General Electric Company’s (“GE”) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No.
46) the Complaint (ECF No. 1) pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. The Court has been advised, having reviewed the record, the
parties’ briefs, and the applicable law. The Court has also considered the oral arguments of
counsel offered during the Telephonic Status Conference on April 17, 2017.1 For the reasons set
forth below, the Court grants the motion.
The Benefit Plans and Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBA”) at Issue
GE has long provided eligible retirees past the age of 65 with certain health benefits to
supplement coverage provided by Medicare, the primary source of health insurance for GE’s
post-65 retirees (as it is for most post-65 retirees in the country). The case at bar concerns the
following health Benefit Plans for post-65 retirees: the GE Pensioners Prescription Drug Plan
The Court announced its inclination to grant the within motion during that
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(“Drug Plan”) (ECF No. 1-1), the GE Medical Care Plan for Pensioners (“Medicare A Plan”)
(ECF No. 1-2), the GE Pensioners Hospital Indemnity Plan (“Hospital Plan”) (ECF No. 1-3), and
the GE Medicare Insurance Plan for Part B Benefits (“Medicare B Plan”) (ECF No. 1-4).2
The Benefit Plans covered prescription drugs as well as certain costs not covered by
Medicare for eligible medical care and hospital visits. These one-size-fits-all Benefit Plans did
not provide eligible retirees the opportunity to choose coverage options tailored to their
individual needs, as the coverage was the same for all retirees. See Drug Plan (ECF No. 1-1) at
PageID #: 46-50, §§ C-E; Medicare A Plan (ECF No. 1-2) at PageID #: 56-58, §§ C-E; Hospital
Plan (ECF No. 1-3) at Page ID#: 66-67, § III; and, Medicare B Plan (ECF No. 1-4) at PageID #:
77-81, § III. Although Defendant sponsored the Benefit Plans, the retirees paid 100% of the
costs of coverage for the Hospital Plan and the Medicare B Plan, while GE subsidized the costs
for the Medicare A Plan and the Drug Plan to varying degrees. See Drug Plan (ECF No. 1-1) at
PageID #: 45-46, § B; Medicare A Plan (ECF No. 1-2) at PageID #: 55-56, § B; Hospital Plan
(ECF No. 1-3) at Page ID#: 65-66, § II; and, Medicare B Plan (ECF No. 1-4) at PageID #: 77, §
II; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 35, 47, and 50. GE offered the Benefit Plans to all eligible retirees,
including those who had not been union-represented employees (both salaried employees and
hourly production employees at non-union facilities) as well as those who had retired before the
effective date of the Plans. See Drug Plan (ECF No. 1-1) at PageID #: 42-45, § A, PageID #: 50,
§ F.1; Medicare A Plan (ECF No. 1-2) at PageID #: 52-55, § A, PageID #: 59, § G.1; Hospital
Plaintiffs refer to these plans as the “Pensioner Plans.” See Memorandum in
Opposition (ECF No. 50) at PageID #: 946 n. 1.
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Plan (ECF No. 1-3) at Page ID #: 63-65, § I, PageID #: 70, § IX.2; and, Medicare B Plan (ECF
No. 1-4) at PageID #: 75-77, § I, PageID #: 84, § IX.2; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 32 and 42.
GE reserved its right to “amend, suspend, or terminate” each of the Benefit Plans “in
whole or in part, at any time without limitation, except” for certain specified restrictions. See
Life, Disability and Medical Plan (“LDM Plan”) (ECF No. 46-4) at PageID #: 840, Part IX. § F;
Hospital Plan (ECF No. 1-3) at Page ID #: 67, § IV; and, Medicare B Plan (ECF No. 1-4) at
PageID #: 67, § IV; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 38, 45, 48, and 50. While there was language
restricting changes that would adversely “affect the amount of GE Life Insurance Benefits . . . for
[eligible] employees who have retired,” there was no such language restricting changes to the
health benefits of post-65 retirees. See LDM Plan (ECF No. 46-4) at PageID #: 840, Part IX. § F.
Instead, the sole exception at issue restricted changes to health benefits for post-65 retirees only
“as may be otherwise provided in collective bargaining agreements.” See LDM Plan (ECF No.
46-4) at PageID #: 840, Part IX. § F; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 38, 45, 48, and 50.
GE and the “Plaintiff unions”3 entered into a new CBA every three or four years from
1973 to 2015. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 22-24. At the end of negotiations for each new CBA, the parties
executed a Memorandum of Settlement (“MOS”) describing the agreed-upon changes to the old
IUE-CWA; IUE-CWA GE and Aerospace Conference Board; United Electrical,
Radio & Machine Workers of America; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers;
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; International Union,
United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America;
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers; International
Brotherhood of Teamsters; and United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing,
Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union. These nine unions
formed the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of GE Unions (“CBC”) to negotiate with
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CBA. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 22-24; see also, e.g., 2011 MOS (ECF Nos. 1-6 and 1-7). The MOS
provided that the parties would then create a definitive “Settlement Agreement” reflecting those
changes. See e.g., 2011 MOS (ECF No. 1-6) at PageID #: 95, (1)-(3). The part of the Settlement
Agreement relevant here is the Pension and Insurance Agreement (“PIA”) (ECF No. 46-3), which
incorporated the terms of the pension and insurance plans agreed to by the parties. See ECF No.
1 at ¶ 28.
Each PIA was “the exclusive and definitive Agreement between the parties with respect
to Pensions and Insurance” while it remained in effect. ECF No. 46-3 at PageID #: 648, Title IV,
§ 4. Each PIA attached black-lined versions of the Benefit Plans reflecting the changes described
in the MOS. See ECF No. 46-3 at PageID #: 631, Title I, § 1(e); PageID #: 635-36, Title I,
Section 3(d),(g); see also ECF No. 1 at ¶ 28. In each PIA, Defendant agreed that the Benefit
Plans would be “ma[de] available,”4 and “[the unions] on their own behalf and on behalf of the
employees” agreed to accept the Benefit Plans and “the terms and conditions thereof to the extent
applicable to the employees.”5 Each PIA limited “[t]he term ‘employees’” to “employees so long
as they are within a bargaining unit” represented by the Plaintiff unions “during the term of [that
PIA].” See ECF No. 46-3 at PageID #: 630-31, Title I, § 1(a). As the Complaint (ECF No. 1)
indicates, the term “employees” did not include those who had “already retired” prior to the PIA
See PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 632, Title I, § 2(b); PageID #: 635-36,
Title I, § 3(d),(g).
See PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 636, Title I, § 4.
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at issue and therefore were no longer within the unions’ bargaining units. See ECF No. 1 at ¶
27(F); see also Allied Chem. & Alkali Workers of Am., Local Union No. 1 v. Pittsburgh Plate
Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 172 (1971) (holding retirees are not “employees” included in a
bargaining unit for purposes of a union’s role as exclusive representative).
Each PIA contained two provisions of significance to the case at bar – one governing
Defendant’s right to change the Benefit Plans and the other governing the duration of the parties’
obligations. First, each PIA provided that none of the Benefit Plans, “to the extent applicable to
employees, shall be amended or terminated by [GE] so long as [the PIA] remain[ed] in effect.”
PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 638, Title I, § 7(b); see also ECF No. 1 at ¶ 27(F). It appears
that “this provision unambiguously establishes that . . . [GE] was free to reduce retiree medical
benefits” “once the [PIAs] expired.” Am. Fed’n of Grain Millers v. Int’l Multifoods Corp., 116
F.3d 976, 981 (2d Cir. 1997). By its terms, this provision limits the promises to “employees,”
which Plaintiffs acknowledge does not include pre-existing retirees, and restricts the time limit of
the promise to the time “this Agreement remains in effect.” By this language, GE committed not
to change the Benefit Plans for the duration of the CBAs as to those “employees” who were part
of the collective bargaining unit and retired during the term of the CBAs. It imposes no
restriction, however, even during the term of the CBA, on amending the Benefit Plans to the
extent applicable to persons who had already retired.
Second, each PIA provided that it would “continue in full force and effect” for an initial
fixed term of three or four years, “and from year to year thereafter,” but also authorized either
side to notify the other during a specified period of “its intention to terminate th[e] Agreement”
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upon a certain date. ECF No. 46-3 at PageID #: 648, Title IV, § 3; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶ 67.
And each PIA at issue – including the 2011 PIA, which was the last one addressing the Benefit
Plans – was terminated prior to the commencement of the new one. See ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 24, 28,
and 54. Plaintiffs reference a 2011 PIA provision stating that “insured employees will pay the
monthly contributions set forth in [the LDM Plan, including the Drug Plan and the Medicare A
Plan]” and that “[GE] will pay the balance of the net cost of such Plans. It will also pay any
increases in such cost;” and another stating that GE’s ability to select between a group policy or a
trust “shall not diminish in any way [its] obligation to be responsible for and to make available
the benefits described in [the] Plans.” PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 642, Title II, § 3;
PageID #: 641, Title II, § 2(a). These provisions do not speak to the duration of GE’s obligation
to provide these benefits.
On September 5, 2014, during the term of the 2011 CBA, the Board of Directors of GE
adopted a resolution effective January 1, 2015 stating that “all retiree healthcare benefits
provided under the [LDM Plan and other Plans] are hereby transferred to separate ERISA benefit
plans for retirees which are hereby established.” Extract from Minutes of Meeting of the GE
Board (ECF No. 1-10) at PageID #: 215, § E. The Plaintiff Unions were not informed of the new
plan structure until after the conclusion of the 2015 negotiations with GE and never consented to
the change in the Benefit Plans made by the Resolution of the Board of Directors. ECF No. 1 at
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The Benefit Changes Challenged in the Case at Bar
On January 1, 2016, Defendant replaced the one-size-fits-all Benefit Plans with an
alternative arrangement that, according to GE, provides retirees with access to the same types of
coverage in a manner that can be more tailored to retirees’ individualized preferences.6 Pursuant
to a contract with GE, a private exchange’s trained counselors assist post-65 retirees in selecting
and purchasing insurance in the private marketplace that meets their particular coverage
preferences for prescription drugs and for eligible medical care and hospital visit costs not
covered by Medicare. See, e.g., Notice to Members (ECF No. 1-5); see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 36
and 58. GE also provides certain post-65 retirees with a reimbursement account for up to $1,000
of eligible expenditures, plus reimbursement for certain prescription drug costs exceeding a
threshold mandated by Medicare. GE posits that these changes make providing post-65 retiree
health benefits more financially manageable for GE, while affording many retirees the
opportunity to obtain more cost-effective coverage. See, e.g., Notice to Members (ECF No. 1-5).
Plaintiffs respond by noting that they have alleged that GE has imposed on
thousands of retirees up to $4,850 in co-pays each year, “a significant amount of money
to be borne by elderly retirees who are living on fixed incomes.” ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 36-37.
ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 952 n. 6.
Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans have a coverage gap (also known as the
“donut hole”). This means there is a temporary limit on what the drug plan will cover for
drugs. Not everyone will enter the coverage gap. The coverage gap begins after a
beneficiary and their drug plan have spent a certain amount for covered drugs. In 2017,
once the beneficiary and their plan have spent $3,700 on covered drugs, the individual is
in the coverage gap. This amount may change each year.
visited April 18, 2017).
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In the 2015 CBA, Plaintiff unions accepted these changes for eligible union-represented
employees who would retire during the term of that agreement. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 54-56.
Plaintiffs’ announcement described the new program as “a reasonable post 65 health care
package for current employee[s] who will retire under this Agreement.” See IUE-CWA GE
Workers United, “Bargaining Update Wednesday June 24, 2015,” http://geworkersunited.org
(last visited July 18, 2017).7
On November 9, 2015, the Plaintiff unions, along with twenty-eight (28) retirees8 seeking
to represent a putative class, filed this lawsuit. See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 5-14, and 77-79.
The Complaint (ECF No. 1) identifies four counts, but appears to raise only three claims, apart
from seeking declaratory judgment. Defendant’s renderings of Plaintiffs’ claims are reasonable.
First, Plaintiffs principally claim that union-represented employees who
retired prior to the 2015 CBA have a “vested,” post-CBA right to
unalterable, lifetime post-65 health benefits under the Benefit Plans and
CBA in effect at the time of their respective retirements. ECF No. 46-1 at
PageID #: 609; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 27, 51, 83-85, and 92-95.
Second, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant’s decision to replace the
Benefit Plans with an alternative set of health benefits for post-65
Plaintiffs object to Defendant’s use of this newsletter because it is not “part of
the pleadings.” ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 952 n. 6. Although the district courts ordinarily
do not consider matters outside a complaint when deciding whether to dismiss it for
failure to state a claim, Weiner v. Klais & Co., 108 F.3d 86, 89 (6th Cir. 1999), overruled
on other grounds, Swierkiwica v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002), they may consider
public records and any other matters of which the court may take judicial notice under
Fed. R. Evid. 201(b). Schreane v. Patterson, No. 1:12-cv-323, 2014 WL 415957, at *3
(E.D.Tenn. Feb. 4, 2014).
Two (2) Individual Plaintiffs have since voluntarily dismissed without prejudice
their individual claims only and withdrew as putative class representatives. See Notices
of Dismissal (ECF Nos. 42 and 48).
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retirees was a breach of fiduciary duty.” ECF No. 46-1 at PageID
#: 609; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 92-95.
Third, independent of the change in benefits, Plaintiffs claim that
GE acted unlawfully when it changed the organizational structure
of the Medicare A Plan and the Drug Plan while those Plans were
still in effect—i.e., by transferring them out of the LDM Plan and
into a separate retirees-only plan as of January 1, 2015. ECF No.
46-1 at PageID #: 609; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 74-76, 87, and 96.
II. Standard of Review
In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court must take
all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and construe those allegations in a light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted). A
cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks “plausibility
in th[e] complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564. A pleading must contain a “short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 677-78
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations,
but must provide more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”
Id. at 678. A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Nor does a complaint
suffice if it tenders “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Id. at 557. It
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The plausibility standard is not akin to a
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“probability requirement,” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely
consistent with” a defendant’s liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.’” Id. at 557 (brackets omitted). “[When] the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint
has alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679 (quoting Rule 8(a)(2)). The Court “need not accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation or an unwarranted factual inference.” Handy-Clay v. City of Memphis, Tenn.,
695 F.3d 531, 539 (6th Cir. 2012) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
When parties offer alternative constructions of a contract, dismissal is only proper if the
interpretation of the party seeking dismissal is the only reasonable construction under the
applicable law. Neely v. Crown Solutions Co., LLC, No. 3:13-cv-00109, 2013 WL 6056205, at
*11 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 15, 2013) (citation omitted). “A court should not choose between
reasonable interpretations of ambiguous contract provisions when considering a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” More Than Gourmet, Inc. v. Christian Potier, S.A., No.
5:13CV1966, 2014WL 4245961, at *6 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 26, 2014) (Lioi, J) (quoting Ajuba Int’l,
L.L.C. v. Saharia, 871 F. Supp.2d 671, 689 (E.D. Mich. 2012)).
The reviewing court may consider “exhibits attached to defendant’s motion to dismiss so
long as they are referred to in the complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.”
Bassett v. NCAA, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008); see also Kreipke v. Wayne State Univ., 807
F.3d 768, 782 (6th Cir. 2015) (“[W]hen a written instrument contradicts allegations [about it] in
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the complaint . . ., the exhibit trumps the allegations.”) (quoting N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows,
Inc. v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 454 (7th Cir. 1998)).
In M & G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 135 S. Ct. 926 (2015) (“Tackett”), the Supreme
Court overruled UAW v. Yard-Man, Inc., 716 F.2d 1476 (1983), finding that the Sixth Circuit’s
“Yard-Man inference” in favor of vesting contravened ordinary principles of contract law. On
remand, the Sixth Circuit analyzed the Supreme Court opinion and enumerated the ordinary
principles of contract law from both the majority and concurring opinions in Tackett that should
frame that inquiry. Tackett v. M & G Polymers USA, LLC, 811 F.3d 204 (6th Cir. 2016)
(“Tackett III”); Reese v. CNH Industrial N.V., 854 F.3d 877, 882 (6th Cir. 2017) (“Reese III”)
(“Thus, relying heavily on Justice Ginsburg’s concurrence, Tackett III removed presumptions in
favor of vesting, but also explicitly declined to shift that presumption to the employer.”).
After Tackett, the Sixth Circuit revisited the issue of retiree healthcare benefits in Gallo v.
Moen Inc., 813 F.3d 265 (6th Cir.), reh’g en banc denied (Mar. 16, 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.
Ct. 375 (2016). Relying on Yard-Man, the district court had concluded that Moen retirees had a
vested right to healthcare benefits. Shortly after the district court issued its decision, however,
the Supreme Court decided Tackett. In Gallo, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant
of summary judgment and remanded the case for the district court to enter judgment in the
employer’s favor. Id. at 274.
In Gallo, the Sixth Circuit found that the contracts at issue did not indicate intent to vest
retirees with lifetime healthcare benefits. The court found that, as applied to the contracts in
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question, ordinary principles of contract law required the conclusion that no vesting had
occurred. Id. Ultimately, the court held the CBAs at issue did not provide for unalterable,
lifetime healthcare benefits. Id. at 268-69. (“That is what matters, and that is where the
plaintiffs fall short.”).
The Sixth Circuit also noted that “[w]hen a specific provision of the CBA does not
include an end date, we refer to the general durational clause to determine that provision’s
termination.” Id. The presence of a general durational clause is not dispositive, but without a
specific limit or indicia of ambiguity, a court will typically presume that the duration of a
provision is governed by the general durational clause. See Reese III, 854 F.3d at 882–83; Int’l
Union, United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Workers of Am. (UAW) v. Kelsey-Hayes
Co., 854 F.3d 862, 868-69 (6th Cir. 2017) (“UAW v. Kelsey-Hayes”). Because the Gallo retiree
healthcare benefit provision did not expressly provide for lifetime benefits, did not include a
specific end date, and the CBAs did not otherwise indicate ambiguity by, for example,
segregating healthcare benefits from other entitlements in the CBA or coupling healthcare and
pension benefits, the general 3-year durational clause applied. Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269, 271; see
also Reese III, 854 F.3d at 883. Accordingly, Moen’s obligation to provide retiree healthcare
benefits ended when the 3-year CBA expired. Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269, 271.
To punctuate its point, the appellate court reiterated that the Gallo CBAs at issue
promised that “[c]ontinued hospitalization, surgical and medical coverage will be provided
without cost” to former employees who retired under prior CBAs. The Sixth Circuit reasoned
that this provision would not have been necessary if prior agreements had, in fact, already caused
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the right to such benefits to vest. Id. at 270 (emphasis added in original). In Gallo, the Court
also found that, standing alone, the use of future tense language, i.e., “will be” provided, was
insufficient evidence of intent to vest. Id. at 271 (citing Tackett, 135 S. Ct. 937); Cole v. Meritor,
Inc., 855 F.3d 695, 700 (6th Cir. 2017) (“The ‘shall be continued’ language [ ] is thus not
sufficient to vest the retirees with healthcare benefits for life.”). The Gallo Court held that,
regarding the particular set of CBAs before it, the general durational clause governed; the
“continued” and related provisions merely “guarantee[d] benefits until the agreement expire[d],
nothing more.”9 Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269 (emphasis in original).
Finally, the appellate court rendered that the CBAs at issue in Gallo explicitly guaranteed
lifetime pension benefits, but not lifetime healthcare benefits. Because 29 U.S.C. § 1053(a)
requires employers to state explicitly in pension plans that such benefits are vested, the use of the
word “vested” in connection with pension benefits, but not healthcare benefits, is insufficient to
indicate intent to vest one but not the other. The Gallo CBAs went beyond mere word choice,
however, and expressly stated that pension benefits would continue on beyond the life of other
benefits. Gallo, 813 F.3d at 270 (noting that the Gallo CBAs specified that “when [certain]
benefits are no longer payable . . . the normal monthly survivor pension benefit will be paid for
The Cole court stated:
The CBAs also contained durational clauses that supplied a
concrete date of expiration for retiree healthcare benefits.
These durational clauses give meaning to the promise that
healthcare benefits “shall be continued.” That is, Meritor
guaranteed healthcare benefits only until the expiration of
the final CBA, nothing more.
2017 WL 1404188, at *5 (citing Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269).
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the rest of the survivor’s life.”). The court opined that, “we must assume that the explicit
guarantee of lifetime benefits in some provisions and not others means something.”10 Id.
Plaintiffs claim that, in its pre-2015 CBAs, GE contractually committed to provide
unalterable medical benefits for life to union retirees. According to Plaintiffs, Defendant
unambiguously promised to continue the Benefit Plans. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 946-49. The
CBAs state that the Drug Plan and the Medicare A Plan “shall be made available” and also state
that “GE agrees . . . it will make available [the Hospital Plan and the Medicare B Plan] to
pensioners when they attain age 65 and after they have retired.” PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID
#: 635-36, Title I, § 3. According to Plaintiffs, unlike in Gallo, “the GE contracts emphatically
state that GE shall make the negotiated benefits available for retirees and do not rest merely on
an invocation of the future tense.” ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 953.
Additionally, the court in Gallo rejected plaintiffs’ argument that intent to vest
could be found in the fact that eligibility for retiree healthcare benefits was tied to
eligibility for pensions. Id. at 272. Although the Sixth Circuit has noted that the tying of
pension and healthcare benefits may suggest ambiguity, Reese III, 854 F.3d at 883, it has
not found that tying of benefits, alone, indicates an intent to vest, or creates sufficient
ambiguity to consider extrinsic evidence. Furthermore, the Gallo court noted that a mere
connection between healthcare and pension benefits is not enough to demonstrate
ambiguity—the benefits’ durations must be intertwined. Gallo, 813 F.3d at 272 (citing
Tackett, 135 S. Ct. at 938 (Ginsburg, J., concurring)).
Accordingly, because the Gallo Court concluded that the unambiguous language
of the most recent CBA offered “no evidence of any intent to fix these benefits
permanently into the future,” it refused to consider any extrinsic evidence. Id. at 273-74.
If the CBA’s language is clear and unambiguous, “its meaning is to be ascertained in
accordance with its plainly expressed intent.” Tackett, 135 S. Ct. 933 (quoting 11 R.
Lord, Williston on Contracts § 30:6, p. 108 (4th ed. 2012)). At that point, the parties’
intent, as discernable in unambiguous language, controls. Id.
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Each of the Benefit Plans clearly and expressly reserved GE’s right to amend or terminate
the Plans at any time for any reason, subject only to any restrictions on amendment imposed by
the CBAs. Unless restricted from doing so by the CBAs, therefore, GE had the right to amend or
terminate the Plans as it deemed appropriate. In Sprague v.Gen. Motors Corp., 133 F.3d 388
(6th Cir. 1998) (en banc), the Sixth Circuit rejected a vesting claim similar to Plaintiffs’ claim in
the case at bar on the ground that the benefit plans unambiguously “reserved a right on GM’s part
to amend or terminate the plan.” Id. at 399. In the instant case, after the CBAs terminated, the
reservation of rights clause became indistinguishable from the reservation of rights at issue in
The Benefit Plans at issue were subject to express reservation of rights provisions
authorizing GE to amend or terminate the Plan “at any time without limitation” except as
provided in the CBAs. See LDM Plan (ECF No. 46-4) at PageID #: 840, Part IX. § F; Hospital
Plan (ECF No. 1-3) at Page ID #: 67, § IV; and, Medicare B Plan (ECF No. 1-4) at PageID #: 67,
§ IV; see also ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 38, 45, 48, and 50. Also, the explicit terms of the CBAs restricted
GE’s right to amend or terminate the Benefit Plan only “so long as [the CBA] remain[ed] in
effect.” See PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 638, Title I, § 7(b). Once the CBAs promising the
contested benefits ended, so too did any restriction on GE’s right to amend or terminate the
Plans. Although Tackett did not create a clear statement rule, a retiree-benefits vesting claim
This is so even though, as Plaintiffs point out,“[t]he Sprague reservations of
rights clause stated: ‘General Motors Corporation reserves the right to amend, change or
terminate the Plans and Programs described in this booklet’ and contained no reference to
limiting CBAs since Sprague involved unrepresented salaried employees who had no
CBA.” ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 955 n. 10 (citing Sprague, 133 F.3d at 393 n.1, 394.).
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fails as a matter of law when there is no contract language that can be reasonably interpreted as a
commitment by the employer to provide the benefits post-CBA and for the lifetimes of the
beneficiaries, and there is no evidence of ambiguity in the contract. Gallo, 813 F.3d at 268-69,
274. This leaves the duration of GE’s promise to provide health benefits to union retirees as the
only relevant question to be answered.
Following Sixth Circuit jurisprudence, contract language cannot reasonably be interpreted
to vest post-CBA benefits when the employer’s promise to provide benefits is subject to an
express provision defining the duration of the agreement and an express reservation of the right
to amend the benefits. See Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269 (“These terms guarantee benefits until the
agreement expires, nothing more.”) (emphasis in original); Serafino v. City of Hamtramck, No.
14-14112, 2016 WL 5390857, at *6 (E.D.Mich. Sept. 27, 2016) (“even a promise of coverage
‘until your death’ provides retirees with lifetime healthcare coverage only during the effective
period of the CBA under which they retired, absent other vesting language”); cf. Reese III, 854
F.3d 887 (finding that the CBAs, which did not include reservation of rights clauses, to be
ambiguous as to the duration of healthcare benefits); UAW v. Kelsey-Hayes, 854 F.3d at 872
“[A]greements contain[ing] reservation-of-rights clauses [ ] evidence an intent not to
vest,” and “the caveat—that certain ‘benefits’ must be ‘maintained’ . . . only ‘for the life of this
Agreement’” establishes “a timeline that is incompatible with construing the agreement to create
vested and unalterable benefits.” Gallo, 813 F.3d at 270. Contrary to Plaintiffs’ position that
“[t]here is no similar provision in the GE CBAs or the Pensioner Plans limiting retiree benefits to
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the life of the CBAs,” ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 954, GE specifically reserved the right in the
Benefit Plans themselves to amend or terminate the Plans at any time for any reason, subject only
to any restrictions on amendment imposed by the CBAs. GE also agreed in the CBAs to restrict
its right to amend or terminate the Plans only “so long as [the CBAs] remain[ ] in effect.” See
PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 638, Title I, § 7(b).12 Together, these reservation of rights
clauses evidence a clear intent not to vest benefits and merely to restrict GE’s right to amend only
during the duration of the CBAs.
The CBAs promised that the Benefit Plans would be “made available” to employees who
retired during the CBA’s term, but contain no durational provision extending that promise
beyond the termination of the CBAs. See PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 632 Title I, § 2(b).
Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269 (terms like “will be covered” must be read “in conjunction with the
general durational clause,” such that they “guarantee benefits until the agreement expires,
nothing more.”). The last of the CBAs in which GE agreed to make the Plans “available”
terminated in mid-2015, a point Plaintiffs do not dispute. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 956.
Plaintiffs argue that the CBAs’ general termination provisions do not apply to retirees
and, thus, unlike Gallo, the “made available” provisions have no end to them. Plaintiffs also
Plaintiffs cited Reynolds v. Resolute Forest Products, Inc., No. 1:16-CV-48TAV-CHS (E.D. Tenn. filed March 1, 2017), during the April 17, 2017 Telephonic Status
Conference. In Reynolds, the district court denied a motion to dismiss retiree claims for
vested healthcare benefits, “find[ing] that the CBAs are ambiguous concerning the
parties’ intent to vest retiree health care benefits, particularly with regard to the benefits’
connection with active employees’ benefits. Id. at 18. The CBAs at issue in Reynolds, in
the eyes of the court, called into question the unilaterally reserved right to terminate
retiree health benefits in the Health Plan.
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argue that the unions were acting only on behalf of “employees,” defined as those individuals
within the collective bargaining agreement during the term of the CBA, and as such the
termination provision only governed obligations applicable to the “employees within [the]
bargaining units” and not “to retirees who are not within the Unions’ bargaining units.” ECF No.
50 at PageID #: 950. In Tackett III, the Sixth Circuit noted:
[W]hile the Supreme Court’s decision prevents us from presuming that “absent
specific durational language referring to retiree benefits themselves, a general
durational clause says nothing about the vesting of retiree benefits,” we also
cannot presume that the absence of such specific language, by itself, evidences an
intent not to vest benefits or that a general durational clause says everything about
the intent to vest.
811 F.3d at 209 (quoting Tackett, 135 S. Ct. 935, 937) (emphasis in original).
In Gallo, unlike in the case at bar, the CBAs at issue included a specific durational
provision authorizing the company to end employee health benefits for terminated employees,
but did not include a specific durational provision for retiree health benefits. 813 F.3d at 271.
And there, as here, the plaintiffs argued that the comparative “absence of specific durational
limits in the retiree benefits provisions . . . mean[t] that these benefits were meant to last for life.”
Id. The Sixth Circuit rejected that argument, holding: “specific and general terms usually work
in tandem. . . . The CBAs’ general durational clauses provide a baseline or default rule, a point at
which the agreements expire absent more specific limits relevant to a particular term. In the
absence of specific language in the retiree healthcare provisions, the general durational clause
controls.” Id. 271-72 (emphasis in original); Cole, 2017 WL 1404188, at *5. That holding bars
Plaintiffs’ argument here. Moreover, Plaintiffs have made no showing of additional ambiguity to
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overcome the presumption that the general durational clause controls. Reese III, 854 F.3d at 883.
Plaintiffs do not distinguish Gallo, citing instead Reese v. CNH Industrial N.V., 143 F.
Supp.3d 609 (E.D. Mich. 2015), aff’d and remanded, 854 F.3d 877 (6th Cir. 2017), and United
Steel, Paper, Forestry v. Kelsey-Hayes Co., No. 4:11-CV-15497, 2016 WL 337467 (E.D. Mich.
Jan. 28, 2016), appeal pending, No. 16-1240 (6th Cir.) (USW v. Kelsey-Hayes),13 two earlier
decisions from another district court.14 In Reese, the Sixth Circuit recently found the
general-durational clause at issue in that case did not cure any ambiguity as to the duration of
benefits, and affirmed the district court’s vesting determination finding that the CBA is
ambiguous and the extrinsic evidence indicated that the parties intended for the healthcare
benefits to vest for life. 2017 WL 1404390, at *1, 4. This decision rested on the ambiguity of
the CBAs. In contrast, in the case at bar, Plaintiffs argue:
GE UNAMBIGUOUSLY PROMISED TO CONTINUE THE [BENEFIT
PLANS]. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 946.
The PIA’s unambiguously require GE to provide the [Benefit] Plans for the life of
the retirees. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 946.
In UAW v. Kelsey-Hayes Co., 854 F.3d 862, No. 15-2285, 2017 WL 1404189
(6th Cir. April 20, 2017), the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s award of partial
summary judgment to a group of retirees who had worked at a closed plant and modified
the permanent injunction entered in plaintiffs’ favor in another retiree healthcare benefits
case. Id. at *1, 9. The Court found multiple ambiguities within the language of the 1998
CBA that provided healthcare benefits “shall be continued for such employees who
retire. . . .” Id. at *5-6. The case at bar, however, lacks the characteristics that created
ambiguity as to vesting in Kelsey-Hayes.
Courts cannot “refus[e] to apply general durational clauses” based on
implications and inferences from contractual provisions that are instead capable of being
read “in conjunction with the general durational clause” rather than in conflict with it.
Gallo, 813 F.3d at 269-70.
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The 2011 PIA further unambiguously provides at Title II, Section 3 that “insured
employees will pay the monthly contributions set forth in [the LDM Plan,
including the [Drug Plan] and the [Medicare A] Plan]” and that “The Company
will pay the balance of the net cost of such Plans. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 947.
Unlike the Reese and USW v. Kelsey-Hayes plaintiffs, Plaintiffs at bar do not argue that the
contracts are ambiguous—instead, they argue that the contracts clearly state the parties’ intent. If
that is the case, there is no need to examine the extrinsic evidence. “When the intent of the
parties is unambiguously expressed in the contract, that expression controls, and the court’s
inquiry should proceed no further. But when the contract is ambiguous, a court may consider
extrinsic evidence to determine the intentions of the parties.” Tackett, 135 S. Ct. at 938
(Ginsburg, J., concurring) (citations to 11 Williston §§ 30:6-7 omitted). Contractual ambiguity
“gives courts a warrant to search the record for extrinsic evidence of contractual meaning.”
Without a textual finding “that there are two competing interpretations, both of which are fairly
plausible readings of the language[,]” the Court cannot consider Plaintiffs’ proffered extrinsic
evidence. Reese, 2017 WL 1404390, at *11 (Sutton, J., dissenting) (citations omitted).
Gallo also suggested that a claim of vesting cannot be sustained where the employer has
expressly promised to vest other benefits post-CBA, but not the benefits at issue. Gallo, 813
F.3d at 270 (noting that the Gallo CBAs explicitly specified that “when [certain] benefits are no
longer payable . . . the normal monthly survivor pension benefit will be paid for the rest of the
survivor’s life” but made no such promise for health care benefits). Defendants errantly rely on
the CBAs explicit guarantee of lifetime pension benefits, but not lifetime healthcare benefits. As
earlier discussed, 29 U.S.C. § 1053(a) requires employers to state explicitly in pension plans that
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such benefits are vested, but there is no such law for welfare benefits. ECF No. 449 at PageID #:
13771 n. 3. Therefore, the Court cannot assume intent behind the obligatory inclusion of the
word “vested” in the pension plans or its absence in the welfare plans. It can not be ignored,
however, that, in the instant case, LDM Plan precludes an amendment of the amount of LDM
retiree life insurance benefits available to retirees. ECF No. 46-4 at PageID #: 840, Part IX. § F.
The parties explicitly provided for certain retiree life insurance benefits to vest, but not medical
benefits. This language shows GE retained the ability to amend or terminate the Benefit Plans.15
The Gallo court also rejected plaintiffs’ argument that intent to vest could be found in the fact
that eligibility for retiree healthcare benefits was tied to eligibility for pensions. Id. at 272.16
It is worth noting that agreements that reduce benefits evidence an intent not to vest. This
is so even when the union claims to have consented to such reductions, because a unions could
not legally consent to a reduction in preexisting retirees’ benefits if those benefits were actually
vested. Here, it is undisputed that the CBAs reduced certain medical benefits over time.
Had the parties intended to restrict post-CBA changes to the Benefit Plans, they
would not have restricted changes only “so long as [the PIA] remain[ed] in effect.” PIA
(ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 638, Title I, § 7(b). They would have restricted changes for
“so long as an employee remains retired” – just as they did to vest certain retiree life
insurance benefits. See LDM Plan (ECF No. 46-4) at PageID #: 840, Part IX. § F.
The Reese III court noted that although an intent to vest cannot be inferred
from tying of pension and healthcare benefits, tying can create ambiguity. Reese III, 854
F.3d at 883–84. Regardless, it is a stretch for Plaintiffs to argue their healthcare benefits
were tied to pension benefits. In reality, the pension and healthcare benefits were merely
related. The Plans did not make eligibility for pension benefits a prerequisite for retiree
healthcare, or otherwise tie the duration of healthcare benefits to the duration of pension
benefits. Gallo, 813 F.3d at 271 (citing Tackett III, 135 S. Ct. 938 (Ginsburg, J.,
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That union retirees’ post-65 health benefits were not vested is further confirmed by
Plaintiffs’ admission at ¶ 65 of the Complaint (ECF No. 1) that the CBAs themselves recognized
prior adverse Benefit Plan “changes in the terms available to existing retirees.” This admission
contradicts the Plaintiffs’ claim that those retirees had lifetime vested benefits. Plaintiffs admit,
for example, that the 2011 CBA “increased . . . prescription drug co-pays” for pre-existing
retirees. Defendant notes that between the 2000 and 2011 CBAs:
(1) the mail-order co-pay for pre-1/1/04 enrollees increased by 75% (from $20 to
(2) the mail-order co-pay for brand-name drugs for post-1/1/04 enrollees increased
by roughly 80% (from $36 to $65);
(3) the retail co-pay for brand-name drugs for post-1/1/04 enrollees increased by
nearly 90% (from $16 to $30); and
(4) a review program was added to exclude drugs that were not “reasonable,
necessary and customary.”
See Excerpts from the 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2011 PIAs (ECF No. 46-7).
Relying on Reese v. CNH Industrial N.V., No. 04-70592, 2007 WL 2484989, at *6 (E.D.
Mich. Aug. 29, 2007), aff’d in part and rev’d in part, 574 F.3d 315 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Hinckley v. Kelsey-Hayes Co., 866 F. Supp. 1034, 1042 (E.D. Mich. 1994), two decisions from
another district court, Plaintiffs argue that the terms of the 2011 MOS between the CBC and GE
show that the terms of the Drug Plan for existing retirees were left largely intact for pre-2004
retirees and “materially changed” only for post-2004 retirees with the permission of the CBC.
ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 962. Again, unions, however, cannot legally consent to a reduction in
preexisting retirees’ benefits if those benefits were actually vested. Instead, Plaintiffs insinuate
that the prior adverse changes might have been a breach of the pre-existing retirees’ alleged
vested rights that those retirees simply chose to “tolerat[e].” ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 962.
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A series of contracts that “reduce[d] benefits to be paid to all retirees” “cannot be
interpreted to provide vested rights for prior retirees in one provision and to take such rights
away in another.” Anderson v. Alpha Portland Indus., Inc., 836 F.2d 1512, 1519 (8th Cir. 1988)
(quoting and affirming Anderson v. Alpha Portland Indus., 647 F. Supp. 1109, 1127 (E.D.Mo.
1986)), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1051 (1989)). Construing a contract itself to be breaching the very
promises it makes would do violence to the principle that courts “must not interpret one
provision inconsistently with another.” Id. That contract-harmonization principle – emphasized
in Gallo as well. 813 F.3d at 270.
Next, Plaintiffs invoke the so-called “Cap Clause” language to support their claim for
post-CBA vested benefits. This language that limited GE’s liability for retiree benefits is found
only in the 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2003 CBAs. Plaintiffs allege that certain language
capped the amount of “GE’s post-contract financial responsibility for its Retiree Benefit Plans
after the CBC contract expired.” ECF No. 1 at ¶ 27B. These Cap Clauses do not establish
vesting for life for two reasons.
First, the “Cap Clause” did not address GE’s “post-contract” responsibilities. Rather, it
addressed limits to Defendant’s financial obligations during the contract. In each PIA, the
durational clause provided that the PIA would “continue in full force and effect” for an initial
fixed term of three or four years, “and from year to year thereafter,” “unless” either side notified
the other during a specified period of “its intention to terminate th[e] Agreement” upon a certain
date. See PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 648, Title IV, § 3 (emphasis added); ECF No. 1 at ¶
67. Accordingly, the Cap Clause merely imposed a limitation on GE’s contribution obligations
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starting in January of the first year of any contract continuation after the initial fixed term.
Indeed, Plaintiffs admit that no Cap Clause was ever applied post-CBA termination. Each of the
1991-2003 CBAs was terminated prior to its stated expiration date and new Cap Clauses were
negotiated. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 956; ECF No. 1 at ¶ 24.
Second, assuming arguendo that each Cap Clause would have continued to apply after
the applicable CBA ended, those clauses “simply [are] not . . . language that affirmatively
operate[d] to create the promise of vesting.” Joyce v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 171 F.3d 130, 135
(2d Cir. 1999). Rather, those clauses limited GE’s potential liability for “any subsequent
postretirement medical benefit[ ]” obligations that it might have had. See 1991 PIA (ECF No.
46-8) at PageID #: 902, Title I, § 1(c). Cole, 2017 WL 1404188, at *6 (“[T]he fact that [the
parties] anticipated, or even hoped, that these benefits would continue does not mean that [the
company] is bound to provide these benefits for the life of the retirees.”). Those clauses did not
themselves promise any post-CBA benefits to any retirees, and Plaintiffs have not identified any
other language so promising. Thus, no such promise was made. See Joyce, 171 F.3d at 135;
Gallo, 813 F.3d at 270 (“the written agreement is presumed to encompass the whole agreement
of the parties” (quoting Tackett, 135 S. Ct. at 936)).
Finally, Plaintiffs graft on to their claim for post-CBA benefits by invoking other
miscellaneous provisions in the Benefit Plans that are the principal focus of the Complaint (ECF
No. 1) – i.e., the so-called “pension tying,” “surviving spouse,” lifetime maximum,” and “enroll
at any time” provisions. ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 948-49, 963-64. None of these provisions is
sufficient to overcome the clear reservation of rights and durational provisions of the CBAs and
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Benefit Plans to create vesting. The presence of such provisions, while appropriate components
of any plan providing medical benefits during the term of a CBA, do not imply that benefits are
guaranteed to continue beyond the term of the CBAs, nor do they undermine GE’s retained right
to amend or terminate the Plans at a later time. Importantly, none of these provisions sets forth a
“specific time limit” that is different than the general durational clause of the CBAs. Gallo, 813
F.3d at 271-72 (“[A]bsent more specific limits relevant to a particular term . . . in the retiree
healthcare provisions, the general durational clause controls.”); Cherry v. Auburn Gear, Inc., 441
F.3d 476, 483-84 (7th Cir. 2006) (holding that a surviving spouse provision is insufficient when
the CBA only obligates the employer to provide benefits for the duration of the contract). Nor
have Plaintiffs demonstrated that the contracts were sufficiently ambiguous as to “overcome any
presumption that the general-duration clause should govern.” Reese III, 854 F.3d at 883 (citing
Tackett III, 811 F.3d at 208).
The Complaint (ECF No. 1) notes that, “in the event of a retiree’s death, his or her
surviving spouse . . . is entitled to medical care benefits equal to the remaining balance, if any,”
under one of the Benefit Plans. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 51, 27.C.2. Plaintiffs cited Fletcher v.
Honeywell Int’l , Inc., No. 3:16-cv-302, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28324 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 28,
2017), during the April 17, 2017 Telephonic Status Conference in support of their position that
benefits for the retirees are for life. In Fletcher, the court found “[t]he fact that Honeywell so
willingly agreed to provide lifetime healthcare benefits to surviving spouses and dependents . . .
detracts from the credibility of its claim that it never would have agreed to provide lifetime
healthcare benefits for the retirees themselves.” Id. at *20. But courts have held that such
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surviving spouse benefits language “does not constitute affirmative language that could
reasonably be interpreted as creating a promise to vest the Retirees’ benefits.” Bouboulis v.
Transport Workers Union of Am., 442 F.3d 55, 63 (2d Cir. 2006) (emphasis added). Such
provisions “promise[ ] benefits to spouses of [retirees] who are participants at the time of their
death,” but do not promise to allow retirees to remain as participants until the time of their death.
Id. at 62. In other words, such provisions merely “refer[ ] to the eligibility of [surviving spouses]
to receive benefits under the agreement, not to the duration of the agreement.” Cherry, 441 F.3d
at 483 (emphasis in original). And those courts made this ruling even though the surviving
spouses in those cases were promised “lifetime” benefits, see id.; Bouboulis, 442 F.3d at 62-63,
whereas the surviving spouses in the case at bar were simply promised the retirees’ “remaining
Breach of a Fiduciary Duty Claim
Plaintiffs also alleges that “GE’s plan to terminate the Retiree Benefit Plans constitutes a
breach of fiduciary duty in violation of ERISA Section 404, 29 U.S.C. § 1104.” ECF No. 1 at ¶
94. Plaintiff offers no opposition to Defendant’s argument that it did not breach a fiduciary duty
by replacing the benefit plans with an alternative set of post-65 health benefits. See
Memorandum in Support (ECF No. 46-1) at PageID #: 623. As the Court of Appeals for the
Sixth Circuit explained in Sengpiel v. B.F. Goodrich Co., 156 F.3d 660 (6th Cir. 1998),
. . . courts have typically distinguished between employer actions that constitute
“managing” or “administering” a plan and those that are said to constitute merely
“business decisions” that have an effect on an ERISA plan; the former are deemed
“fiduciary acts” while the latter are not. It is firmly established, for example, that
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“a company does not act in a fiduciary capacity when deciding to amend or
terminate a welfare benefits plan.” Sutter v. BASF Corp., 964 F.2d 556, 562 (6th
Cir. 1992) (quoting Adams v. Avondale Indus., Inc., 905 F.2d 943, 947 (6th Cir.
1990)); see also Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Schoonejongen, 514 U.S. 73, 78, 115
S.Ct. 1223, 131 L.Ed.2d 94 (1995) (“Employers or other plan sponsors are
generally free under ERISA for any reason at any time, to adopt, modify, or
terminate welfare plans.”).
Id. at 665. Because Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden in opposing dismissal on their breach of
fiduciary duty claim, Plaintiffs have abandoned this claim and waived any argument concerning
dismissal of such claim. Hicks v. Concorde Career Coll., 449 Fed.Appx. 484, 487 (6th Cir.
2011) (finding that “[t]he district court properly declined to consider the merits of [plaintiff’s]
claim because [plaintiff] failed to address it in . . . his response to the summary judgment
motion”); see also, e.g., Rivers v. Turner, No. 3:14 CV 2547, 2015 WL 5444838, at *7 (N.D.
Ohio Sept. 15, 2015) (Zouhary, J.) (plaintiff waived any opposition to defendants’ motion to
dismiss his substantive due process and Eighth Amendment claims by failing to raise arguments
in support of his claims in response to defendants’ arguments); Hadi v. State Farm Ins. Cos.,
2:07-CV-0060, 2008 WL 4877766, at *13 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 12, 2008) (finding plaintiff’s failure
to respond with any evidence supporting his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim
“apparently concedes that summary judgment is proper on this count.”). Therefore, Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 46) with respect to the breach of fiduciary duty claim is granted for
the reasons articulated by Defendant. See ECF No. 46-1 at PageID #: 623; Reply Memorandum
(ECF No. 51) at PageID #: 1513.
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Claim that Defendant’s Change as of January 1, 2015 to the Structure of the
Drug Plan and the Medicare A Plan was Unlawful
Finally, Plaintiff alleges that GE acted unlawfully when it unilaterally “transferred” the
Drug Plan and the Medicare A Plan from the LDM Plan to a separate retiree-only plan as of
January 1, 2015. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 87 and 96. According to Plaintiffs, the transfer violated the
2011 CBA because Defendant “agree[d] to accept” the 2011 LDM Plan and “agree[d] to the
terms and conditions thereof to the extent applicable to the employees.” ECF No. 50 at PageID
#: 965 (citing PIA (ECF No. 46-3) at PageID #: 636, Title I, § 4).
Defendant argues without opposition that this ancillary claim is moot if the Court
dismisses Plaintiffs’ primary claims challenging the termination of these post-65 Benefit Plans as
of 2016. ECF No. 46-1 at PageID #: 623; ECF No. 50 at PageID #: 965; ECF No. 51 at PageID
#: 1512-13. In any event, Plaintiffs have not identified any possible injury that would warrant
monetary or equitable relief for this claim. The restructuring did not affect substantive benefits.
For the reasons set forth above and those that have been articulated in the memoranda of
points and authorities on which Defendant relies in support of the motion, Defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 46) is granted.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
July 28, 2017
/s/ Benita Y. Pearson
Benita Y. Pearson
United States District Judge
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