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International Union United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America v. Kelsey-Hayes Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 28, 2015

INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE, AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA (UAW); JAMES WARD, MARSHALL HUNT, and RICHARD GORDON, for themselves and others similarly-situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
KELSEY-HAYES COMPANY, TRW AUTOMOTIVE HOLDINGS CORP, and NORTHROP GRUMMAN SYSTEMS CORPORATION, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING CLASS CERTIFICATION

GEORGE CARAM STEEH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs move, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, that the Court (1) certify this case as a class action and (2) appoint plaintiffs-retirees James Ward, Marshall Hunt, and Richard Gordon, and their counsel, to prosecute the class action. (Docket 87). Defendants did not oppose the motion.

For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

1. Ward, Hunt, and Gordon sue for themselves and a class of similarlysituated retirees and the retirees' surviving spouses and other eligible dependents (collectively, the "retirees"). They sue for breach of collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") under Section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. §185, and for violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §1001, et seq. Plaintiff UAW sues for CBA breach under LMRA Section 301.

2. UAW and defendant Kelsey-Hayes were parties to the February 2, 1998 CBA governing the now-closed Kelsey-Hayes Detroit, Michigan manufacturing plant (the "1998 CBA") and to the collectively-bargained April 17, 2001 plant closing agreement (the "2001 Closing CBA"). Ward, Gordon, and Hunt retired from the UAW-represented bargaining unit at the Detroit plant in 1998, 2000, and 2001, respectively.

3. All retirees in the proposed class retired under the 1998 CBA. All received company-paid comprehensive group health insurance from the time of retirement until January 1, 2012. On that date, defendants replaced the health insurance for retirees over age 65 with health reimbursement arrangements ("HRAs"). Defendants also assert the right to further alter or terminate retiree healthcare in the future. In this lawsuit, plaintiffs challenge these actions under LMRA Section 301 and ERISA.

4. Plaintiffs ask the Court to appoint Ward, Hunt, and Gordon as class representatives and plaintiffs' counsel Stuart M. Israel, William Wertheimer, and John G. Adam and their law firms as class counsel. Plaintiffs define the class as:

Employees who retired under the 1998 collective bargaining agreement from the UAW-represented unit at the now-closed Kelsey-Hayes/TRW Detroit, Michigan plant and the retirees' surviving spouses and other dependents eligible for company-paid retiree health insurance.

Rule 23 Class Action Standards

5. Rule 23 "governs class certification." USW v. Kelsey-Hayes Co., 290 F.R.D. 77, 80 (E.D. Mich. 2013). Under Rule 23(a), "[o]ne or more members of a class may sue... as representative parties on behalf of all members" where: (1) "the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable"; (2) "there are questions of law or fact common to the class"; (3) "the claims... of the representative parties are typical of the claims... of the class"; and (4) "the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class."

6. A class action is proper: (1) under Rule 23(b)(1) where "separate actions by... individual class members would create a risk of: (A) inconsistent or varying adjudications... that would establish incompatible standards of conduct" for defendants or (B) "as a practical matter, would be dispositive of the interests" of class members "not parties" or "would substantially impair or impede their ability to protect their interests" and (2) under Rule 23(b)(2), where defendants "acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole." Rule 23(b)(1)(A) and (B) and (b)(2).

7. District courts have "broad discretion in determining whether an action should be certified as a class action." Sterling v. Velsicol Chem. Corp., 855 F.2d 1188, 1197 (6th Cir. 1988). "When a court is in doubt as to whether to certify a class action, it should err in favor of allowing a class." In re Cardizem CD Antitrust Litigation, 200 F.R.D. 297, 303 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citation omitted).

8. Lawsuits involving LMRA/ERISA retiree healthcare claims have been certified as Rule 23 class actions in other cases in the Eastern District of Michigan brought against Kelsey-Hayes and related entities. These include: (1) USW v. Kelsey-Hayes Co., 290 F.R.D. 77, 79-80 (E.D. Mich. 2013) (certifying a class of retirees from the Kelsey-Hayes Jackson, Michigan plant and the retirees' surviving spouses and other eligible dependents); (2) Golden v. Kelsey-Hayes Co., 954 F.Supp. 1173, 1175, n.7 (E.D. Mich. 1997) (certifying a class of retirees from the Kelsey-Hayes Detroit plant and other plants and the retirees' eligible dependents); and (3) Fox v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., 172 F.R.D. 653, 665, 670 (E.D. Mich. 1995) (certifying a class of retirees from Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio plants and the retirees' surviving ...


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