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Cole v. Meritor, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 20, 2017

Robert Cole, John Adams, Richard S. Lanter (03-73872) and Lois E. Last, David Reamer, Charles A. Schmidt (04-73656), on behalf of themselves and a similarly situated class; International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
Meritor, Inc., fka ArvinMeritor, Inc.; Rockwell Automation, Inc.; Rockwell International Corporation; Defendants-Appellants.

          Argued: October 18, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. Nos. 03-73872; 04-73656-Nancy G. Edmunds, District Judge.

         REARGUED:

          Bobby R. Burchfield, KING & SPALDING LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

          Stuart M. Israel, LEGGHIO & ISRAEL, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellees.

         ON PETITION FOR REHEARING AND SUGGESTION FOR REHEARING EN BANC:

          Bobby R. Burchfield, KING & SPALDING LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

         ON RESPONSE:

          Stuart M. Israel, LEGGHIO & ISRAEL, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellees.

          Before: SUHRHEINRICH, GILMAN, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

          SUPERSEDING OPINION

          RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

          The key issue in this case is whether the retired employees of Meritor, Inc. and Meritor's predecessors have a vested right to lifetime healthcare benefits. In this court's prior decision in Cole v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., 549 F.3d 1064 (6th Cir. 2008), we held that the retirees have such a right. Our decision was controlled by this court's earlier cases of UAW v. Yard-Man, Inc., 716 F.2d 1476 (6th Cir. 1983), Yolton v. El Paso Tenn. Pipeline Co., 435 F.3d 571 (6th Cir. 2006), and Noe v. PolyOne Corp., 520 F.3d 548 (6th Cir. 2008).

         Meritor filed a timely petition to rehear. The petition was held in abeyance for eight years while the parties attempted to settle their dispute, initially on their own and later under the auspices of this court's Mediation Office. When we were informed in July 2016 that a final impasse had been reached, Meritor's petition to rehear was placed back on the docket for consideration.

         In the intervening eight years, a sea change in the applicable law has occurred. The Supreme Court abrogated the Yard-Man line of cases in M & G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 135 S.Ct. 926 (2015), and this court in Gallo v. Moen Inc., 813 F.3d 265 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___ (Oct. 31, 2016), held that a series of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) materially indistinguishable from those involved here did not provide the retirees with lifetime healthcare benefits.

         This case is now controlled by Tackett and Gallo. We therefore GRANT Meritor's petition to rehear, REVERSE the judgment of the district court, and REMAND the case for any further proceedings that might be necessary.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. ...


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