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KISER v. CAREY

January 19, 1973

Slimp Kiser, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated plaintiffs, Plaintiff,
v.
Edward L. Carey et al., Defendants. Edwin Wallace Moore, Plaintiff, and James L. Walker et al., Intervening Plaintiffs, v. United Mine Workers Of America Welfare And Retirement Fund Of 1950 et al., Defendants


Richey, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

RICHEY, District Judge.

 These actions came before the Court for hearing on the plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment, both cases having been consolidated for trial. *fn1" The plaintiffs are all pension claimants of the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund of 1950 who retired after February 1, 1965. *fn2" They were denied their claims on the sole ground of not having permanently ceased work in the coal industry immediately following regular employment for a period of at least one full year as an employee of an operator signatory to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1950. This requirement was contained in Resolution No. 63, which was enacted by the defendant Trustees of the Fund on January 4, 1965 to establish pension eligibility requirements for mine workers who permanently ceased work in the bituminous coal industry subsequent to February 1, 1965. *fn3"

 I. Issues

 The parties are agreed that the issues presented for the Court's determination are questions of law. The central issue is whether the signatory last employment requirement as applied to the plaintiffs in the cases at bar, was a valid requirement. The remaining issues are: (1) whether the Trustees can retroactively amend their eligibility requirements so as to affect the rights of the plaintiffs to receive their pensions, when such pensions were previously denied solely on the basis of an invalid eligibility requirement; (2) as of what dates did any back pension payments owing to the plaintiffs become due; and (3) does Section 302 of the Taft-Hartley Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 186, require for pension eligibility that each pension applicant have worked a minimum period of time for an employer signatory to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1950, and, if so, is a period of one year's employment with such a signatory sufficient as regards the plaintiffs at bar to meet the requirements of the Act?

 II. Discussion

 A. As Applied to the Plaintiffs, the Signatory Last Employment Requirement Maintained by the Trustees was Arbitrary, Unreasonable, and Therefore Invalid, and May Not Serve to Deny Plaintiffs the Pension Benefits to Which They Are Otherwise Entitled.

 These cases are but two of a large number of actions brought throughout the past several years to challenge the validity of pension eligibility requirements under the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund of 1950. The Court of Appeals for this Circuit has had occasion to rule with respect to the particular requirement here in controversy in four prior actions. In each case, the Court of Appeals has held this particular requirement invalid as applied to the plaintiffs then before the Court. *fn4"

 The leading case in this series is Roark v. Boyle, wherein the Court stated: *fn5"

 
"The signatory last employment requirement as presented to us on this record, developed on a historical basis no longer pertinent, and maintained in an inequitable context, must stand condemned as being arbitrary in the sense of being legally objectionable, without a rational basis, and cannot be sustained."

 While the Court thus left no doubt as to the invalidity of the signatory last employment requirement as applied to the plaintiffs in that case, it nonetheless allowed the defendant Trustees some leeway to correct their error. The Court found that the signatory last employment requirement was not invalid per se, but could be valid only in "context of a plan that conditions eligibility on a period of contributory employment that is of sufficiently significant duration to warrant eligibility for a flat pension." *fn6" It indicated that were the Trustees to develop a validating context for the signatory last employment requirement, such provisions could be made applicable to applications theretofore rejected and subsequently presented for reconsideration. In doing so, the Court specifically refused to make the effect of its ruling of invalidity retroactive, limiting its relief to the plaintiffs then before it because they had "undertaken the substantial burden of the litigation required to demonstrate the present requirement to be arbitrary and invalid." *fn7"

 The defendants attempted to comply with the ruling in Roark by adopting Resolution No. 83, which revised the eligibility requirements for a pension, to be effective April 1, 1971. However, Resolution No. 83 provided that pension applications received prior to the effective date would continue to be governed by Resolution No. 63, which contained the signatory last employment requirement found invalid in Roark. Under Resolution No. 83, only applications received after the date of the Roark decision, and theretofore denied under Resolution 63, could be reconsidered under Resolution No. 83. In DePaoli v. Boyle, the Court of Appeals stated: *fn8"

 
"The net result of the trustees' action is not to accept the invitation of the court to make the new eligibility requirements retroactive in an equitable and valid context, as in their discretion the trustees might have done, but specifically to promulgate as far as DePaoli and others similarly ...

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