The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS F. HOGAN
Before the Court are two related motions: a Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's January 31, 1992 Memorandum Opinion granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs, filed by Rawl Sales and Processing Co. (Rawl);
and a Motion for Amendment of this Court's January 31, 1992 Order, filed by the Pittston Company, et al., (Pittston). For the reasons that follow, this Court shall deny Rawl's motion, grant Pittston's motion in part, and certify the issues raised in the January 31, 1992 Memorandum Opinion for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
On January 31, 1992, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Pension and Benefit Trusts (collectively referred to as the Trusts), in Civil Action Nos. 88-969 (Pittston), 91-3241 (Rawl) and two other related cases.
In that Opinion, the Court held that the "evergreen clause" or "continuing contributions clause" found in the UMWA 1950 Benefit Plan and Trust (the 1950 Benefit Trust), the UMWA 1950 Pension Trust (the 1950 Pension Trust), the UMWA 1974 Pension Trust (the 1974 Pension Trust), and the 1974 Benefit Plan and Trust (the 1974 Benefit Trust), was intended to create a continuing obligation to contribute to the Trusts for those employers who elected to participate in the Trusts.
The Court held that this continuing obligation extended beyond the expiration of the terms of the collective bargaining agreements in which the defendant employers had elected to participate in the Trusts. In accordance with this holding, the Court ordered the defendant employers, including Rawl and Pittston, to make all of the delinquent contributions into the Trusts in which they have participated, as required by the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (NBCWA) of 1988.
The Court reached its conclusion based on the voluminous briefs of all of the parties and of the amicus curiae, as well as on oral argument. Because the Court held that the language of the evergreen clause was susceptible to different interpretations, the Court considered extrinsic evidence of the intent of the clause.
The Court then determined that the unrebutted evidence submitted by the Trusts regarding the negotiating history of the clause showed that the clause was intended to create a continuing obligation. No party argued to the Court that summary judgment was inappropriate due to the existence of genuine issues of material fact.
A. Motion for Reconsideration
Rawl asserts four separate grounds for its Motion for Reconsideration: (1) its "right" to conduct discovery; (2) the existence of genuine issues of material fact; (3) the existence of affirmative defenses that it needs to explore through discovery; and (4) the collateral estoppel effect of the Island Creek cases decided by Judge Harris of this Court and currently on appeal. See Connors v. Island Creek Corp., et al., No. 87-1212, and Connors v. Drummond Coal Co. et al., No. 87-1973 (D.D.C. Jan. 17, 1991).
1. Rawl's "Right" to Conduct Discovery
Rawl's most heated argument is premised on its asserted "right" to conduct discovery into the negotiating history of the evergreen clause. Rawl claims that when this case was originally brought by the Trusts in West Virginia, the parties and the Court agreed that, in order to avoid protracted discovery that would interfere with the company's upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, the parties would file cross motions for summary judgment before embarking on any discovery. Rawl asserts that it specifically reserved its "right" to conduct discovery if the Court concluded that it was necessary to resort to extrinsic evidence. The transcript of a telephone status conference with Judge Staker in West Virginia does not indicate that Rawl ever requested a reservation of its right to conduct discovery or that Judge Staker granted such a request. The transcript reveals only that the parties and the Court agreed that discovery would be stayed pending the Court's ruling on cross motions for summary judgment. The Order entered following the telephone status conference provided that:
The parties have agreed that discovery shall not be initiated in this case pending the Court's decision on the Motions for Summary Judgment, except upon agreement of the parties or order of this Court for good cause shown.
Exhibit A to Declaration of Jeremiah Collins, submitted as Attachment 1 to the Trusts' Opposition to Rawl's Motion for Reconsideration. Although Rawl never moved the Court to permit it to engage in discovery, it did attempt to reserve its right to discovery in a footnote to its reply brief regarding the cross motions for summary judgment.
Because this Court's Memorandum Opinion explicitly relies on extrinsic evidence, Rawl argues that it should have been permitted to engage in discovery before this Court rendered its Opinion. Rawl argues that, if permitted, it would have deposed the various people who gave declarations on behalf of the Trusts and challenged their credibility.
Despite what Rawl argues that it would do now, if given the opportunity, the fact remains that Rawl did not seek leave of the Court to conduct any depositions. Rawl was fully aware that the Court might consider extrinsic evidence because reams of it had been filed and relied upon by the Trusts in not only the Rawl case, but also in the other three related cases in which cross motions were pending.
Moreover, Rawl itself submitted extrinsic evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment and in its opposition to the Trusts' cross motion. In fact, Rawl submitted two three-ring binders full of such evidence.
The Court is not persuaded that Rawl's alleged inability to conduct discovery justifies granting Rawl's Motion for Reconsideration. Whatever Rawl thought its "agreement" was regarding discovery, Rawl could have filed a rule 56(f) motion, either before the West Virginia court or before this Court, if it was serious about engaging in discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f). That Rawl made the strategic decision not to file such a motion does not now justify reconsidering this Court's ruling so that Rawl may engage in belated discovery.
2. Genuine Issues of Material Fact
a. Additional Extrinsic Evidence
Rawl's most compelling argument is that, based on extrinsic evidence that it has submitted with its motion for reconsideration, there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment. Rawl has attached to its motion and supplemental memo five declarations purporting to show that it never had any knowledge of the evergreen clause and that the clause could not have the meaning the Trusts assert because such an interpretation was never communicated to the persons negotiating the collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the employers. The five persons submitting affidavits on behalf of Rawl are Arch Runyon, the vice president of administration for Rawl and the person responsible for employee benefits and labor relations; E. Morgan Massey, who in 1978 was the president of several affiliated companies that were members of the BCOA
and who served on the Board of Directors of the BCOA in 1978; Melvin Triolo, the Secretary/Treasurer of the Logan Coal Operator Association (LCOA) who represented LCOA as a BCOA director during the negotiations with the UMWA over the 1978 NBCWA; Nicholas Camicia, the former chairman of the Pittston Company and one of the negotiators of the 1978 NBCWA; and Stoney Barker, Jr., who was a member of the Executive Committee of the BCOA during the 1978 negotiations. Each of these affiants states that despite his participation or involvement in the 1978 negotiations, he never was apprised of the evergreen clause--in fact never even heard of it--until the Trusts began to bring these cases in the mid to late 1980s. Although Mr. Massey was a member of the Board of Directors of the BCOA, he allegedly was never asked to ratify the clause. Similarly, although Mr. Barker was on the Executive Committee of the BCOA during the relevant negotiations, he does not recall the Executive Committee ever giving the Benefits Subcommittee the authority to negotiate a continuing contributions clause. Virtually each of the five affiants attests that he believed the obligation to contribute to the Trusts would cease with the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements.
b. Improper Weighing of the Evidence
Also in support of its argument that summary judgment was inappropriate, Rawl argues that the Court improperly "weighed" the evidence before it when it concluded that the evergreen clause was intended to create a binding obligation on employers. Rawl argues that, in cases involving contract interpretation, unless the contract is wholly unambiguous, its interpretation raises a genuine issue of material fact that cannot be resolved through summary judgment.
Air Transport Ass'n of America v. Lenkin, 899 F.2d 1265 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (per curiam), sets forth the standard quite succinctly. In that case, the appellate court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment although the contract's language was ambiguous. The appellate court agreed with the district court "that consideration of extrinsic evidence 'emphatically ...