In a few weeks, on Nov. 10, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett. The case is out of that hotbed of ERISA litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Officially, the Question Presented to the Court is:
“Whether, when construing collective bargaining agreements in Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) cases, courts should presume that silence concerning the duration of retiree health-care benefits means the parties intended those benefits to vest (and therefore continue indefinitely), as the Sixth Circuit holds; or should require a clear statement that health-care benefits are intended to survive the termination of the collective bargaining agreement, as the Third Circuit holds; or should require at least some language in the agreement that can reasonably support an interpretation that health-care benefits should continue indefinitely, as the Second and Seventh Circuits hold.”
Thomas Hopson of SCOTUSblog summarizes the issue this way:
“what language in a union collective bargaining agreement will cause health-care benefits to vest – that is, continue as long as the beneficiary remains a retiree?”
SCOTUSblog has put together a terrific page on this case, including all of the briefs and a copy of the lower court opinion, and I am going to defer to them instead of reposting all of the materials here – SCOTUSblog on M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett
There have been a number of amici curiae briefs filed in this case, including briefs filed on behalf of the:
- - Council on Labor Law Equality and the Society for Human Resource Management;
- - ERISA Industry Committee and the American Benefits Council;
- - Chamber of Commerce of the United State of America, and the Business Roundtable;
- - National Association of Manufacturers;
- - Whirlpool Corporation;
- - Fox Retiree Committee;
- - American Federal of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; and
- - the Labor and Benefits Law Professors, authored by Susan E. Cancelosi (Wayne State University Law School), David Campbell and Kathleen Phair Barnard, and Charlotte Garden (Seattle University School of Law).
On a personal note, one of the attorneys representing Tackett is David M. Cook, who attended the University of Cincinnati College of Law a few years ahead of me, and has represented Mr. Tackett in the lower courts.