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MICHOTA v. ANHEUSER-BUSCH (02/22/85)

February 22, 1985

MICHOTA, BRUNO, WALTER LEMKE, ABRAHAM GELIMAN, LAWRENCE BALLBACK, BOLLY BONK, WILLIAM DUNNE, BERNARD KOSCIEWICZ, SIEGFRIED MILCHRAM, HOWARD SEARS, STEPHEN GARDZINSKI, HARRY WOLF, BRUNO DZIEDZIC, WILLIAM RIEDEL, SALVATORE GUARNERI, SAMUEL MONTO, FERMIN LOMA, VINCENT SADOWSKI, STANLEY KIESNOWSKI, ANTHONY BELLINA, FRANK PAVOLONIS, WILLIAM ROESCH, MICHAEL DUDA, EDWARD STRITTMATTER, FREDERICK HUBNER, PETER RUDY, HAROLD WANTHOUSE, JOSEPH DUFFY, JOSEPH COYLE AND GRACE GREEN (WIDOW OF HAROLD GREEN, DECEASED)
v.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH, INCORPORATED (BUDWEISER), P. BALLANTINE & SONS, PABST BREWING COMPANY, FALSTAFF BREWING CORPORATION, INVESTORS FUNDING CORPORATION, RHEINGOLD BREWERIES, INC., THE NEW JERSEY BREWERY EMPLOYEES PENSION TRUST FUND, HENRY T. HAMILTON, HERBERT V. JOHNSON, FRANK A. JACKIEWICZ, FRANK SULLIVAN, HERBERT HEILMANN, JR., HENRY TCHORZEWSKI, BENNO MERKER AND ARTHUR SPINELLO AS TRUSTEES OF THE NEW JERSEY BREWERY EMPLOYEES PENSION TRUST FUND, THE PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTY CORPORATION AS TRUSTEE FOR THE NEW JERSEY BREWERY EMPLOYEES PENSION FUND. (6 CASES); PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF, V. CHOCK FULL O'NUTS CORPORATION THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT. (6 CASES); CHOCK FULL O'NUTS CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS AND FOURTH-PARTY PLAINTIFF, V. HENRY T. HAMILTON, HERBER V. JOHNSON, FRANK A. JACKIEWICZ, FRANK SULLIVAN, HERBERT HEILMANN, JR., HENRY TCHORZEWSKI, BENNO MERKER, ARTHUR SPINELLO, HERB POESCHLA, HOWARD PINES, WILLIAM GRIFFIN, HENRY FRANK, HENRY WEBBER, ROCCO MARSANO, JOSEPH FITZSIMMONS, NICHOLAS RAIMO, THOMAS KING AND JOHN OSTACH AS TRUSTEES OF THE NEW JERSEY BREWERY EMPLOYEES, FOURTH-PARTY DEFENDANTS. (6 CASES); ADAMS, GUSTAV A., ANDREW F. DOPKINS, AND ROBERT MALCOLM, DECEASED BY HIS EXECUTRIX LILLIAN MALCOLM V. TRUSTEES OF THE NEW JERSEY BREWERY EMPLOYEES" PENSION TRUST FUND, LOCAL UNION 843, I.B. OF T., FALSTAFF BREWING CORPORATION, AND JOSEPH M. BYRNE CO., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY. (6 CASES); APPEAL OF ANHEUSER-BUSCH, INC. IN NOS. 84-5137 AND 84-5179; APPEAL OF PABST BREWING COMPANY IN NOS. 84-5144 AND 84-5180; APPEAL OF CHOCK FULL O'NUTS CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT IN NO. 84-5181; APPEAL OF PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTY CORPORATION (THE "PBGC") IN NO. 84-5182



Aldisert, Chief Judge, Becker, Circuit Judge, and Cahn, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Aldisert

Opinion OF THE COURT

ALDISERT, Chief Judge.

The dispositive question in these consolidated appeals is whether, in a class action brought by prospective pensioners under Sections 301 and 302 of the LMRA and Section 502 of ERISA, inclusion of an amendment to a pension fund plan in a ratified collective bargaining agreement provides sufficient notice of the terms of that amendment to prospective pensioners. The district court found that such notice was not sufficient as a matter of law, granted summary judgment for the pensioners against the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation ("PBGC") and certified its order as a final judgment under Rule 54(b), F.R.Civ.P. Because we conclude that inclusion of this pension fund amendment in the ratified collective bargaining agreement is sufficient notice to members of the bargaining unit, we reverse the grant of summary judgment and decide no other issues presented for review.

For example, presented for our review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) is whether ERISA § 4064 operates to impose liability retroactively upon employers who withdrew from a pension plan a year and a half before the enactment of ERISA and, if so, whether such application violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Our certification of this question for review, however, was predicated upon the proper resolution of the notice issue below. Because we are reversing the district court's decision on the question of notice, and because we are uncertain as to what effect, if any, our decision today bears on the question certified under § 1292(b), we remand it to the district court. In conjunction with its resolution of the remaining cross-claim, that court will decide whether to adhere to its original decision on the certified question; any appellate review will follow the entry of a final decision. We turn now to the operative facts of the issues we now decide.

I.

In 1956, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., P. Ballantine & Sons, Liebman Breweries ("Rheingold"), Pabst Brewing Co., and two other corporations not involved here, established the New Jersey Brewery Employees Pension Fund. This fund was administered pursuant to the terms of a pension plan ("Plan") established by the fund trustees. In 1967, due to the declining health of the brewing industry, the participating employers and the brewery employees' bargaining representative (Teamsters Locals 4, 153, and 843) included a resolution in their collective bargaining agreement to incorporate a Partial Termination Clauses into the Plan. This clause would determine the benefits of employees whose employer ceased to be a "Participating Employer" under the Plan.

After discussing a Partial Termination Clause extensively for three years, in April of 1970 the fund trustees tentatively reached agreement. Their proposed Partial Termination Clause was submitted to the employers and the joint board of the unions, which were the negotiating the 1970 area-wide collective bargaining agreement. These parties included the Partial Termination Clause*fn1 in the proposed labor agreement submitted to the memberships of Locals 4, 153 and 843 for ratification.

In May 1970, the area-wide collective bargaining agreement, which included the Partial Termination Clause, was approved by members of Locals 4, 153 and 843 employed at Pabst, Ballantine and Rheingold by a vote of 1305 (yes) to 168 (no). Appendix at 534. On May 27, 1970 this collective bargaining agreement, which we repeat by way of emphasis included the Partial Termination Clause, was signed by officials of the various companies, the Essex Brewers' Labor Association, the Brewery Workers' Joint Local Board of New Jersey, and Locals 4, 153 and 843. Appendix at 329. On May 28, 1970 the Plan trustees adopted the Partial Termination Clause which was inserted as Article VII in the Plan on the same day.

The Ballantine Brewery closed on April 1, 1972. By the terms of the Partial Termination Clause, many Ballantine employees were unable to receive their pension benefits. Appellees brought this action against the employers and the PBGC seeking the protection of pension benefits under the Plan notwithstanding the Partial Termination Clause. The district court certified a class consisting of "all individuals employed by Ballantine with ten or more years of service on April 1, 1972, and whose service credit was eliminated by the partial termination clause." Appendix at 112.

In a separate claim, somewhat unrelated to the precise issues before us, in 1973 Budweiser and Pabst withdrew from the Plan and established separate pension funds for their employees, and the last employer in the Plan, Rheingold, withdrew in 1977. The PBGC was appointed as statutory trustee in 1978. In its amended answer to the class claim, the PBGC asserted a cross claim against Anheuser, Pabst, and Rheingold under 29 U.S.C. § 1364 for their statutory share of the liability that the PBGC may incur as a result of the termination of the Plan.

In September 1980, the district court found that the Partial Termination Clause was arbitrary and capricious and granted summary judgment for the employees against the PBGC, but found for the defendant employers on all other claims. 526 F. Supp. 299 . On appeal, we affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects except for the finding that the Partial Termination Clause was arbitrary and capricious. Adams v. New Jersey Brewery Employees' Pension Trust Fund, 670 F.2d 387, 404 (3d Cir.1982). On this issue, we reversed and found the clause valid, but remanded the case to the district court to determine "whether proper notification of the partial termination clause was required and properly given." Id. at 391.

On remand, the district court found that the trustees did not provide adequate notice to the Plan participants and granted the appellee class's motion for summary judgment against the PBGC. The court certified this holding as a final judgment for purposes of appeal under Rule 54(b), F.R.Civ.P. The district court also denied Anheuser's and Pabst's motions for summary judgment on PGBC's cross-claim and granted Anheuser's and Pabst's motions for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) on the issues presented therein.

The district court found that the trustees of the Plan did not provide the appellees with sufficient written or oral notice of the Partial Termination Clause, and that the clause could therefore not divest them of their pension rights, and granted appellees' summary judgment ...


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