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BAKER v. LUKENS STEEL COMPANY AND LUKENS (06/19/86)

June 19, 1986

BAKER, WILLIAM, D. AND BELL, EDWARD G., JR., AND BUGAR, GERALD J. AND BURKEY, I. GLENN AND KAUFFMAN, CLARENCE AND ELLIOTT, EDWIN, J., JR. AND KREMPA, EDWARD R. AND SHIVERY, C. DAVID AND SHORE, HAROLD J. AND STANLEY, JOHN B. AND THOMAS, ROLAND T. AND ZAFARES, DIMITRIUS N. AND ZELINA, JOHN S. AND OTT, ROBERT AND HARGAN, ROBERT D. AND STRATTON, JOHN K. AND AUER, AND CONRAD, JACK, III AND MOWERY, ALLEN M. AND PRATT, ERNEST
v.
LUKENS STEEL COMPANY AND LUKENS, INC. SALARIED EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT PLAN; WILLIAM D. BAKER, EDWARD G. BELL, JR., GERALD J. BUGAR, GLENN BURKEY, EDWIN J. ELLIOTT, JR., EDWARD R. KREMPA, C. DAVID SHIVERY, HAROLD J. SHORE, JOHN B. STANLEY, ROLAND T. THOMAS, DIMITRIUS N. ZAFARES, JOHN S. ZELINA, ROBERT OTT, CLARENCE KAUFFMAN, ROBERT D. HARGAN, JOHN K. STRATTON, TIMOTHY C. AUER, JACK CONRAD, III, ALLEN M. MOWERY, AND ERNEST PRATT, APPELLANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania D.C. Civ. No. 84-3874

Author: Aldisert

Before: ALDISERT, Chief Judge, GARTH and SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.

ALDISERT, Chief Judge.

This appeal from a summary judgment for employer and pension fund defendants in an ERISA action requires us to decide whether employees, who were terminated before normal retirement age can be considered to have sustained injuries when the company, prior to their termination, amended the pension plan to eliminate a special retirement provision, and failed to provide its employees notice of the amendment. The court determined that no issue of material fact existed for trial and that the defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Because we conclude that affidavits submitted by the employees created a genuine issue of fact as to injury, we hold that summary judgment was improper.

I.

Appellants are former employees of defendant Lukens, Inc., most of whom were employed in Lukens' security department. All of the appellants were covered by the Lukens, Inc. Salaried Employees Retirement Plan, a defined benefit plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 1001-1461 (1982) (ERISA). Before January 1, 1983, one of the forms of early retirement provided by the Plan was the "Special Retirement Benefit" (SRB) described in Section 5.06 of the Plan.*fn1 Under this provision a Plan participant whose age and years of service might not qualify him for normal retirement benefits, could, under certain circumstances qualify for a reduced retirement benefit. On December 15, 1982, the Lukens Board of Directors voted to eliminate the SRB effective January 1, 1983. App. at 102a-04a.

On May 21, 1984, Lukens terminated its security department and permanently laid off that department's employees, effective on or before June 30, 1984. The remaining appellants were laid off by Lukens at other times after May 24, 1983. App. at 25a-27a, 168a-69a. Lukens admitted that it did not notify the appellants of the deletion of the SRB before they were advised of their intended termination. Id. at 31a, 172a.

At the time the SRB was deleted from the Plan, none of the appellants were eligible for the benefit, because all were still working for Lukens. However, after the appellants were laid off, each applied for the SRB under Section 5.06 of the Plan, and were denied benefits. Appellants instituted this suit in the district court against Lukens and the Plan (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Lukens") seeking an order requiring Lukens to pay them the SRB as if Lukens had not eliminated it from the Plan.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court held that although Lukens had violated ERISA's notice provisions, the employees had not suffered an injury remediable under ERISA. The court therefore granted summary judgment for Lukens. App. at 409a-12a. The employees appealed.

II.

The employees argue that the district court erred in finding that they had not asserted an injury remediable under ERISA. They also argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Lukens, which did not take a cross-appeal, but asserting an argument to affirm the district court for a different reason than that given by this court, contends that the district court erred in determining that it had not complied with ERISA's notice provisions.

The same standard of review applies to all issues. On appeal from a grant of summary judgment we are required to apply the same test that the district court should have applied initially, that is:

[Whether] no genuine issue as to a material fact remains for trial, and [whether] the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. . . . Inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts contained in the evidential sources submitted to the trial court must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. The non-movant's allegations must be taken as true and, when these assertions conflict with those of the movant, the former must receive the benefit of the doubt.

Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976) (footnote omitted), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1038, 97 S. ...


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