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HOLLAND v. KING KNOB COAL CO.

March 2, 2000

MICHAEL H. HOLLAND, A. FRANK DUNHAM, MARTY D. HUDSON, AND ELLIOT A. SEGAL, AS TRUSTEES OF THE UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA 1992 BENEFIT PLAN, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
KING KNOB COAL CO., INC.; ANKER ENERGY CORPORATION; AND RELIABLE COAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cindrich, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This action arises from the defendants' alleged failure to pay certain beneficiary premiums to a welfare benefit plan. As trustees of the plan, plaintiffs Michael H. Holland, A. Frank Dunham, Marty D. Hudson, and Elliot A. Segal (collectively referred to as the "Trustees"), filed the instant suit to collect such premiums from the defendants. Pending before the court is the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and (3), or, in the alternative, to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).

I. Background

The Trustees brought the instant action to collect delinquent monthly per beneficiary premiums and other amounts owed to the United Mine Workers of America 1992 Benefit Plan (the "Plan") by defendants King Knob Coal Co., Inc. ("King"); Anker Energy Corporation ("Anker"); and Reliable Coal Corporation ("Reliable"). The Plan is an irrevocable trust fund created pursuant to Section 9712 of the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (the "Coal Act"), 26 U.S.C. § 9712, which provides health benefits to certain retired coal miners. The Plan is also an employee welfare benefit plan within the meaning of Section 3(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(3), and a multiemployer plan within the meaning of Section 3(37) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(37). 26 U.S.C. § 9712(a)(2)(B) and (C).

The Trustees contend that the defendants are "related persons" under Section 9712(d)(4) of the Coal Act, 26 U.S.C. § 9712 (d)(4), and therefore, are jointly and severally liable for amounts owed the Plan. The Trustees further contend that King is a "1988 last signatory operator" as that term is defined in Section 9712(d)(6) of the Act, 26 U.S.C. § 9712(d)(6).

II. Motion to Dismiss

A. Personal Jurisdiction

The defendants contend that although the Trustees filed suit under the Coal Act, which provides for nationwide service of process, the assertion of personal jurisdiction must satisfy the due process standards of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution which requires an analysis of fundamental fairness considerations to determine if such jurisdiction exists. They maintain that the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over them would violate these fundamental due process principles. The defendants state in support of their motion that:

— King is a West Virginia corporation with an office in Morgantown, West Virginia;
— King is not a foreign business registered to conduct business in Pennsylvania and does not conduct business in the state;
— Reliable was dissolved on June 23, 1983 and has not conducted any business since that time;
— At the time of its dissolution, Reliable was wholly-owned by King;
— Anker is a Delaware corporation with an office in Morgantown;
— Anker is registered to do business in Pennsylvania, however, it has no office or coal mines in the Western District of Pennsylvania and does not own any property in that jurisdiction;
— The three defendants neither reside nor conduct their normal business of mining coal in the Western District of Pennsylvania; and
— All of the defendants' books, records and personal knowledge about the subject matter are ...

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