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United Mine Workers of America International Union v. Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co.

September 12, 2006

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA INTERNATIONAL UNION; UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA: DISTRICT 2; UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA LOCAL #1571; UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA LOCAL : #4004, PLAINTIFFS
v.
LEHIGH COAL AND NAVIGATION COMPANY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Pending before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Second Motion in Limine ("the Motion")(doc. 101), filed on April 27, 2006. In the Motion, Plaintiffs move this Court to preclude the Defendants from asserting the "faltering company" defense set forth under Section 2102(b)(1) of WARN Act.*fn1

For the following reasons, the Motion (doc. 101) will be granted.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs commenced this action by filing a complaint (doc. 1) with this Court on October 31, 2003, alleging that Defendant violated the WARN Act by failing to give required notice to employees who were laid off from Defendant's coal mining facilities. Attempts at settlement were unsuccessful and thereafter the parties engaged in lengthy discovery in anticipation of trial.

On July 16, 2005, the parties filed a Consent Motion to Bifurcate for Dispositive Motions Purposes Liability and Damages (doc. 35), which we granted on July 18, 2005. (Rec. Doc. 36). On August 26, 2005, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 38) which we denied by Order on November 8, 2005. (Rec. Doc. 76). On September 6, 2005, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 57) which we denied by Order on October 21, 2005. (Rec. Doc. 73).

In anticipation of trial, Plaintiffs filed a first Motion in Limine (doc. 80), seeking to have this Court preclude the Defendant's from asserting a defense under Section 2102(c) of the WARN Act at trial. By Order dated February 23, 2006 (doc. 84), we granted the Plaintiffs' first Motion in Limine.

The instant Motion was filed on April 27, 2006. The Motion has been fully briefed by the parties and is therefore ripe for our review.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are various labor organizations within the meaning of §2(5) of the National Labor Relations Act*fn2 representing mine workers, with principal places of business located throughout Pennsylvania. Defendant is a Pennsylvania corporation, engaged in the business of mining, processing and selling coal at its facilities in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania. Defendant's President is James J. Curran, Jr.

The Defendant's property consists of a 9,000 acre coal mine site in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. At this location, Defendant engages in strip mining and coal processing. Defendant also maintains administrative offices in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Between the two locations, the Defendant employed over 100 full-time employees.

Defendant owned a variety of heavy equipment to conduct its business, including four excavators necessary to the strip mining operation. The largest of these excavators was the 455 De Mag ("De Mag"). On September 4, 2000, all four excavators were not operational due to mechanical difficulties. After about one week subsequent to that date, three of the four excavators were repaired, however the Defendant continued to experience mechanical problems with the De Mag for several more weeks. Defendant alleges that at the time of the De Mag's mechanical failure, it did not know how long it would take for the De Mag to be repaired.

Plaintiffs allege that the De Mag's mechanical failure was a major factor contributing to the layoffs that are at issue in this case. Plaintiffs allege that the De Mag's failure led to a significant loss in coal production, resulting in Defendant's lender, Congress Financial Corporation ("Congress") refusing to extend Defendant additional capital, thereby forcing Defendant to layoff employees. Defendant, however, counters that the mechanical failure of the De Mag was offset "to some degree" by a front-end loader used for excavation.*fn3 Defendant alleges that the ...


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