United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
JOSEPH Di BIASE, JOHN PRODORUTTI and DAVID BRASS as individuals, on behalf of themselves and a persons similarly situated, and INTERNATIONALUNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURALIMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, UAW, Plaintiffs,
SPX CORPORATION, Defendant.
J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's
Complaint, (Doc. No. 1), Plaintiff's Motion for Class
Certification, (Doc. No. 72), Plaintiff's Memorandum in
Support (Doc. No. 73), Defendant's Memorandum in
Opposition, (Doc. No. 75), and Plaintiffs' Reply Brief on
Motion for Class Certification (Doc. No. 77).
2001, the United Automobile Workers (“UAW”) and
certain class plaintiffs litigated in the Western District of
Michigan against Defendant SPX in two separate actions. (Doc.
No. 1 ¶ 2). Those actions alleged a breach of promise
made in collective bargaining agreements between the UAW and
SPX, or its predecessor. (Id.) This litigation
resulted in two settlement agreements: the L&N Settlement
Agreement and the Muskegon Settlement Agreement. These
agreements were approved on January 12, 2004 in Di Biase
et al. v. SPX Corp. et al., No. 1:01-cv-624-RAE (W.D.
Mich. 2004), and Pedler et al. v. SPX Corp., No.
1:01-cv-623-RAE (W.D. Mich. 2004). (Id. ¶ 11).
agreement provided settlement class members with specific
retiree health care plans and benefits (“SPX
Plans”) “for the remainder of their lives.”
(Id. ¶ 26). Provisions within the settlement
agreements allowed SPX to change those plans, carriers,
networks, and providers under the condition that the class
members' new benefits were “substantially
equivalent” to the original SPX Plans. (Id.
fall of 2014, SPX announced to the retirees its plan to
terminate the participation of Medicare-eligible class
members-typically those 65 or older-in the fore mentioned SPX
Plans. This termination would take effect on January 1, 2015
and replace this age group's original SPX Plan with a
“New Approach to Retiree Health Care Coverage”
(“New Approach”). (Id. ¶ 28). The
New Approach differs from the previous SPX Plan as it is a
Health Reimbursement Account (“HRA”), “into
which SPX places a specified sum of money each year.”
(Id. at ¶ 31). Unlike the prior health care
plan, the New Approach requires the retiree to locate and
purchase their own appropriate health insurance coverage.
(Id.). The retirees may then seek reimbursement for
their expenditures from the HRA until the account is
exhausted. (Id.). Upon depletion of the account, the
retiree becomes financially responsible for his/her medical
care for the rest of the year. (Id.).
filed suit in this District on November 25, 2014, alleging
violations of the settlement agreement arising from
collective bargaining agreements (Counts I and III), and
violation of the ERIA Plan (Counts II and IV). (Id.
¶ 10-12). Plaintiffs claim that “the New Approach
requires the Medicare Eligible Settlement Class Members to be
sufficiently capable (mentally and physically) to engage in
the acquisition of information and decision making necessary
to choose a new plan or plans from the many hundreds
available, to ‘front' the sums necessary to pay the
required premiums, and to provide certain required
documentation for reimbursement to SPX's administrator of
the HRA.” (Id. ¶ 33). On September 2,
2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Certify Class, (Doc. No.
On September 26, 2016, Defendant filed a Response in
Opposition to Motion to Certify Class (Doc. No. 75) and on
October 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Reply Brief to the Motion
to Certify Class (Doc. No. 77).
district court has broad discretion in deciding whether to
certify a class.” Thorn v. Jefferson-Pilot Life
Ins. Co., 445 F.3d 311, 317 (4th Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation marks omitted). In the execution of this
discretion, a court must accept the substantive allegations
of the complaint as true and “interpret Rule 23 in such
a manner as to promote justice and judicial
efficiency.” Farrar & Farrar Dairy, Inc.,
254 F.R.D. at 72; In re Kirschner Med. Corp. Sec.
Litig., 139 F.R.D. 74, 84 (D. Md. 1991). Nonetheless,
the burden of establishing certification remains with the
party seeking class certification. Thorn v.
Jefferson-Pilot Life Ind. Co., 445 F.3d 311, 314 (4th
Cir. 2006). A class “may only be certified if the trial
court is satisfied, after rigorous analysis, that the
prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been satisfied.”
Gen Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161
class action is “an exception to the usual rule that
litigation is conducted by and on the behalf of the
individual named parties only.” Comcast Corp. v.
Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1423 (2013) (citing Califano v.
Yamasaski, 442 U.S. 682, 700-701 (1979)). To fall within
the exception, a party seeking to maintain a class action
“must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance”
with Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This
rule requires a two-part test for certifying a class. First,
the plaintiff must establish the four requirements under Rule
(1) The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
(2) There are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) The claims or defenses of the representative parties are
typical of the claims or ...