United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston
HAROLD DEWHURST, and DAVID BRYAN, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly Situated, and UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO/CLC, Plaintiffs,
CENTURY ALUMINUM COMPANY, and CENTURY ALUMINUM OF WEST VIRGINIA, INC., AND CENTURY ALUMINUM MASTER WELFARE BENEFIT PLAN, and DOES 1 THROUGH 20 Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER.
T. Copenhaver, Jr. United States District Judge.
is the joint motion to modify the class definition contained
in the class certification order, filed February 9, 2017, in
order to accommodate the $23 million proposed settlement in
history of this case is long and not directly relevant to the
pending motion, so it will only be discussed briefly. On
November 13, 2009, the individual plaintiffs, who are retired
employees from a facility operated by one or more of the
defendants, instituted this action in the United States
District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. They were
joined by the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber,
Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers
International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC. On December 23, 2009, the
action was transferred to the Southern District of West
class action complaint alleged that Century Aluminum
Company's (“Century”) decision to
unilaterally modify or cancel medical benefits that it
provides to retirees, spouses, surviving spouses, and
dependents of retirees contravened the applicable collective
bargaining agreements (“CBA”) in violation of
section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 185, and violated sections 502(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3) of
the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3).
24, 2010, the court certified a class consisting of
approximately 437 individuals. See
Plaintiff-Participants' Am. Memo. in Supp. of Mot. for
Class Certification (ECF Doc. No. 32) at 2. The class
definition in the class certification order consisted of all
who (1) are or were employee-participants in the Kaiser
Aluminum Corporation and/or Ravenswood Aluminum and/or
Century Aluminum of West Virginia, Inc. employee benefits
plans which provide for retiree medical benefits, and (2) as
to whom the USW had been the participants' collective
bargaining representative, and who worked at the Ravenswood,
West Virginia plant at the time of their retirement, and (3)
who retired from Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation or Century
Aluminum of West Virginia, Inc. after February 6, 1989 and
before June 1, 2006, and (4) who are affected by Century
Aluminum of West Virginia Inc.'s modification to or
termination of retiree health benefits announced on or about
October 19, 2009. In addition, all dependents of
participants, or spouses or surviving spouses of participants
who meet criteria 1-4.
Certification Order (ECF Doc. No. 78) at 4.
same day the court certified the above class, the court
denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction,
finding that plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on the
merits of their claims. See Dewhurst v. Century Aluminum
Co., 731 F.Supp.2d 506 (S.D. W.Va. 2010). On June 30,
2010, plaintiffs noticed their appeal of that ruling. On
August 24, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit affirmed. See Dewhurst v. Century Aluminum
Co., 649 F.3d 287 (4th Cir. 2011).
motion practice and discovery, including a stay for purposes
of permitting the parties to continue their attempts to
settle the case, the court granted Century's motion for
summary judgment on September 9, 2015, finding that the
language in the applicable collective bargaining agreements
provided that the retirees' healthcare benefits only
remained in effect for the terms of those agreements, and
that those benefits did not vest beyond the terms of the
agreements. See Dewhurst v. Century Aluminum Co.,
No. 2:09-cv-1546, 2015 WL 5304616 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 9. 2015).
The court entered judgment for Century and dismissed the
filed a timely appeal to the Fourth Circuit on October 7,
2015. After briefing was completed, the parties renewed their
settlement discussions and reached an agreement in September
2016. On January 13, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Motion
for Limited Remand in the Fourth Circuit, requesting remand
so that this court could conduct settlement approval
proceedings. The Fourth Circuit granted the motion on
February 7, 2017.
February 9, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion in this
court for: (1) modification of the class definition; (2)
preliminary approval of the settlement agreement; (3)
approval of the proposed class action notice; (4) preliminary
approval of the enhancement awards; and (5) an order setting
the dates for objections to the proposed settlement and for
the fairness hearing.
filed the third amended complaint on June 26, 2012, which was
the operative pleading when the court granted summary
judgment. The third amended complaint undertook to change the
class definition to:
all current or former employees of Century, along with their
spouses, dependents and surviving spouses who either (1)
retired (other than with a deferred vested pension) from RAC
or CAWV after February 6, 1989 and prior to November 1, 2010
and who are not currently receiving medical benefits from
CAWV, (2) retired or retire (other than with a deferred
vested pension) from CAWV on or after November 1, 2010 and
prior to the effective date of a new CBA and who may be
currently receiving medical benefits from CAWV, or (3)
retired or retire from CAWV after the layoff at the
Ravenswood Plant in February 2009 and prior to the effective
date of a New CBA after losing their active medical coverage
while on layoff ...