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Holland v. Consol Energy Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

March 26, 2018

MICHAEL H. HOLLAND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CONSOL ENERGY INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant CONSOL Energy Inc.'s (“CONSOL”) Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), for improper venue under Rule 12(b)(3), and for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 7.) For the reasons provided below, the Court DENIES the motion insofar as it is brought under Rule 12(b)(3) for improper venue and DENIES AS MOOT the motion on the remaining grounds therein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a dispute regarding the way in which CONSOL implements and administers its Section 9711 Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act (“Coal Act”) Plan with respect to certain eligible beneficiaries. (See generally ECF No. 1.) See also 26 U.S.C. § 9711. The named Plaintiffs are Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America 1992 Benefit Plan, and they allege that CONSOL has failed to maintain the statutorily required level of health care coverage for its eligible beneficiaries. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief in addition to monetary damages, attorney's fees, and costs pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(g)(2), 1145, and 1451 as incorporated into the Coal Act via 26 U.S.C. § 9721. (ECF No. 1 at 4-5.)

         CONSOL filed the instant motion pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(3), and 12(b)(6), alleging the following seven bases for dismissal:

1. Plaintiffs lack standing to bring this case because they have not suffered any real or actual injury.
2. This case is not ripe for adjudication because, again, Plaintiffs have not suffered an injury.
3. Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies set forth in the Coal Act Plan and as required by ERISA.
4. Plaintiffs' claim under Labor Management Relations Act Section 301 is barred by collateral estoppel.
5. Plaintiffs provide no basis for the Court to invoke its discretionary power to grant declaratory relief because Plaintiffs lack standing and there is no substantial or immediate controversy.
6. Venue in this Court is improper as CONSOL administers its Coal Act Plan in Pennsylvania.
7. Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for injunctive relief because they cannot show either likelihood of success on the merits or that they have or will suffer irreparable harm.

(See ECF No. 8 at 2-13.)

         Subsequent to CONSOL's Motion to Dismiss becoming ripe, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 29, 31.) Further, “[t]he parties agree that the disposition of the case can be made on the issues of law presented” in those cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF No. 37.) CONSOL's summary judgment motion “summarize[s] . . . the grounds set forth” in its previously filed Motion to Dismiss and “incorporate[s] by reference the supporting reasons set forth therein.” (ECF No. 30 at 1-2.) CONSOL proceeds to summarize, point by point, six of the seven arguments raised in its Motion to Dismiss and enumerated above. (See Id. at 2-7.) The only argument that is not reiterated in CONSOL's Motion for Summary Judgment is the claim that venue in ...


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