Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., No. 99-1619

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtNYGAARD, Circuit
Citation213 F.3d 124
PartiesArnold HOLMES; Lawrence Hollyfield, Fiduciary to the Estate of Collins Hollyfield v. PENSION PLAN OF BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION and Subsidiary Companies; Employee Benefits Administration Committee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Michael P. Dopera; John/Jane Does 1-10 Arnold Holmes and Lawrence Hollyfield, Fiduciary to the Estates of original named plaintiff Collins Hollyfield, individually and on behalf of all members of the proposed class and subclasses, Appellants at No. 99-1619. Arnold Holmes; Lawrence Hollyfield, Fiduciary of the Estate of Collins Hollyfield v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Subsidiary Companies; Employee Benefits Administration Committee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Michael P. Dopera; John/Jane Does 1-10 The Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Subsidiary Companies, the Employee Benefits Administration Committee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Michael P. Dopera, Appellants at 99-1620.
Decision Date23 May 2000
Docket Number99-1620.,No. 99-1619

213 F.3d 124

Arnold HOLMES; Lawrence Hollyfield, Fiduciary to the Estate of Collins Hollyfield
v.
PENSION PLAN OF BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION and Subsidiary Companies; Employee Benefits Administration Committee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Michael P. Dopera; John/Jane Does 1-10
Arnold Holmes and Lawrence Hollyfield, Fiduciary to the Estates of original named plaintiff Collins Hollyfield, individually and on behalf of all members of the proposed class and subclasses, Appellants at No. 99-1619.

[213 F.3d 125]


Arnold Holmes; Lawrence Hollyfield, Fiduciary of the Estate of Collins Hollyfield
v.
Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Subsidiary Companies; Employee Benefits Administration Committee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Michael P. Dopera; John/Jane Does 1-10
The Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Subsidiary Companies, the Employee Benefits Administration Committee of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Michael P. Dopera, Appellants at 99-1620

Nos. 99-1619, 99-1620.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

Argued April 11, 2000

Filed May 23, 2000


COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

213 F.3d 126
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
213 F.3d 127
Alan M. Sandals, Esq. (argued), Howard I. Langer, Esq., Sandals, Langer & Taylor, Philadelphia, PA, Attorneys for Appellants

G. Stewart Webb, Jr., Esq. (argued), Venable Baetjer & Howard, Baltimore, MD, Attorney for Appellees.

213 F.3d 128

BEFORE: NYGAARD, ALITO, and JOHN R. GIBSON,* Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

NYGAARD, Circuit Judge.

Appellants, Arnold Holmes and Lawrence Hollyfield, filed a civil action against Appellees pursuant to §§ 404 and 502(a) of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act. 29 U.S.C. §§ 1104 & 1132(a). The District Court had jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1). We have jurisdiction to review the District Court's final order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

Appellants, plaintiffs below, successfully prosecuted their claim to interest on pension benefits they received after a decade and a half of delay. Nevertheless, Appellants challenge two equitable limitations the District Court placed on the interest it awarded. They also challenge the District Court's refusal to certify two classes of plaintiffs they proposed for class action purposes. Finally, they challenge the District Court's ruling that a legal memorandum they sought to discover was protected by the doctrine of work-product immunity. We will affirm in part, and reverse in part.

Appellees, defendants below, cross appeal, ostensibly raising an issue as to whether the District Court erred by concluding that Appellants were entitled to any interest at all, regardless of the limitations it imposed. Rather than directly challenging the District Court's decision, however, they limit their argument to a critique of our decision, which the District Court correctly found controlling, in Fotta v. Trustees of the United Mine Workers of Am. Health & Retirement Fund, 165 F.3d 209 (3d Cir.1998) (holding that ERISA permits actions to recover interest on wrongly withheld benefits even where the benefits were paid before litigation). We hold that the argument is not properly presented in this appeal, and decline to entertain it.

I. Background Facts & Procedure

Appellants, as well as the members of the plaintiff classes they seek to certify, are participants in, or beneficiaries of, the Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and its Subsidiary Companies (hereafter referred to as "the Plan"). Prior to a 1977 amendment, the Plan required that benefits due under the Plan be offset (i.e., reduced) by the amount of any pension benefits the relevant participant received from any source other than the Plan itself. In July 1977, the Plan was amended so that the offset requirement applied only to non-plan pension benefits "attributable to employment with an Employing Company." See Bethlehem 1977 Salaried Pension Plan § 3.8 (J.A. at 128-29). In other words, after the 1977 amendment, non-Plan pension benefits received from sources falling outside the definition of an Employing Company are not deducted from benefits received from the Plan itself.

The Plan defines an "Employing Company" to mean Bethlehem Steel, any Bethlehem Subsidiary that has adopted the Plan, and "any corporation which, prior to July 31, 1966, was merged into or consolidated with any such subsidiary company or with" Bethlehem Steel. See Bethlehem Steel 1977 Salaried Pension Plan at 2 (J.A. at 120). Additionally, the Plan provides that benefits received from sources falling with-in the definition of an Employing Company are offset only to the extent they were earned during a period in which the participant was being "credited with continuous service for the purpose of calculating the amount of any regular pension underthe Plan." Id. at 19-20 (J.A. at 128-29).

Appellants Holmes and Hollyfield both worked for Bethlehem Steel subsidiaries prior to their respective retirements, and both participated in the Plan. After retiring

213 F.3d 129
in 1977, Hollyfield applied for pension benefits from both the Plan, and from the United Mine Workers of America Retirement Fund. Unlike the Plan, the UMWA Fund is not employer specific. Rather, it is a multi-employer plan providing benefits to all workers represented by the UMWA. Like the Plan, however, it is funded entirely by employer contributions, including contributions from Bethlehem Steel and its subsidiaries

Following his retirement, the Plan awarded Hollyfield $214.13 in monthly pension benefits, effective December 1, 1977. Nearly a year later, in November 1978, his application for UMWA benefits was granted in the amount of $250 per month, retroactive to September 1, 1977. Thereafter, the Plan notified Hollyfield that his Plan benefits would be reduced by the full amount of his UMWA benefits. Thus, because his UMWA benefits were greater than this Plan benefits, Hollyfield's Plan benefits were eliminated altogether. Additionally, because his UMWA benefits award was retroactive, the Plan also required Hollyfield to repay all Plan benefits he had previously received. Hollyfield complied, paying the Plan $2,449.56 in previously received benefits. The Plan did not request, and Hollyfield did not pay, interest on the repaid benefits.

Appellant Holmes retired in 1980 and, like Hollyfield, applied for pension benefits from both the Plan and from the UMWA Fund. The Plan awarded him a monthly benefit of $1,224.36, effective February 1, 1981. In October 1981, the UMWA Fund awarded Holmes a monthly benefit of $290.00, retroactive to November 1980. As it did with Hollyfield, the Plan determined that all of Holmes' UMWA benefits should be offset against his Plan benefits. And, again, it required Holmes to repay all offset amounts already received. Thereafter, Holmes repaid the Plan $2,825.00, reflecting principal only and no interest.

In 1994, Hollyfield's son contacted Plan administrators regarding his father's Plan benefits. In a subsequent investigation, the Plan determined that none of Hollyfield's UMWA benefits were earned during a period in which he was being credited with continuous service for purposes of calculating his Plan benefits. In other words, the Plan concluded that none of Hollyfield's UMWA pension should have been offset against his Plan benefits during the 17-year period since he had retired. Consequently, the Plan paid Hollyfield a lump sum of $47,553 in past-due benefits. That sum represented past-due principal only, and did not include any interest payments for the period of delay.

A similar series of events in 1997 led to Holmes' collection of $24,514 in past-due Plan benefits. In contrast to Hollyfield's case, however, the Plan determined that Holmes earned 65% of his UMWA benefits at the same time he was being credited with continuous service for purposes of calculating his benefits under the Plan. Therefore, his lump-sum payment amounted to only 35% of the Plan benefits that had been offset in the sixteen years since his retirement, not the 100% that Hollyfield had recovered.

Shortly after Holmes received his pastdue benefits, his attorney placed a call to the Plan's offices. In a conversation with an assistant to the Plan's administrator, the attorney claimed that Holmes was entitled to interest on his pastdue benefits as well as the principal. In response, a Plan attorney prepared a memorandum analyzing the legal issues surrounding Holmes' interest claim. The memorandum was circulated to other Plan attorneys, as well as to its administrator. Thereafter, the administrator informed Holmes' attorney that nothing in the Plan provided for interest payments on delayed benefits, and that the administrator had determined such a payment would not be appropriate. See Letter from Dopera to Thornton of 07/22/1997 (J.A. at 185). Holmes then appealed the denial of his interest claim to the Plan's Employee Benefits Administration Committee. The Committee affirmed.

213 F.3d 130
See Letter from Dopera to Thornton of 10/10/1997 (J.A. at 191)

In March 1998, Holmes and Hollyfield filed a civil complaint against the Plan and its administrators. In Count One of the complaint, both Holmes and Hollyfield sought interest on their delayed benefits, as well as disgorgement of any additional profits the Plan may have earned on those benefits during the period of delay. Holmes also challenged the continuing 65% offset of his UMWA benefits against his Plan benefits, arguing that the UMWA benefits were not received from an "Employing Company." See App. at 20. Count Two alleged violations of the fiduciary duty to disclose accurate information. See id. at 21.

The complaint also sought certification of two proposed classes of Plan participants and beneficiaries: (1) those whose benefits had been, were or would one day be erroneously offset; and (2) those who had received or one day would receive past-due benefits but neither...

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  • Landsman & Funk Pc v. Skinder–strauss Associates, Nos. 09–3532
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • April 4, 2011
    ...(3d Cir.2008). We review a decision to certify or deny a class for abuse of discretion. Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 136 (3d Cir.2000) (citing In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. Sales Practice Litig., 148 F.3d 283, 299 (3d Cir.1998)).B. The TCPA, which was pa......
  • Mou v. SSC San Jose Operating Co., Case No. 5:18-cv-01911-EJD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • November 22, 2019
    ...The exception is inapplicable here because a class has not yet been certified. See Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp. , 213 F.3d 124, 135-36 (3d. Cir. 2000) (" If...the putative class representative's individual claim becomes moot before he moves for class certification, then a......
  • Tracinda Corp. v. Daimlerchrysler Ag, No. 05-2363.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 18, 2007
    ...equitable doctrine, we review the District Court's decision for abuse of discretion. See Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 134 (3d Cir. 2000). In order to successfully assert the defense of laches, Tracinda must show (1) "inexcusable delay" by DaimlerChrysler, a......
  • Skretvedt v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours, No. 02-3620, 02-4283.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 16, 2004
    ...extensive guidance for deciding what rate of interest is appropriate in a given case." Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 131-32 (3d Cir.2000). Instead, we reiterate that "the awarding of prejudgment interest under federal law is committed to the trial court's br......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
179 cases
  • Landsman & Funk Pc v. Skinder–strauss Associates, Nos. 09–3532
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • April 4, 2011
    ...(3d Cir.2008). We review a decision to certify or deny a class for abuse of discretion. Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 136 (3d Cir.2000) (citing In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. Sales Practice Litig., 148 F.3d 283, 299 (3d Cir.1998)).B. The TCPA, which was pa......
  • Mou v. SSC San Jose Operating Co., Case No. 5:18-cv-01911-EJD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • November 22, 2019
    ...The exception is inapplicable here because a class has not yet been certified. See Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp. , 213 F.3d 124, 135-36 (3d. Cir. 2000) (" If...the putative class representative's individual claim becomes moot before he moves for class certification, then a......
  • Tracinda Corp. v. Daimlerchrysler Ag, No. 05-2363.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 18, 2007
    ...equitable doctrine, we review the District Court's decision for abuse of discretion. See Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 134 (3d Cir. 2000). In order to successfully assert the defense of laches, Tracinda must show (1) "inexcusable delay" by DaimlerChrysler, a......
  • Skretvedt v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours, No. 02-3620, 02-4283.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 16, 2004
    ...extensive guidance for deciding what rate of interest is appropriate in a given case." Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 131-32 (3d Cir.2000). Instead, we reiterate that "the awarding of prejudgment interest under federal law is committed to the trial court's br......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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