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Kelly v. Honeywell International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 27, 2017



          Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs are former union members represented by UAW Locals 376 and 1010 who worked at the Stratford plant and retired from Honeywell or AlliedSignal after October 28, 1994, and their surviving spouses. In December 2015 Honeywell announced that at the end of 2016 it would terminate the medical coverage benefits Plaintiffs had been receiving since retirement. [Dkt. 44-2 (Pls.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt.), ¶ 67; Dkt. 55-1 (Defs.' Local 56(a)(2) Stmt.), ¶ 67].

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on October 31, 2016 in light of the upcoming coverage termination deadline. [See Dkt. 43]. The Court subsequently held a telephonic conference to discuss this issue and others, and upon the parties' agreement the Court held in abeyance the preliminary injunction pending the ruling on summary judgment. [See Dkt. 52]. On February 28, 2017, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant as to Subclass B: retirees who retired after the expiration of the Agreements and their surviving spouses. [See Dkt. 64]. This conclusion led the Court to find as moot the Motion for Preliminary Injunction. [See Dkt. 65]. Defendant terminated the medical coverage for Subclass B the following day. [See Dkt. 83 (Joint Report) at 1].

         Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the summary judgment ruling as to Subclass B, [see Dkt. 70], as well as an appeal of the summary judgment ruling, the preliminary injunction ruling, and the judgment, [see Dkt. 75]. The Court granted the Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration and ordered the parties to report whether there is reason to revisit the preliminary injunction. On June 15, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Notice indicating that Defendant terminated the medical benefits of Subclass B retirees and their surviving spouses on March 1, 2017, the day after the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant as to Subclass B. [See Dkt. 83]. Two Subclass B members submitted declarations along with the Joint Notice, and they indicated that they did not receive notice of the termination of their benefits until approximately three weeks later. See [Dkt. 83-1 (Ex. 1, Keegan Decl.) ¶ 6 (receiving notice March 22, 2017); Dkt. 83-1 (Ex. 2, Far Decl.) ¶ 6 (receiving notice March 24, 2017)]. Linda Keegan specifically reported that she underwent three chemotherapy treatments during the month of March when she did not know her medical benefits had been terminated. [Dkt. 83-1 ¶ 9]. Mary Ann Far stated that she obtained prescription drugs in March during the time she unknowingly did not have medical coverage benefits, and her provider informed her the cost of these prescriptions was approximately $16, 180 (although she has not yet been billed). [Dkt. 83-2 ¶ 10].

         Upon the Court's Order, Defendant filed a Response to the Motion for Preliminary Injunction, [see Dkt. 86], to which Plaintiffs replied, [see Dkt. 87]. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED.

         I. Legal Standard

         To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must establish “(a) irreparable harm and (b) either (1) likelihood of success on the merits or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party requesting the preliminary relief.” Citigroup Glob. Markets, Inc. v. VCG Special Opportunities Master Fund Ltd., 598 F.3d 30, 35 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The value of this standard “lies in its flexibility in the face of varying factual scenarios and the greater uncertainties inherent at the outset of particularly complex litigation.” Id. Plaintiffs request that the Court order Defendant to reinstate medical coverage benefits that, until recently, they have been receiving for approximately 20 years and to which they believe they are entitled. This constitutes the “normal function” of a preliminary injunction: “to maintain the status quo pending a full hearing on the merits.” Treibwasser & Katz v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 535 F.2d 1356, 1360 (2d Cir. 1976).

         II. Analysis

         A. Irreparable Harm

         Both the threat of termination as well as the actual termination of medical coverage benefits constitute irreparable harm. See Whelan v. Colgan, 602 F.2d 1060, 1062 (2d Cir. 1979) (“In fact, the threatened termination of benefits such as medical coverage for workers and their families obviously raised the spectre of irreparable injury.”); Commc'ns Workers of Am., Dist. One, AFL-CIO v. NYNEX Corp., 898 F.2d 887, 891 (2d Cir. 1990) (“In this circuit, the threat of termination of medical benefits to striking workers has been held to constitute irreparable harm.”); Fishman v. Paolucci, 628 F. App'x 797, 801 (2d Cir. 2015) (“A lack of medical services is exactly the sort of irreparable harm that preliminary injunctions are designed to address.”); LaForest v. Honeywell, No. 03-CV-6248T, 2003 WL 23180220, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 19, 2003) (“If the mere threat of termination of medical benefits constitutes irreparable harm, then the actual termination of medical benefits certainly constitutes irreparable harm.”) (internal citations omitted). Factors demonstrating retirees will experience irreparable harm include:

(1) most retired union members are not rich, (2) most live on fixed incomes, (3) many will get sick and need medical care, (4) medical care is expensive, (5) medical insurance is, therefore, a necessity, and (6) some retired workers may find it difficult to obtain medical insurance on their own while others can pay for it only out of money that they need for other necessities of life.

United Steelworkers of Am., AFL-CIO v. Textron, Inc., 836 F.2d 6, 8 (1st Cir. 1987); see LaForest, 2003 WL 23180220, at *1 (citing United Steelworkers of Am. in a case where the plaintiffs argued irreparable harm because the loss of medical coverage caused “(1) substantial risk to plaintiffs' health; (2) severe financial hardship; (3) the inability to purchase life's necessities; and (4) anxiety associated with uncertainty”).

         Plaintiffs submitted two declarations demonstrating they have experienced and will experience irreparable harm due to Defendant's decision to terminate their medical coverage benefits. Ms. Keegan receives chemotherapy treatment for AL amyloidosis, a rare malignant blood disorder. [Dkt. 83-1 ¶ 4]. Although she has found replacement medical coverage, she and her husband must pay an additional $550 a month. Id. ¶ 7. They receive pension and Social Security benefits. Id. ¶ 6. Ms. Keegan did not receive chemotherapy in the last week of March as a result of the expenses incurred. Id. ¶ 9. Ms. Far similarly experiences rising costs for the prescription medication that she must take for her heart condition, high blood pressure, and pre-diabetic issues and that her husband must take for multiple sclerosis. See [Dkt. 83-2 ¶ 4, 7-8]. Their family now has an additional expense of $12, 000 per year with possibly an additional cost of $16, 180 for prescription medication, which they obtained during the period they were unknowingly uninsured; such expenses cause financial stress given they live on disability income and one full-time income. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. As such, the declarations clearly show Defendant's decision to terminate their medical coverage benefits can lead to irreparable harm, as the individuals report to rely at least in part on fixed incomes, they need medical care that is expensive, medical insurance is expensive, and they are struggling to make ends meet given other expenses in life. The Court finds irreparable harm has been established.

         B. Sufficiently Serious ...

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