the agreements were sophisticated in the bargaining process. There is no reason to believe that they were coerced or tricked into accepting this language. In addition, as defendant points out, this part of plaintiffs' argument relies primarily on the absence of language, and the absence of language does not satisfy the International Multifoods requirements.
The death of the retiree or the fact that a retiree qualifies for Medicare prior to the end of the governing CBA or insurance agreement is of no consequence. This clause merely addressed those circumstances that could lead to the termination of benefits prior to the end of the then-governing CBA and insurance agreement. Perhaps it would have been clearer if Curtiss-Wright had directly specified in these lists of termination events that the termination date of each CBA and GIA would also result in the termination of retiree health insurance benefits unless Curtiss-Wright and the United Steelworkers entered into a successive CBA and GIA. However, because each agreement contained an explicit durational clause, such a provision was not necessary.
The fact that the SPDs used the language "during your retirement" without including further language limiting the duration of benefits cannot be reasonably construed as creating a promise of vesting. If the mere description of retiree benefits as being provided during their retirement was sufficient, then, contrary to the general rule of International Multifoods, retiree benefits would always be vested. Furthermore, this argument simply reads out of the SPDs the express reservation of the right to terminate these benefits (See e.g., Joint Exhibit 15, p. 58).
Finally, the summary annual reports that defendant sent to each participant of the company health plan, including retirees, starting in 1979 contained the express language that the termination of the CBA for any reason would result in the termination of the medical coverage (See, e.g., Defendant's Exhibit 3). This provision, which was communicated to all class members, makes clear that the parties had not intended for retiree health benefits to be vested.
Having determined that the relevant documents do not contain any written language which could reasonably be interpreted to constitute a promise to vest retiree medical benefits, under International Multifoods, the court is precluded from considering any oral statements or other extrinsic evidence. Consequently, the court finds that the CBAs and GIAs executed by Curtiss-Wright and the United Steelworkers were unambiguous and contained clear and unequivocal language to the effect that the agreements would remain in effect until specific dates; therefore, any benefits provided were terminable by Curtiss-Wright after those dates. Thus, plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction prohibiting Curtiss-Wright from terminating or reducing retiree health insurance benefits for the lifetime of the members of the plaintiff class is denied.
II. Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order Entering Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim that Defendant Breached Its Fiduciary Duty to Retirees When it Terminated Health Insurance Benefits
Plaintiffs contend that Curtiss-Wright, as both the plan sponsor and plan administrator of the health insurance plan, acted as a fiduciary when it decided to terminate retiree health benefits in 1987 (Item 125, pp. 10-11). They assert that defendant had no authority, as employer, to unilaterally amend or to terminate the retiree health insurance benefits since it had negotiated lifetime benefits. They argue that since the retiree health benefits were vested for the retirees' lifetime, defendant's action terminating those benefits when it locked out employees in May 1987 constituted a breach of its fiduciary obligation to the retirees as participants in the plan in violation of ERISA section 404 (Id., p. 11).
This claim is denied because it is duplicative of plaintiffs' other claims. It appears that plaintiffs' claim for breach of fiduciary duty is premised on section 502(a)(3) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), which authorizes an injunction or "other appropriate relief" to remedy violations of the terms of an employee benefit plan or any provision of ERISA. A plaintiff may not pursue a claim for breach of fiduciary duty based on section 502(a)(3) where that claim seeks relief that duplicates the relief sought on a claim for benefits under section 502(a)(1)(B). Wald v. Southwestern Bell Corp. Customcare Medical Plan, 83 F.3d 1002, 1006 (8th Cir. 1996).
In their motion, plaintiffs state that they are seeking an order of judgment finding that defendant breached its fiduciary duty, without citing any section of ERISA (Item 124); but in their accompanying memorandum of law, plaintiffs say that they are seeking an order finding a breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA section 404, 29 U.S.C. § 1104 (Item 125, p. 2). However, section 404 does not by itself create a private cause of action. The statute suggests that plaintiffs' fiduciary duty claim could be premised either on section 502(a)(3),
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), or on section 502(a)(1)(B),
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). Regardless of which section provides the underlying basis for plaintiffs' breach of fiduciary duty claim, the logic of defendant's argument remains persuasive. This claim is duplicative and must be dismissed.
Responding to concerns that permitting individual plaintiffs to bring breach of fiduciary duty claims in addition to other ERISA claims would simply allow plaintiffs to repackage claims for benefits, the Supreme Court in Varity Corp. v. Howe, 516 U.S. 489, 116 S. Ct. 1065, 134 L. Ed. 2d 130 (1996) stated:
We should expect that courts, in fashioning "appropriate" equitable relief, will keep in mind the "special nature and purpose of employee benefit plans," and will respect the "policy choices reflected in the inclusion of certain remedies and the exclusion of others." Thus, we should expect that where Congress elsewhere provided adequate relief for a beneficiary's injury, there will likely be no need for further equitable relief, in which case such relief normally would not be "appropriate."
Varity Corp., 116 S. Ct. at 1079 (citations omitted).
For the foregoing reasons, this court (1) denies plaintiffs' motion for judgment in their favor on their ERISA section 502 and LMRA section 301 claims, finding that the agreements executed by Curtiss-Wright and the United Steelworkers were unambiguous and contained clear and unequivocal language to the effect that the agreements would remain in effect until specific dates; therefore, any benefits provided thereunder were terminable by Curtiss-Wright after those dates; (2) denies plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction enjoining defendant from terminating or reducing retiree health benefits; and, (3) denies plaintiffs' motion for judgment in their favor on their ERISA section 404 breach of fiduciary duty claim as it is duplicative to the above claim.
The court will hold a telephone conference with counsel on January 14, 1998, at 4 p.m. to discuss any remaining issues.
JOHN T. CURTIN
United States District Judge
Dated: December 30, 1997