Reese v. CNH America LLC

Docket: 11-1359

Opinion Date: September 13, 2012

Judge: Sutton

Areas of Law: Contracts, ERISA, Health Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law

In a 2009 opinion, the Sixth Circuit held that, in a 1998 collective bargaining agreement, CNH agreed to provide health-care benefits to retirees and their spouses for life, but rejected the suggestion that the scope of this commitment in the context of healthcare benefits, as opposed to pension benefits, meant that CNH could make no changes to the healthcare benefits provided to retirees. The court remanded for a determination of reasonableness with respect to CNH’s proposed changes to its retiree healthcare benefits, under which retirees, previously able to choose any doctor without suffering a financial penalty, would be put into a managed-care plan. The court listed three considerations: Does the modified plan provide benefits “reasonably commensurate” with the old plan? Are the proposed changes “reasonable in light of changes in health care”? And are the benefits “roughly consistent with the kinds of benefits provided to current employees”? On remand, the district court granted CNH summary judgment without reaching the reasonableness question or creating a factual record from which the determination could be made on appeal. The Sixth Circuit again remanded.