The Fourth Circuit issued a published opinion in Dewhurst v. Century Aluminum Company affirming the denial of a preliminary injunction seeking continuation of certain health care benefits. The dispute in Dewhurst arose out of Century’s decision to modify or terminate retiree health benefits for certain retirees, who then filed a suit contending that their benefits were vested and therefore protected from modification under the the Labor Management Relations Act and ERISA. Judge Copenhaver of the Southern District of West Virginia denied a motion for a preliminary injunction. Judge Agee authored the unanimous opinion affirming Judge Copenhaver’s denial of relief. Judges Wilkinson and King joined Judge Agee’s opinion.
The decision rejects appellants’ reliance on the so-called Yardman inference (named for the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Intl. Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America v. Yard-Man, Inc., 716 F.2d 1476 (6th Cir. 1983)). Appellants relied on Yard-Man for the proposition that retiree benefits “continue so long as the prerequisite status is maintained.” Judge Agee’s opinion concludes that the appellants overread not only Yard-Man, but also a Fourth Circuit decision (Keffer v. H.K. Porter Co., 872 F.2d 60, 62 (4th Cir. 1989)) that appellants (mistakenly) characterized as adopting appellants’ overly expansive interpretation of Yard-Man.
The decision also contains language emphasizing the clear showing of a likelihood of a success on the merits that must be made by one seeking a preliminary injunction.