Submitted: June 25, 2014, [*].
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 08-cv-0090 -- Patricia J. Gorence, Magistrate Judge.
For SHIRLEY TEMME, individually and as a representative of a class of persons similarly situated, ANSCHEL WARSCHAU, individually and as representative of a class of persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs - Appellees: William Arthur Wertheimer Jr., Attorney, Bingham Farms, MI; Sandra G. Radtke, Attorney, Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf, Milwaukee, WI.
For BEMIS COMPANY, INCORPORATED, a Missouri corporation, Defendant - Appellant: Kevin J. Kinney, Attorney, Krukowski & Costello, S.C., Milwaukee, WI.
Before KANNE and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges, and SPRINGMANN, District Judge[**].
This appeal from an award of attorneys' fees marks the end of protracted litigation between the parties. In 2008, the plaintiff class sued Bemis Company, Inc., for eliminating certain health-care benefits that they believed they were owed under a 1985 plant-closing agreement with Bemis's predecessor in interest. We reversed the district court's initial grant of summary judgment to the defendants, see Temme v. Bemis, 622 F.3d 730 (7th Cir. 2010), and remanded. Just before the case went to trial, the parties settled. The plaintiffs then sought, and were awarded, attorneys' fees in the amount of $403,053.75. Bemis appeals the fee award, arguing that its litigation position was substantially justified. Concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding these fees, we affirm.
We will assume familiarity with our prior opinion and discuss the facts only as they pertain to the fee issue. The plaintiffs and their employer, Hayssen Manufacturing Company, were parties to a Plant Closing Agreement that promised the plaintiffs certain medical benefits upon retirement. In 1996, Bemis acquired Hayssen and assumed its obligations under the Agreement. After the acquisition, Bemis twice reduced the benefits it provided under the Agreement: once in 2005 (by increasing co-pays and deductibles) and again in 2007 (by eliminating its prescription drug program). In response, the plaintiffs sued, alleging that the reductions in benefits breached the Agreement and thereby violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1132, and the Labor-Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Judge Stadtmueller certified plaintiffs' class, but ultimately granted summary judgment to Bemis, reasoning that the Agreement did not give the plaintiffs a lifetime interest in a certain level of health benefits. About a month after Judge Stadtmueller's summary judgment ruling, Bemis eliminated all medical benefits under the Agreement.
The plaintiffs appealed the grant of summary judgment, and we reversed, concluding that the parties did intend to provide lifetime medical coverage. Temme, 622 F.3d at 737. We remanded for consideration of what level of medical benefits the Agreement mandated and whether Bemis
breached the Agreement in 2005 and 2007. ...