Evans. v. Sterling Chemicals, Inc.

Evans. v. Sterling Chemicals, Inc., 660 F.3d 863 (5th Cir. 2011)

This case was an ERISA class action appeal on behalf of a class of retirees. The case arose when an American chemical company bought an existing chemical business, and in the agreement consummating the sale, guaranteed certain retirement benefits to acquired employees. Several years after the acquisition, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had the agreement consummating the sale rejected. Then the company raised retirement premiums dramatically, claiming that the bankruptcy had nullified the earlier guarantee.  The employees formed a class and sued the company, alleging that under ERISA the retirement-benefit guarantee remained in force through the bankruptcy. The district court granted judgment for the company on all claims, and Beck Redden was engaged to handle the appeal.  The Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment and held that the company had amended its ERISA plan through the purchase agreement, and that as a result, the benefit guarantee “remained at all times a valid and enforceable provision.”  That ruling relied on Halliburton Co. Benefits Comm. v. Graves, 463 F.3d 360 (5th Cir. 2006), an earlier victory by Beck Redden in this area. The appeal was handled by Beck Redden partner Russell Post and associate Chad Flores.