CNH INDUSTRIAL N.V., ET AL.
JACK REESE, ET AL.
PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
Terms ago, this Court's decision in M&G Polymers
USA, LLC v. Tackett, 574 U.S. __ (2015), held that the
Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was required to
interpret collective-bargaining agreements according to
"ordinary principles of contract law."
Id., at __ (slip op., at 1). Before
Tackett, the Sixth Circuit applied a series of
"Yard-Man inferences, " stemming from its
decision in International Union, United Auto, Aerospace,
& Agricultural Implement Workers of Am. v. Yard-Man,
Inc., 716 F.2d 1476 (1983). In accord with the
Yard-Man inferences, courts presumed, in a variety
of circumstances, that collective-bargaining agreements
vested retiree benefits for life. See Tackett, 574
U.S., at __ - __ (slip op., at 7-10). But
Tackett "reject[ed]" these inferences
"as inconsistent with ordinary principles of contract
law." Id., at __ (slip op., at 14).
case, the Sixth Circuit held that the same Yard-Man
inferences it once used to presume lifetime vesting can now
be used to render a collective-bargaining agreement ambiguous
as a matter of law, thus allowing courts to consult extrinsic
evidence about lifetime vesting. 854 F.3d 877, 882-883
(2017). This analysis cannot be squared with
Tackett. A contract is not ambiguous unless it is
subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, and the
Yard-Man inferences cannot generate a reasonable
interpretation because they are not "ordinary principles
of contract law, " Tackett, supra, at __ (slip
op., at 14).
the Sixth Circuit's analysis is "Yard-Man
re-born, re-built, and re-purposed for new adventures, "
854 F.3d, at 891 (Sutton, J., dissenting), we reverse.
Court has long held that collective-bargaining agreements
must be interpreted "according to ordinary principles of
contract law." Tackett, 574 U.S., at __ (slip
op., at 7) (citing Textile Workers v. Lincoln Mills of
Ala., 353 U.S. 448, 456-457 (1957)). Prior to
Tackett, the Sixth Circuit purported to follow this
rule, but it used a unique series of "Yard-Man
inferences" that no other circuit applied. 574 U.S., at
__ (slip op., at 7). For example, the Sixth Circuit presumed
that "a general durational clause" in a
collective-bargaining agreement "'says
nothing about the vesting of retiree benefits'"
in that agreement. Id., at __ - __ (slip
op., at 9-10) (quoting Noe v. PolyOne Corp., 520
F.3d 548, 555 (CA6 2008)). If the collective-bargaining
agreement lacked "a termination provision specifically
addressing retiree benefits" but contained specific
termination provisions for other benefits, the Sixth Circuit
presumed that the retiree benefits vested for life.
Tackett, supra, at __ - __ (slip op., at
7-8) (citing Yard-Man, supra, at 1480). The Sixth
Circuit also presumed vesting if "a provision . . .
'tie[d] eligibility for retirement-health benefits to
eligibility for a pension." 574 U.S., at __ (slip op.,
at 10) (quoting Noe, supra, at 558).
Court's decision in Tackett "reject[ed] the
Yard-Man inferences as inconsistent with ordinary
principles of contract law." 574 U.S., at __ (slip op.,
at 14). Most obviously, the Yard-Man inferences
erroneously "refused to apply general durational clauses
to provisions governing retiree benefits." 574 U.S., at
__ (slip op., at 12). This refusal "distort[ed] the text
of the agreement and conflict[ed] with the principle of
contract law that the written agreement is presumed to
encompass the whole agreement of the parties."
Yard-Man inferences also incorrectly inferred
lifetime vesting whenever "a contract is silent as to
the duration of retiree benefits." 574 U.S., at __ (slip
op., at 14). The "traditional principle, "
Tackett explained, is that "'contractual
obligations will cease, in the ordinary course, upon
termination of the bargaining agreement.'"
Id., at __ (slip op., at 13) (quoting Litton
Financial Printing Div., Litton Business Systems, Inc. v.
NLRB, 501 U.S. 190, 207 (1991)). "[C]ontracts that
are silent as to their duration will ordinarily be treated
not as 'operative in perpetuity' but as
'operative for a reasonable time.'" 574 U.S., at
__ (slip op., at 13) (quoting 3 A. Corbin, Corbin on
Contracts §553, p. 216 (I960)). In fact, the Sixth
Circuit had followed this principle in cases involving
noncol-lectively bargained agreements, see Sprague v.
General Motors Corp., 133 F.3d 388, 400 (1998) (en
banc), which "only underscore[d] Yard-Man's
deviation from ordinary principles of contract law."
Tackett, supra, at __ (slip op., at 13).
the tying of retiree benefits to pensioner status,
Tackett rejected this Yard-Man inference as
"contrary to Congress' determination" in the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 88
Stat. 891. 574 at __ (slip op., U.S., at __ (slip op., at
11). The Sixth Circuit adopted this inference on the
assumption that retiree health benefits are "'a form
of delayed compensation or reward for past services,
'" like a pension. Id., at __ (slip op., at
4) at __ (slip op., (quoting Yard-Man, supra, at
1482). But ERISA distinguishes between plans that
"resul[t] in a deferral of income, "
§1002(2)(A)(ii), and plans that offer medical benefits,
§1002(1)(A). See Tackett, 574 U.S., at __ (slip
op., at at __ (slip op., 11). Tackett thus concluded
that this and the other "inferences applied in
Yard-Man and its progeny" do not
"represent ordinary principles of contract law."
Id., at __ (slip op., at 10).
Tackett, this case involves a dispute between
retirees and their former employer about whether an expired
collective-bargaining agreement created a vested right to
lifetime health care benefits. In 1998, CNH Industrial N. V.
and CNH Industrial America LLC (collectively, CNH) agreed to
a collective-bargaining agreement. The 1998 agreement
provided health care benefits under a group benefit plan to
certain "[e]mployees who retire under the . . . Pension
Plan." App. to Pet. for Cert. A-116. "All other
coverages, " such as life insurance, ceased upon
retirement. Ibid. The group benefit plan was
"made part of" the collective-bargaining agreement
and "r[an] concurrently" with it. Id., at
A-114. The 1998 agreement contained a general durational
clause stating that it would terminate in May 2004.
Id., at A-115. The agreement also stated that it
"dispose[d] of any and all bargaining issues, whether or
not presented during negotiations." Ibid.
the 1998 agreement expired in 2004, a class of CNH retirees
and surviving spouses (collectively, the retirees) filed this
lawsuit, seeking a declaration that their health care
benefits vested for life and an injunction preventing CNH
from changing them. While their lawsuit was pending, this
Court decided Tackett. Based on Tackett,
the District Court initially awarded summary judgment to ...