Attorneys for Defendant Ingersoll-Rand Company Debevoise, Senior District Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dickinson R. Debevoise U.S.S.D.J.
In an opinion filed October 25, 2010 the Court found that the Plaintiffs in this case were entitled to summary judgment that the termination of their employment with Dresser-Rand ("Dresser-Rand") constituted "retirement" within the meaning of a Sales Incentive Plan (the "SIP").*fn1 Bond v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., No. 08-3481, 2010 U.S. Dist. WL 4348137 (D.N.J. Oct. 25, 2010) ("Bond Opinion"). A number of anomalies occurred during the Dresser-Rand termination process of most, if not all, of the fourteen Plaintiffs whose retirement status is challenged. The Court explained the anomalies as evidence of a plan (1) to prevent the issue of the continued validity of the SIP from arising, (2) to make it appear that each departing employee was leaving solely because of a reduction in force, and (3) to camouflage the fact that each of these employees was retiring.
The Court uses the term "anomalies in the termination process" as a short-hand means of referring to the frequent occasions during the retirement process when Dresser-Rand referred in its documents to an indisputably retirement action as a reduction in force or redundancy. For example, Robert Kenville wrote Human Resources expressing an interest in early retirement. The response read, "[t]his letter is in response to your request for a reduction in force from Dresser-Rand." In the case of Beverly Kruger's request for early retirement, the termination Agreement that Dresser-Rand prepared correctly recited that it was in response to Kruger's request for early retirement, but Dresser-Rand's personnel officer noted it as a "Problem Description" and entered the termination in Oracle as an "involuntary RIF [reduction in force]." In the case of Robert Murphy the termination Agreement that Dresser-Rand prepared correctly referred to his request to volunteer for early retirement, but in its internal Employee Change Form Dresser-Rand reported the termination as an "Involuntary RIF." As described in the Bond opinion, the record is replete with instances of Dresser-Rand creating initial internal termination records which refer to an admittedly retirement event as an involuntary RIF. After these initial anomalous record entries, Dresser-Rand's records with respect to these Plaintiffs revert to references to "retirement", "retirees" and the equivalent.
The Court in its Opinion provided what appeared to it to be the explanation of the entries in termination documents that directly contradict the undisputed facts. The long and short of the matter is that whatever the explanation of the anomalies, there remains unchanged the underlying finding that the fourteen Bond Plaintiffs retired from Dresser-Rand.
Ingersoll-Rand moved with extraordinary vigor for: (1) reconsideration, pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(i), or, alternatively, certification of an interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), and (2) leave to file an over length reconsideration brief. Ingersoll-Rand's principal objection to the opinion was its apparent application of summary judgment standards when setting forth the reasons for the anomalies that occurred during the termination process.
Full justice to Ingersoll-Rand's position and the vigor with which its position has been argued can best be served by selective quotations from its brief:
The Court reached this ruling only by confusing and conflating Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Rand and the very different roles played by these companies. The Court then used this conflation to manufacture, out of whole cloth, a scheme by: Ingersoll-Rand . . . to make it appear that its terminated employees left its employ solely because of a reduction in force and to disguise the fact that simultaneously the employees retired from Dresser-Rand and were treated as retirees.
Not only do no facts support the existence of this nefarious scheme, the Bond plaintiffs (to their credit and as officers of the court) did not even allege this scheme.
The Court, by inferring the existence of an Ingersoll-Rand and/or Dresser-Rand conspiracy, violated its most fundamental summary judgment duty to construe all evidence in the light most favorable to defendant and to draw all inferences in defendant's favor. (Def.'s Br. Supp. Mot. Recons. 1)
This Court's summary judgment ruling inflicts manifest injustice on defendant. The Court improperly resolved factual disputes and, more egregiously, manufactured inferences which it then drew against defendant. The Court can alleviate this manifest injustice only by reconsidering and reversing its faulty ruling. (Id. at 3)
The Court's failure to distinguish between Ingersoll-Rand and Dresser-Rand bears critical significance because this error led inexorably to its improper "camouflage" inference. The truth, conversely, eviscerates completely the Court's inference. Because Dresser-Rand bore (and bears) no liability under the SIP, it possessed absolutely no incentive or motive to mischaracterize the reasons for the Bond plaintiffs' departure from the company. Dresser-Rand truthfully recorded that these plaintiffs left the company for the reason of a RIF and not for the reason of retirement. And, because Ingersoll-Rand played absolutely no role in terminating these plaintiffs from Dresser-Rand, it possessed no means by which to mischaracterize their departure. No evidence, therefore, supports this Court's improper inference that anyone, must (sic) less Ingersoll-Rand implemented a Machiavellian ruse to "disguise" plaintiffs' alleged retirement from Dresser-Rand.
(Id. at 5-6) (footnotes omitted)
The Court, with zero factual support (and not a single record reference), erroneously merged the activities of the two separate companies, improperly determined the corporate motivations of the two companies, and somehow inferred the two companies conspired in a strategy to prepare for litigation that ...