United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
FREDDIE W. FOWLER PLAINTIFF
OMNOVA SOLUTIONS; OMNOVA Solutions Consolidated Pension Plan DEFENDANTS
B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court are the parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment. Upon due consideration of the motions,
responses, exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority,
the court is ready to rule.
and Procedural Background
plaintiff, Freddie Fowler, began working for Defendant Omnova
Solutions (“Omnova”) in 1976. More than three
decades later, on May 15, 2010, Fowler and other employees
initiated a lawful economic strike against Omnova. Fowler has
not returned to work since that date.
August of 2015, Fowler filed a claim for “regular early
retirement” benefits with Defendant Omnova Solutions
Consolidated Pension Plan (“the Plan”). Pursuant
to the Plan, “an [e]mployee who has attained the age 55
. . . and has completed 10 full years of [c]ontinuous
service” is eligible for regular early retirement
benefits. Thus, this particular benefit requires both an
“age” and “years of service” minimum.
defendants denied Fowler's claim after determining that
he had not met the “age” requirement. Defendants
based this determination on their insistence that Fowler had
ceased being an employee on August 15, 2010, and at that time
he was only fifty-four (54) years of age.
appealed the adverse decision and his appeal was denied on
February 2, 2016. He subsequently requested that the matter
be submitted to arbitration in accordance with the Plan's
grievance procedure but the defendants refused.
filed the instant suit on September 6, 2016, asserting a
demand for arbitration or, in the alternative, a claim for
benefits. The parties have now filed cross-motions for
summary judgment as to the demand for arbitration only.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Courts have placed the burden upon the
moving party to show an absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 325 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the
burden then shifts to the non-movant to “go beyond the
pleadings and . . . designate specific facts showing there is
a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. A
genuine issue exists “if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view
the underlying facts in the “light most favorable to
the party opposing the motion.” United States v.
Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). As such, all
reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the
non-movant. Id. “Summary judgment, although a
useful device, must be employed cautiously because it is a
final adjudication on the merits.” Jackson v.
Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1241 (5th Cir. 1989).
now asks this court to compel arbitration under 9 U.S.C.
§ 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (the
“FAA”) based upon an ...