ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 76-3406)
Before Hunter, Weis and Garth, Circuit Judges.
In this diversity case, the plaintiff Anthony appeals from a grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, Ryder Truck Lines, Inc. (Ryder), Byrns Motor Express Division (Byrns), and the Trustees of the Byrns pension fund (the Trustees). At issue is the liability of the several defendants to Anthony in connection with his rights under the Ryder pension plan and the pension plans of Byrns, Ryder's predecessor. Because we are satisfied that there exists a genuine dispute as to material facts, we conclude that summary judgment should not have been granted. We therefore reverse and remand the case to the district court for a plenary trial.
Anthony was born in 1926, and was hired in 1952 by W. T. Byrns & Company as a salesman. This company was acquired by Ryder and became Ryder's Byrns Motor Express Division in 1970. Anthony continued to work for the Byrns Division of Ryder until June 1975, when he was fired by Ryder for "lack of progress."
In 1959, Byrns instituted its first pension plan (the 1959 plan) for its employees, including Anthony. The 1959 plan did not qualify under the Internal Revenue Code, and Byrns therefore substituted a different plan in 1962 (the 1962 plan), which did qualify under the tax code. Subsequently, in 1963, all employees covered under the 1959 plan, including Anthony, received the following letter from Lawrence Smith, a trustee of both the 1959 and the 1962 plans:
It has become necessary in order To continue the Company's retirement program to discontinue the pension trust established in December 1959, and replace it with a new trust effective September 30, 1962. Since the contributions to the old trust were held not to be tax deductible to the Company, to the extent possible the assets not represented by insurance contracts must be recovered.
In order to accomplish this purpose we have prepared and enclose herewith an instrument, the effect of which is to release to the Company all the assets of the old trust (other than life insurance contracts which will be transferred to the new trust).
The new plan will provide the same benefits as the old and your monthly pension at retirement will not be affected by the action now being taken. Future contributions by the Company will be in an increased amount to fund the benefits over the shorter period of time.
Please execute the enclosure before a notary public and return it to the Company as soon as possible. If you have any questions concerning your pension rights feel free to ask them.
This is the W. T. BYRNS MOTOR EXPRESS PENSION TRUST FUND.
App. at A-218 (emphasis supplied).*fn1 Anthony complied with the request made in the letter and executed the enclosed release form. Id. at A-219.
In 1970, Byrns was acquired by Ryder. In September of that year, Anthony, as a former Byrns employee, was sent the following letter describing his ...