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STARR v. JCI DATA PROCESSING

July 18, 1991

JOSEPH M. STARR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JCI DATA PROCESSING, INC. AND VICTOR L. JOHNSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brotman, District Judge:

  Plaintiff has requested the court to reconsider its February 4, 1991 decision dismissing, inter alia, his claims pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. Starr v. JCI Data Processing, Inc., 757 F. Supp. 390 (D.N.J. 1991). Plaintiff takes issue with the court's all-or-nothing treatment of the timeliness of his ERISA claims as rising or falling entirely with plaintiff's actual knowledge in 1980 that the company's pension plan was unfunded and not accruing interest. Upon reconsideration, this court finds that plaintiff's complaint indeed asserts separately accruing causes of action under ERISA, each of which must be analyzed independently from defendant's alleged violation of ERISA's funding requirements. Therefore, the court will reinstate plaintiff's complaint on the docket, grant summary judgment to plaintiff on liability and and await further briefing and a proof hearing to determine damages.

A. Motion for Reconsideration Standard

District Court of New Jersey Rule 12I provides that a motion for reconsideration shall be served with "a memorandum setting forth concisely the matters or controlling decisions which counsel believes the Court has overlooked." A party seeking reconsideration must show more than a disagreement with the court's decision, and "recapitulation of the cases and arguments considered by the court before rendering its original decision fails to carry the moving party's burden." Carteret Savings Bank, F.A. v. Shushan, 721 F. Supp. 705, 709 (D.N.J. 1989). See also Egloff v. New Jersey Air National Guard, 684 F. Supp. 1275, 1279 (D.N.J. 1988). The only proper ground for granting a motion for reconsideration, therefore, is that the matters or decisions overlooked, if considered by the court, "might reasonably have altered the result reached. . . ." New York Guardian Mortgage Corp. v. Cleland, 473 F. Supp. 409, 420 (S.D.N.Y. 1979); U.S. v. International Business Machines Corp., 79 F.R.D. 412, 414 (S.D.N.Y. 1978).

Plaintiff's motion presents an important argument, not highlighted in his initial briefs, as to the separate and independent causes of action he alleges under ERISA and whether they were appropriately time-barred. The court, therefore, will proceed to reconsider its analysis of the limitations period applicable to each ERISA claim. As to plaintiff's argument that Count III, alleging fraud and misrepresentation, should not be dismissed, the court finds no new matter or argument raised and therefore will not reconsider that conclusion.

B. Plaintiff's ERISA Claims

Plaintiff's amended complaint contains four separate causes of action pursuant to ERISA. Count VII alleges the requisite elements establishing that the JCI retirement plan is an employee benefit plan subject to ERISA. Paragraphs 41 and 42 describe defendants JCI and Johnson as employers, sponsors, parties in interest, administrators and fiduciaries within the meaning of ERISA. Paragraph 43 then alleges that defendants breached their fiduciary obligations as imposed by 29 U.S.C. § 1104(a)(1)(A) and (B) by failing to comply with ERISA's requirements of reporting and disclosure, minimum participation and vesting, minimum funding, and fiduciary responsibilities of establishing a trust to hold plan assets and creating a written instrument.*fn1

Count VIII alleges that on or about April 18, 1989 plaintiff requested defendants to provide copies of documents about the plan pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1021-1025. The letter inquired as to the status of plaintiff's pension account and to advise "as to any available options that Mr. Starr may have with respect to the payment of the funds. Please also forward copies of any available literature and/or reports with respect to the pension plan and its administration." Plaintiff's Exhibit 9. Defendants never responded to this request and thus plaintiff seeks to enforce his rights under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(A) and (c).*fn2

Count IX*fn3 avers a generalized allegation that, "[b]y virtue of the conduct described herein," defendants have failed to comply with applicable ERISA requirements "in the establishment, operation, maintenance and funding of the pension plan." Amended Complaint at ¶ 49. The court interprets this allegation as a claim "to enjoin any act or practice which violates any provision of this subchapter, or . . . to obtain other equitable relief (i) to redress such violations or (ii) to enforce any provisions of this subchapter" as authorized by 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3).

Finally, Count X states that plaintiff, as a participant in the plan, has been denied benefits to which he is entitled. He seeks to clarify his rights and to establish and obtain the present and future benefits to which he is entitled under the plan, as authorized by 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B).

C. Statute of Limitations

The court must now consider the applicable statute of limitations to each of plaintiff's aforementioned claims under ERISA.

1. Breach of Fiduciary Duty — 29 U.S.C. § 1113:

Congress set forth only one limitations period when it enacted ERISA, found at 29 U.S.C. § 1113. That section states:

  No action may be commenced under this title with
  respect to a fiduciary's breach of any
  responsibility, duty, or obligation under this
  part, or with respect to a violation of this part,
  after the earlier of —
  (1) six years after (A) the date of the last
  action which constituted a part of the breach or
  violation, or (B) in the case of an omission, the
  latest date on which the fiduciary could have
  cured the breach or violation, or
  (2) ...

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