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Brenner v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp.

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


September 29, 2000

BARBARA BRENNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHASE MANHATTAN MORTGAGE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle United States District Judge

Not For Publication

HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE

SIMANDLE, District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Barbara Brenner brings this suit in diversity as the surviving spouse and personal representative of the estate of Michael Brenner. In her complaint, Mrs. Brenner seeks to recover from defendant Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation certain disputed Group Universal Life Insurance proceeds worth $160,000.00, as well as Basic Life Insurance proceeds in the amount of $15,599.96. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 10, 16.) Plaintiff claims that she deserves the proceeds from a Group Universal Life Insurance policy even though the late Mr. Brenner never filed the Group Universal Life Insurance Special Annual Enrollment Form (1) because Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation was supposed to submit the appropriate paperwork, or (2) because Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation allegedly failed to provide her husband with the correct form to apply for GUL insurance, or (3) because her husband filed a form that he incorrectly thought was an application for the insurance and had no reason to think that it was not. (Pl.'s Br. at 8-9.) Plaintiff also claims that she deserves $25,000 more in Basic Life Insurance proceeds because her husband's death benefit was not equal to the amount she anticipated. Defendant has responded by submitting documentation which explains the Group Universal Life Insurance application process and accounts for its calculation of Basic Life Insurance coverage for Mr. Brenner. Presently before this Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), or, in the alternative, defendant's motion to strike plaintiff's jury demand. For reasons stated herein, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted as against plaintiff's claim for Basic Life benefits, but will be denied as against the claim for Group Universal Life coverage.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's husband, Michael B. Brenner, was hired by Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation ("Chase Manhattan") on December 23, 1996 as the manager of their Mount Laurel branch office. (Threston Cert. Ex. H.) His written offer of employment promised $85,599.96 as his minimum annual income. (Id.) The offer sheet provided that Mr. Brenner could exceed the minimum salary if the overrides for 1997 surpassed expectations. (Id.)

In accordance with standard procedures, Nancy Sayan, the Operations Supervisor for the Mid-Atlantic Division of Chase Manhattan, sent Mr. Brenner a package of information and enrollment materials concerning the employee benefit plans which were available to him. (Sayan Cert. at 1-2 ¶ 2; Sayan Dep. at 6.) Included in the standard packet was the "Chase Choice" informational booklet regarding "Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Long Term Care Insurance." (Sayan Cert. at 2 ¶ 3; Sayan Cert. Ex. A.)

The life insurance section of the Chase Choice booklet informs a new employee about his options for life insurance through Chase Manhattan. (Sayan Cert. Ex. A.) According to the booklet, Chase automatically provides an employee with Basic Life Insurance, underwritten by CIGNA, in an amount equal to the employee's eligible compensation rounded to the next highest thousand dollars. (Id. at 2.)

An employee's eligible compensation was known as his Benefits Eligible Compensation ("BEC"). (Sayan Cert. Ex. B.) The BEC for someone who was hired, like Mr. Brenner, after January 1, 1996 was equal to "the greater of [his] base salary (including shift differential), draw, commissions, and production overrides during 1996 or $50,000 (excluding overtime and performance-related bonuses)." (Id.) To determine the 1997 BEC, actual earnings between August 1, 1995 and July 31, 1996 would be used. (Id.) In addition to the company-provided insurance, the booklet informs employees about voluntary life insurance options. (Sayan Cert. Ex. A at 3.)

One voluntary option was the Employee Voluntary Group Universal Life Insurance ("GUL"). (Id. at 4.) The GUL plan was administered by Johnson & Higgins/Kirke Van-Orsdel, Inc. ("J&H/KVI") and was underwritten by MetLife. (Id. at 5.) The Chase Choice booklet included the following instructions for the employee:

For Employee GUL, you must complete the GUL Special Annual Enrollment Form, which includes a Beneficiary Designation section.... Your GUL Special Enrollment Form must be sent directly to the Plan administrator, J&H/KVI, in the enclosed envelope. The form and envelope is located in the "Forms and Envelopes" section of this Enrollment Kit. Be sure to keep a copy of the form for your records. (Id. at 6.)

It also directed the employee to

[m]ake sure you complete the forms as soon as possible or your coverage may be delayed. Coverage for the Guaranteed Issue amount will be effective January 1, 1997, provided your GUL Special Annual Enrollment Form is received by J&H/KVI by the end of the enrollment period (November 30, 1996).... You will be notified if and when the coverage is approved. (Id.)

As discussed below, there is a dispute whether defendant ever furnished the GUL Special Annual Enrollment Form to Mr. Brenner. The form entitled "Group Universal Life Special Annual Enrollment Form" included instructions to complete, sign, and date the form and return it in an enclosed envelope to an address in Des Moines, IA. (Sayan Cert. Ex. C.) The form also included a 1-800 number for assistance. (Id.) If Mr. Brenner did not receive this "GUL Special Annual Enrollment Form," he would not have received the instructions it contained, including the address to which he had to mail the GUL Form in order to enroll in this benefit.

Under the GUL plan, a covered employee was guaranteed coverage for an amount that did not exceed two times his BEC as of October 1, 1996. (Sayan Cert. Ex. A at 6.) For amounts greater that this "Guaranteed Issue amount," the employee would have to submit "Evidence of Insurability" as insurability was subject to the "Full Evidence of Good Health" guidelines. (Id.; Sayan Cert. Ex. C at 2.)

It is undisputed that Mr. Brenner never completed the Group Universal Life Special Annual Enrollment Form. He did, however, complete a "Chase Choice Enrollment Form" which indicated his preferences for medical, dental, disability, accidental death, and life insurances. (Sayan Cert. Ex. D.) The form indicates that Mr. Brenner sought $200,000 in GUL insurance coverage. *fn1 (Id.) Mr. Brenner also told a co-worker, Ken Hantman, that he had applied for GUL coverage. (Hantman Dep. at 31, Threston Cert. Ex. B.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Brenner was being monitored for a heart murmur. (Brenner Dep. at 37, Threston Cert. Ex. A.) In July 1997, his family doctor noticed an increased slushing sound indicative of mitral valve regurgitation. (Id.) Mr. Brenner was referred to a cardiologist who advised him to undergo elective surgery to repair his valve. (Id. at 38.) Mr. Brenner suffered complications during the surgery. (Id.) After one month in an induced coma, he died on December 5, 1997. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts at 1 ¶ 2; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts at 1 ¶ 2.)

Plaintiff, Mr. Brenner's wife, then filed for Mr. Brenner's Chase Manhattan death benefits. She was paid $70,000 in Basic Life Insurance Benefits. (Pl.'s Br. at 5.) She was not able to receive any benefits from Mr. Brenner's GUL insurance because he had never filed the Group Universal Life Special Annual Enrollment Form with J&H/KVI. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed the current claim on January 4, 1999 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Burlington County, Law Division. Defendant removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441 & 1446 on February 18, 1999 on the ground that plaintiff's claims concerning life insurance is completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461. (Notice of Removal at 2.) Plaintiff has not disputed this Court's jurisdiction. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as plaintiff's claim is governed by ERISA with respect to employee benefit programs.

III. DISCUSSION

In her complaint, plaintiff, as the surviving spouse and personal representative of the estate of Michael Brenner, seeks to recover damages from Chase Manhattan in the amount of $160,000 which she claims she should have received from Mr. Brenner's GUL insurance and $15,599.96 which she claims she should have received from Mr. Brenner's Basic Life Insurance from Chase Manhattan beyond the $70,000 sum that she received already. This matter is presently before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment.

A. Standard of Review for Motion for Summary Judgment

A court may grant summary judgment when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Hersh v. Allen Prods. Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986); Lang v. New York Life Ins. Co., 721 F.2d 118, 119 (3d Cir. 1983). A dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable rule of law. Id. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment. Id.

In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the court must view the evidence in favor of the non-moving party by extending any reasonable favorable inference to that party. See Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental Corp., 85 F.3d 1074, 1080-81 (3d Cir. 1996); Kowalski v. L & F Prods. , 82 F.3d 1283, 1288 (3d Cir. 1996); Meyer v. Riegel Prods. Corp., 720 F.2d 303, 307 n.2 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. dismissed, 465 U.S. 1091 (1984). The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 250; Brewer v. Quaker State Oil Refining Corp., 72 F.3d 326, 329-330 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248) ("[T]he nonmoving party creates a genuine issue of material fact if it provides sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find for him at trial.").

The moving party always bears the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists, regardless of which party ultimately would have the burden of persuasion at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 706 (3d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1023 (1990). However,

the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be `no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-323.

In such situations, "the burden on the moving party may be discharged by `showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325; Brewer, 72 F.3d at 329-330 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23) ("When the nonmoving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, the moving party may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry its burden of persuasion at trial.").

The non-moving party, here the plaintiff, "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of" her pleading in order to show the existence of a genuine issue. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). They must do more than rely only "upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions." Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 341 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1010 (1985) (citation omitted); see Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324-25. Once the moving party has carried its burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Thus, if the non- movant's evidence is merely "colorable" or is "not significantly probative," the court may grant summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

B. Analysis

Plaintiff seeks to recover the following proceeds from two insurance policies that were offered to Mr. Brenner through his employment at Chase Manhattan: (1) $200,000 from a GUL insurance policy, and (2) $25,000 more from a Basic Life Insurance policy. Defendant claims that, based on the proof submitted, there is no dispute over the issues involved and summary judgment should be entered.

1. GUL Insurance

It is undisputed that Mr. Brenner did not have GUL insurance coverage at the time of his death because J&H/KVI, the plan administrator, had not received his completed application. (Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 10.) Plaintiff, however, has asserted three arguments as to why she should still be entitled to the benefits of a GUL insurance policy. First, plaintiff argues that J&H/KVI did not receive the form because Chase Manhattan failed to submit the appropriate paperwork to the insurance broker. (Brenner Cert., 6/1/99, ¶ 6.) Second, plaintiff argues that J&H/KVI did not receive the form because Chase Manhattan gave Mr. Brenner a benefit forms packet that did not include the GUL enrollment form. Finally, plaintiff argues that even though J&H/KVI did not receive Mr. Brenner's form, Chase Manhattan should provide her with the proceeds of the policy as if he had sent the form to J&H/KVI because Mr. Brenner was reasonably confused about the application process and thought that the paperwork he had filed was sufficient to acquire GUL insurance and had no reason to think that he had not obtained the GUL coverage. (Pl.'s Br. at 8-9.)

a. Plaintiff's Argument that Chase Manhattan Failed to Submit the Appropriate Paperwork

Plaintiff's claim that Chase Manhattan failed to submit the appropriate paperwork fails because the instructions in the Chase Choice booklet clearly state that the employee has the responsibility to submit the paperwork to the program administrator, Johnson & Higgins/Kirke Van- Orsdel, Inc (J&H/KVI).

In her deposition, plaintiff testified that her husband received a copy of the Chase Choice informational booklet and that she read the booklet and its information about life insurance. (Brenner Dep. at 16, Kleinfeldt Cert. Ex. B.)

Page six of the Chase Choice booklet reads, "[f]or Employee GUL, you must complete the GUL Special Annual Enrollment Form.... Your GUL Special Enrollment Form must be sent directly to the Plan administrator, J&H/KVI, in the enclosed envelope. (Threston Cert. Ex. F at 6 (emphasis added).) Page six of the booklet also directed the employee to "[m]ake sure you complete the forms as soon as possible or your coverage may be delayed." (Id. (emphasis added).)

The Chase Choice booklet instructions clearly state that if an employee wants to obtain the voluntary GUL coverage, he has the responsibility to complete and mail a GUL enrollment form directly to the plan administrator, J&H/KVI. Plaintiff has not submitted any proof which shows that Mr. Brenner's case was somehow extraordinary--that there was an agreement or a contract that placed upon Chase Manhattan the responsibility of submitting the paperwork on behalf of Mr. Brenner. There is no evidence from which one could conclude that Chase Manhattan should have expected to receive a completed GUL form from Mr. Brenner, when the instructions were to the contrary and there was no pattern or practice of Chase Manhattan actually serving as a conduit between its employee-applicant and J&H/KVI. There is likewise no evidence that Mr. Brenner submitted a completed GUL special enrollment form to defendant. As a result, plaintiff has failed to create a genuine issue as to whether defendant breached a duty to submit relevant paperwork to the plan administrator.

b. Plaintiff's claim that Chase Manhattan gave Mr. Brenner a forms packet that did not include a GUL insurance form

Next, plaintiff claims that Mr. Brenner did not file his application for GUL insurance because Chase Manhattan gave Mr. Brenner an incomplete benefit forms packet. The Court finds that plaintiff has created a genuine dispute of material fact whether defendant provided Mr. Brenner with a benefits packet that included the GUL Special Enrollment Form and its vital instructions for compelling and mailing the form.

On the one hand, there is evidence that Nancy Sayan was the Chase Manhattan employee who distributed the employee benefit materials to Mr. Brenner in December 1996. (Sayan Dep. at 5-6.) Sayan, the operations supervisor for the Mid-Atlantic region of Chase Manhattan testified that she distributed a standard package of benefits materials to new hires. (Id. at 6-8.) She also testified that the standard package included the GUL Special Enrollment Form. (Id. at 8-9.) In fact, Sayan testified that she photocopied the standard package and mailed it "each time every time" she needed to process a new hire. (Id. at 9.) At trial, this evidence would be admissible under Rule 406, F. R. Ev. as evidence of defendant's routine practice of including GUL forms in mailings to new hires.

Plaintiff has presented evidence from which a reasonable inference can be drawn which contradicts Sayan's testimony that it was defendant's standard practice to mail a benefits package which included a GUL Special Benefits Form. In support of her claim, plaintiff has presented the testimony of Mr. Brenner's co-worker, Ken Hantman who said that neither he nor another co-worker named Diane Bunn received the GUL insurance form in their benefits package. (Hantman Dep. at 22-24, Threston Cert. Ex. B.) Mr. Hantman's testimony supports plaintiff's claim that the defendant occasionally failed to provide the correct GUL form to employees, as demonstrated by the incomplete benefits packets of Hantman and Bunn. Hantman's testimony on this point may be less than compelling, since it is based on his inference that he must not have received the form since he thinks that he filled out every form in his benefits package, but did not receive GUL insurance (id.), and because he received his benefits package at a different time from Helen, the office manager at the Mount Laurel Chase Manhattan Branch. (Hantman Dep. at 39, Kleinfeldt Cert. Ex. 2.) Mr. Brenner, on the other hand, received his package from Nancy Sayan, the operations supervisor for the Mid-Atlantic region of Chase Manhattan. (Sayan Dep. at 5-6.) Whether the packages distributed for defendant by Nancy Sayan and by Helen shared the similar deficiency is likewise an issue for the finder of fact.

It follows that if plaintiff is able to establish that her decedent did not receive the GUL Special Enrollment Form and its specialized instructions, then the jury could reasonably find that he had manifested his intent *fn2 to enroll in the GUL program by completing and returning the "Chase Choice Enrollment Form" indicating that he applied for $160,000 in GUL coverage, which someone changed to $200,000. There is also evidence from which an available inference suggests that Mr. Brenner's payroll information was incorrectly handled by defendant at that time. *fn3

c. Material Facts in Dispute Regarding GUL Insurance

In summary, the Court finds that there is a genuine dispute of material facts regarding defendant's liability for GUL insurance coverage, including (a) whether defendant provided Mr. Brenner with the necessary GUL Special Enrollment Form, including that form's vital information about the application and mailing process, and (b) whether Mr. Brenner's belief that he had properly enrolled in the GUL Insurance Plan by completing the "Chase Choice" form and furnishing it to his payroll office was reasonable in light of the complexities of the application process in the absence of a GUL Special Enrollment Form. The Court is not called upon to weigh the strengths of plaintiff's evidence in a summary judgment motion, and it may be difficult for the plaintiff to prevail at trial in light of all the evidence favorable to defendant. Nonetheless, the existence of material factual disputes precludes entry of summary judgment in defendant's favor on plaintiff's claim of GUL benefits, and this aspect of defendant's summary judgment motion will be denied.

2. Basic Life Insurance

After Mr. Brenner's death, Chase Manhattan provided plaintiff with Basic Life Insurance proceeds in the amount of $70,000. Plaintiff claims that Chase Manhattan underpaid on the Basic Life policy and must pay her the $25,000.00 difference between the $95,000.00 that she deserves and the $70,000.00 that she received. (Pl.'s Br. at 12.) Chase Manhattan provided their employees Basic Life Insurance in an amount equal to the employee's Benefits Eligible Compensation ("BEC") rounded to the next highest thousand dollars. (Sayan Cert. Ex. A at 2.) The BEC for someone who was hired, like Mr. Brenner, after January 1, 1996 was equal to "the greater of [his] base salary (including shift differential), draw, commissions, and production overrides during 1996 or $50,000 (excluding overtime and performance-related bonuses)." (Sayan Cert. Ex. B.) A Chase Manhattan standardized information sheet indicated that:

your actual earnings between August 1, 1995 and July 31, 1996 will be used to determine your individual benefit maximums for 1997. If you have less than 12 months of service, the greater of your earnings through July 31, 1996 or a fixed amount of benefits Eligible Compensation will be used to determine your 1997 enrollment. (Id.)

Mr. Brenner was hired by Chase Manhattan on December 23, 1996. (Threston Cert. Ex. H.) Mr. Brenner died on December 5, 1997. (Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 2; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 2.) Therefore, Mr. Brenner had no actual earnings between August 1, 1995 and July 31, 1996 to use to determine his 1997 BEC. Instead, with less than 12 months of service, the Chase Manhattan information sheet indicated that the greater of his earnings through July 31, 1996 or a fixed amount BEC would be used to determine his 1997 enrollment. (Threston Cert. Ex. I.) Mr. Brenner died in 1997; his 1997 BEC was the $50,000 fixed amount because he had not worked for Chase Manhattan during the August 1, 1995 to July 31, 1996 period. (Threston Cert. Ex. E.)

Plaintiff, however, was paid Basic Life Insurance proceeds in the $70,000 amount that Chase Manhattan calculated for his 1998 BEC rounded to the next highest thousand dollars. His actual 1998 BEC equaled $69,736.82. (Kleinfeldt Cert. Ex. H.)

Plaintiff claims that Chase Manhattan's 1998 BEC figure was too low. Chase Manhattan's standardized informational form defines an employee's 1998 BEC as the greater of his base salary, draw, commissions, and production overrides from August 1, 1996 through July 31, 1997 or $50,000. (Sayan Cert. Ex. B.) Chase Manhattan calculated Mr. Brenner's 1998 BEC as follows:

Base Salary 40,000.00

Draw 20,400.00

Commissions 0.00

Production Overrides ____9,336.82

1998 BEC $69,736.82 (Threston Cert. Ex. E.)

Chase Manhattan also submitted the computerized grid which details the calculation of the above numbers. (Kleinfeldt Cert. Ex. G.) Their data is as follows:

Base Salary 40,000.00

Draw 1/21/97 0.00

2/4/97 1,700.00

2/18/97 1,700.00

3/4/97 1,700.00

3/18/97 1,700.00

4/1/97 1,700.00

4/15/97 1,700.00

4/29/97 0.00

5/13/97 1,700.00

5/27/97 1,700.00

6/10/97 1,700.00

6/24/97 1,700.00

7/8/97 1,700.00

Final July award 1,700.00

20,400.00 20,400.00

Overrides/ Commissions

1/21/97 363.48

2/18/97 1,268.39

3/18/97 1,540.22

4/29/97 1,724.29

5/27/97 1,506.82

6/24/97 1,373.76

Final July award 1,559.86

9,336.82 9,336.82

Total 1998 BEC $69,736.82 (Id.)

Plaintiff was paid Basic Life Insurance proceeds in the amount of $70,000, which is $69,736.82 rounded to the next highest thousand dollars. (Stolfi Cert. Ex. B.) This was done in accordance with the Chase Manhattan information sheet. Mr. Brenner was informed about this $69,736.82 BEC amount before his death in a letter dated October 6, 1997. (Kleinfeldt Cert. Ex. H.) There is no evidence that he ever questioned the calculation.

Plaintiff claims that the above-detailed calculation is incorrect and that she should receive $25,000 plus interest from Chase Manhattan. (Pl.'s Br. at 12-13.) Her claim is based on guarantees given to Mr. Brenner in his offer of employment. (Id. at 11.) For the 1997 year, Mr. Brenner was promised a base salary in the amount of $40,000.00 ($3,333.33 monthly), an auto allowance in the amount of $4,800.00 ($400.00 monthly), and a guaranteed minimum override in the amount of $40,800.00 ($3,400.00 monthly). (Threston Cert. Ex. H.) Therefore, plaintiff claims that she should receive all of this guaranteed income in life insurance. (Pl.'s Br. at 11-12.) She completes her calculation as follows:

Base salary 40,000.00

Guaranteed Minimum 40,800.00

Auto Allowance 4,800.00

Overrides/Commissions 9,336.82

BEC requested $94,936.82 (Pl.'s Br. at 12.)

Plaintiff rounds this amount to the next highest thousand dollars and asserts that she should have received $95,000 in Basic Life Insurance proceeds, and that because she was only paid $70,000, Chase Manhattan should pay her $25,000 more. (Id. at 12-13.)

Plaintiff's argument is unavailing for the reason that Chase Manhattan's BEC calculation never includes an employee's auto allowance (Threston Cert. Ex. I), nor monthly guarantees (Stolfi Cert. Ex. B). In addition, even if Mr. Brenner's monthly guarantees for the seven applicable months were added to his base salary, and even if his auto allowance was included, the calculation would be as follows:

Base Salary 40,000.00

Auto Allowance ($400. x 7 months) 2,800.00

Guaranteed Minimum ($3,400. x 7 months) 23,800.00

$66,600.00

This amount is less than the $69,736.82 calculated for Mr. Brenner's 1998 BEC. Plaintiff separated out commissions and overrides (but not draw) from the guaranteed minimum in her calculation, but she has not explained why she did so, or why Chase Manhattan was wrong in not so doing. As a result, plaintiff has failed to prove that she received less than the guaranteed monthly minimum due Mr. Brenner in life insurance.

Plaintiff does present a copy of an unsigned and unsent letter in support of her underpayment argument. (Threston Cert. Ex. D.) This unsigned letter draft recalculated Mr. Brenner's 1998 BEC and determined that $4,200.00 more was due his estate. (Id.) It is undisputed, however, that this draft was never signed and was never sent out. Plaintiff has not presented any explanation concerning why the letter was never signed, why the letter was never sent, how plaintiff retrieved the letter, why Chase Manhattan decided not to sign the letter, or how the Court can be sure that it reflects a final decision made by Chase Manhattan. Instead, plaintiff simply submits the letter and asserts that it is evidence that Chase Manhattan admitted that plaintiff was underpaid. (Pl.'s Br. at 11.) Moreover, the very fact that the draft letter was not signed and was not sent actually militates against an increased award. Logically, the fact that the letter was not sent indicates that Chase Manhattan rethought the calculation, and decided that the proposed award increase was incorrect and should not be communicated to the plaintiff. As a result, one unsigned draft letter does not call into doubt the standard BEC calculation procedure used and documented by Chase Manhattan. Accordingly, this Court is unable to offer plaintiff relief on her Basic Life Insurance claim.

The Court finds that there is no material factual dispute regarding the factors used by defendant to calculate the BEC, nor is there an ambiguity of the description of the appropriate insurance benefit, and that defendant's calculation is correct. Defendant is entitled to summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's Basis Life Insurance claim, since plaintiff has been paid in full.

CONCLUSION

The Court concludes that plaintiff has created a triable issue with respect to whether defendant is liable for her late husband's optional GUL insurance, upon which issue defendant's summary judgment motion will be denied. Regarding plaintiff's claim for an additional payment of $25,000 upon her husband's Basic Life Insurance, however, no material fact is in dispute and defendant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law dismissing the claim for Basic Life benefits. The accompanying Order is entered.

JEROME B. SIMANDLE United States District Judge

ORDER

THIS MATTER having come before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); and the Court having considered the submissions of the parties; and for the reasons stated in the Opinion of today's date;

IT IS this 29th day of September, 2000, hereby

ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment be, and hereby is, DENIED with respect to plaintiff's claim regarding Group Universal life Insurance, which claim shall proceed to trial; and

Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED with respect to plaintiff's claim for additional Basic Life Insurance benefits, which claim is DISMISSED.


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