United States District Court, District of New Jersey, D
February 26, 2002
WILLIE J. MCCOY, PLAINTIFF,
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL NO. 222 PENSION PLAN; LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL NO. 222 PENSION PLAN; LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL NO. 222; EDWARD HARRIS; OLIVER G. GLASS; NEW JERSEY BUILDING LABORERS STATEWIDE PENSION FUND; X, Y, Z CORPORATIONS (1-10); A, B, C PLAN SPONSORS OR ADMINISTRATORS (1-10), DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen M. Orlofsky, United States District Judge
A good actor, it is often said, must have good timing. If this case is
any indication, the Defendants, a Pension Benefit Plan and its Trustees,
are bad actors. By raising the Plaintiff's alleged failure to exhaust
his administrative remedies under the Plan for the first time in their
Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, the Defendants force me to determine
whether or not exhaustion is a non-waivable jurisdictional requirement
under ERISA. Since I find that it is not, I am also obliged to consider
under what circumstances a Plaintiff may be prejudiced by a Plan's undue
delay in raising an exhaustion defense.
Nor is that the only timing issue in this case. Invoking a provision
that had been superseded eleven months before the Plaintiff filed his
claim for benefits, the Trustees denied the Plaintiff benefits to which
he believed he was due under the Plan. Although this Court is bound to
respect the judgments of such trustees, who after all are presumptively
expert within their field, that deference has its limits. In this case,
the Trustees inexplicably disregarded a text that was clear both
semantically and in a larger policy context. Thus, I will order the
Defendants to make good the obligations they owe to the Plaintiff under
their Plan. Finally, finding that the Trustees appear to have simply
lost track of the time in which they must revise certain Plan materials,
I shall also compel the Defendants to discharge their statutory
obligation to provide full disclosure to all of their beneficiaries.
Therefore, for the reasons set forth in more detail below, I will grant
in part and deny in part the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. I
will also grant in part and deny in part the Defendants' Cross-Motion for
Summary Judgment, principally because the Plaintiff's claims for breach
of fiduciary duty are largely already encompassed or effectively mooted
by the other relief I grant him.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The Defendants, Laborers' International Union, Local No. 222 Pension
Plan ("the Local Plan" or "the Plan"), and New Jersey Building Laborers
Statewide Pension Fund ("the State Plan") are employee benefit plans
organized under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act,
29 U.S.C. § 1001-1461 (2000) ("ERISA"). Until its merger into the
State Plan in 2001, the Local Plan was administered by the Defendant,
Board of Trustees of the Laborers' International Union, Local No. 222
Pension Plan ("the Trustees"). Defendants Edward Harris and Oliver G.
Glass were individual members of the Board of Trustees. Obviously, most
participants in the Local Plan were members of the Defendant Union, the
Laborers' International Union, Local No. 222 ("the Union").
Willie McCoy ("McCoy") has been a member of the Union and a participant
in the various Plans since 1981. McCoy's principal work during this time
has been as a laborer in the construction trade. In January of 1995,
McCoy suffered a back injury that, he claims, left him unable to perform
his duties as a laborer. McCoy continued to attempt to work periodically
over the next three years, although he never worked more than 100 hours
in any given year.
At some time after suffering his injury, McCoy applied for Social
Security Disability Benefits. On November 27, 1998, the Office of
Hearings and Appeals of the Social Security Administration approved
McCoy's application, see Hildebrand Decl. Exh. M, and on December 28,
Social Security Administration determined that McCoy was entitled to
disability benefits retroactive to July, 1995. Id. Exh. N.
McCoy filed an application for disability retirement benefits under the
Local Plan on December 18, 1998. Id. Exh. O. Under a provision of the
Plan then in effect, applicants could demonstrate disability by proof
that they had been awarded a disability benefit by the Social Security
Administration. Id. Exh. G § 4.3(a)(3). If the applicant was
otherwise qualified, his Disability Retirement Benefit would "begin as of
the first day that he is eligible to receive a disability benefit under
the Social Security Act." Id. § 4.3(a). In McCoy's case that date
would have been July of 1995, as determined by the Social Security
Administration. Id. Exh. N.
Although McCoy's application for Disability Retirement Benefits was
approved, the Plan determined that he would receive benefits beginning
January 1, 1999, rather than retroactive to July, 1995. Id. Exh. O.
McCoy's benefits were set at $1,093.36 per month. Id.
Benefits under the plan are largely dependent on the amount of "Credit
Years" an employee has accumulated. Employees get credit for a full year
of service for any calendar year in which they work 1,000 or more hours.
Employees who work a smaller amount of hours receive proportionately less
credit, although below a certain threshold no credit at all is given.
McCoy had a total of 13 years and eight months of "Credit Years" at the
time of his disability. Id. The year in which credit was accumulated is
relevant under the plan for participants who became "eligible" for
benefits prior to 1997. For example, beneficiaries who became eligible
during 1995 receive each month a total benefit of $60 times the number of
pre-1986 credit years, plus $75 times the number of post-1986 credit
years. The Plan calculated McCoy's benefit as if he became eligible in
1997, and accordingly awarded him a flat $80 times his total credit
years. Id. The Plan notified McCoy of its determinations by letter
dated March 4, 1998. Defs.' Br. Exh. D.
In March of 1998, McCoy wrote to the Plan Administrator seeking
additional information on how his benefits were calculated, as well as a
variety of general information about the Plan, such as the identity of
its Trustees and its procedures for receiving legal process. Hildebrand
Decl. Exh. Q. McCoy also spoke in person with the Plan Administrator,
telling her that he was dissatisfied with the Plan's determination. Id.
Exh. Y at 73. On April 13, 1998, the Plan Administrator wrote to McCoy to
inform him that the Plan would treat his letter as a request to appeal
its decision. Id. Exh. R. McCoy responded in writing two days later by
asking that the Plan provide an explanation for why it had denied him the
benefits he had requested. Id. Exh. S. There is no evidence in the
summary judgment record that he received any explanation prior to April
At a May 12, 1999 meeting, the Trustees voted unanimously to deny
McCoy's appeal. Defs.' Br. Exh. H. The summary judgment record does not
indicate whether or not McCoy was advised of this decision. McCoy,
however, was invited to attend a subsequent meeting of the Trustees on
November 18, 1999, where he was permitted to present his case. Id. Exh.
I. The Trustees referred McCoy's claim to their counsel for a
At some point between January and April of 2000, McCoy learned that his
appeal had been denied. See id. Exh. M. On or about April 17, 2000,
counsel for the Plan sent a letter to McCoy confirming in writing that
McCoy's appeal had been denied. Id. The denial letter explained:
The basis for the denial was that the plan of benefits
provides for the payment of a disability pension the
month following the date the application is completed
and filed if that is later than six months following
the date of disability. Your application for
disability pension benefits was filed with the Pension
Fund in December of 1998. You were found disabled by
the Social Security Administration as of 1995. As a
result, you were placed in payment status the month
following the date of your application, which was
January of 1999. Accordingly, since your application
was processed in accordance with the plan of
benefits, your claim appeal has been denied by the
Id. The denial letter did not refer to the amended language of the Plan
§ 4.3(a). The letter also made no mention of McCoy's options should
he wish to appeal further.
On March 29, 2000, McCoy, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint in this
Court alleging that the Plan had breached its contract to provide him
with benefits. McCoy then obtained counsel and, on August 4, 2000, filed
an Amended Complaint, adding claims under ERISA § 502(a),
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) (2000). In the Amended Complaint, McCoy sought
payment of the unpaid benefits allegedly due him under the Plan, as well
as declaratory and injunctive relief clarifying his right to future
benefits under the Plan. On June 21, 2001, McCoy filed, with the
permission of the Court, a Second Amended Complaint, adding certain
factual allegations, and seeking an injunction ordering the Plan to
prepare and circulate an updated Summary Plan Description, as allegedly
required under ERISA. McCoy, again with the permission of the Court,
filed a Third Amended Complain on November 29, 2001, seeking increased
future benefits under an amendment to the Plan McCoy alleged had
erroneously not been applied to him.
The parties filed these cross-motions for summary judgment on December
14, 2001. On February 6, 2002, McCoy filed yet another Amended
Complaint, adding as a Defendant the newly incorporated State Plan. At
my request, the parties submitted letter briefs addressing what effect,
if any, the Fourth Amended Complaint has upon the pending motions.*fn1
I have jurisdiction over McCoy's claims pursuant to
29 U.S.C. § 1132(e) and (f), and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
A party seeking summary judgment must "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 also Nebraska v.
Wyoming, 507 U.S. 584, 590 (1993); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322 (1986); Abramson v. William Paterson Coll. of N.J., 260 F.3d 265, 276
(3d Cir. 2001); Doe v. County of Centre, 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir.
2001). In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact,
the Court must view the underlying facts and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See, e.g., Abramson, 260
F.3d at 276 (citing Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278
(3d Cir. 2000)); Shields v. Zuccarini, 254 F.3d 476, 481 (3d Cir. 2001)
(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).
Under the rule, a movant must be awarded summary judgment on all
properly supported issues identified in its motion, except those for which
the non-moving party has provided admissible evidence or affidavits to
show that a question of material fact remains. See, e.g., Gleason v.
Norwest Mortgage, Inc., 242 F.3d 130, 138 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Becton
Dickinson & Co. v. Wolckenhauer, 215 F.3d 340, 343 (3d Cir. 2000)). The
non-moving party must provide "sufficient evidence to allow a fact-finder
to find in its favor at trial." Id. at 138.
Claims for Benefits
McCoy alleges both that the Plan improperly calculated his benefits and
that individual Trustees of the Plan breached their fiduciary duty to
him. I shall first consider his benefits claims.
A federal court will not consider a claim for benefits due under ERISA
unless the plaintiff has first exhausted the remedies available under the
plan. See Harrow v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., ___ F.3d ___, No.
00-5049, 2002 WL 121622, at *3 (3d Cir. Jan. 30, 2002) (citing Weldon v.
Kraft, Inc., 896 F.2d 793, 800 (3d Cir. 1990); Zipf v. Am. Tel. & Tel.
Co., 799 F.2d 889, 892 (3d Cir. 1986)). ERISA "requires only claim
exhaustion." Wolf v. Nat'l Shopmen Pension Fund, 728 F.2d 182, 186 (3d
Cir. 1984). Thus, a plaintiff is not barred from presenting a new theory
of relief to the court that was not presented to the trustees of the
plan, so long as the trustees received an opportunity to resolve the
dispute before suit. Id.
The Defendants argue that McCoy has failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies under the Plan because he never submitted his
claims for outside arbitration, as required by the Plan.*fn2
Br. at 11-13; Hildebrand Cert. Exh. C at 26. The Defendants, however,
have waived their right to contest McCoy's failure to exhaust.*fn3
Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is generally an affirmative
defense subject to waiver. See 5 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice & Procedure: Civil 2d § 1278 (citing Massey v.
Helman, 196 F.3d 727 (7th Cir. 1999)); Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 69
n. 4 (3d Cir. 2000) (holding that prisoner's failure to exhaust prison
administrative remedies is not jurisdictional)); see also Charpentier v.
Godsil, 937 F.2d 859, 863 (3d Cir. 1991) (noting that failure to raise an
affirmative defense in pleading or Rule 12 motion results in waiver).
Although the Third Circuit has in the past referred offhandedly, in
dicta, to the ERISA exhaustion requirement as jurisdictional, see Wolf,
728 F.2d at 186, a brief consideration demonstrates that it is not.
Jurisdictional provisions are not subject to waiver or equitable
tolling. See Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982).
That, of course, is because federal courts may not expand their
jurisdiction beyond what has been granted to them by Congress. See
Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 404 (1821); ErieNet, Inc. v.
Velocity Net, Inc., 156 F.3d 513, 515 (3d Cir. 1998). Yet federal courts
a number of equitable exceptions to the ERISA exhaustion requirement.
See, e.g., Harrow, 2002 WL 121622, at *4 (discussing
futility exception); Tomczyscyn v. Teamsters, Local 115 Health & Welfare
Fund, 590 F. Supp. 211, 213 (E.D.Pa. 1984) (identifying three distinct
exceptions, and collecting cases). The most plausible explanation for
this apparent inconsistency is that exhaustion is an aspect of the
essentially contractual nature of an ERISA benefits remedy, as has been
suggested strongly by several Third Circuit opinions. See Seborowksi v.
Pittsburgh Press Co., 188 F.3d 163, 167-68 (3d Cir. 1999); Barrowclough
v. Kidder, Peabody & Co., 752 F.2d 923, 939 n. 15 (3d Cir. 1985),
overruled on other grounds by Pritzker v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner &
Smith, Inc., 7 F.3d 1110 (3d Cir. 1993). Thus, failure to comply with the
contractual terms for dispute resolution is an affirmative defense, much
like any other defense arising from the terms of a contract. Cf. Amato
v. Bernard, 618 F.2d 559, 566 (9th Cir. 1980) (describing exhaustion
requirement as based on "sound policy," rather than jurisdictional bar).
A party who fails to raise an affirmative defense in a timely fashion
is deemed to have waived the defense. See Trio Process Corp. v. L.
Goldstein's Sons, Inc., 461 F.2d 66, 74 (3d Cir.), cert. denied,
409 U.S. 997 (1972). However, a court may in its discretion consider an
untimely assertion of an affirmative defense where delay appears not to
have been for tactical or other improper reasons, or "most important,"
where delay prejudiced the plaintiff's case. Eddy v. V.I. Water & Power
Auth., 256 F.3d 204, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2001).*fn4
The Defendants here have never alleged that McCoy failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies in any pleading. Indeed, McCoy has himself
pleaded exhaustion, and the Defendants have never denied that allegation.
See 1st Am. Compl. ¶ 4; Defs.' Ans. To 1st Am. Compl. ¶ 4; 2d
Am. Compl. ¶ 4; Defs.' Ans. To 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 4; 3d Am.
Compl. ¶ 4; Defs.' Ans. To 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 4; 4th Am. Compl.
¶ 4; Defs.' Ans. To 4th Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-8. Nor was McCoy ever
given any indication that he had failed to exhaust all available
administrative remedies at the Plan level. Neither the Summary Plan
Description, nor the Defendants' denial letter, made any mention of
review by an arbitrator. See McCoy Aff. ¶ 3; Hildebrand Cert. Exh.
K at 17; Defs.' Br. Exh. M.
Under these circumstances, McCoy clearly has been prejudiced by the
Defendants' delay. Had he been made aware of any defect in his
exhaustion of the Plan remedies, whether through pleadings or otherwise,
McCoy could have himself sought a stay and remand. If that had been done
when the First Amended Complaint was filed, he might already be back in
federal court, or already have been fully satisfied by the arbitrator.
McCoy's claim of prejudice is especially strong in light of the fact that
one of the purposes of exhaustion is precisely to save parties and courts
from wasting time and money on unnecessary litigation. See Harrow, 2002
WL 121622, at *4; cf. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 113 (2000) (O'Connor,
J., concurring) ("[T]he agency's failure to notify claimants
of an issue exhaustion requirement in this context is a sufficient basis
for our decision.") In addition, while there is no evidence of deliberate
delay by the Defendants as such, the conspicuous absence of any information
about arbitration, despite all of their extensive correspondence with
McCoy, could certainly support an inference of intentional obfuscation.
The same might be said of the extraordinary fact that the Summary Plan
Description, under a heading marked "Right to Appeal," describes in some
detail all of the required appeal provisions except arbitration, about
which it makes no mention. Hildebrand Decl. Exh. K at 17.
Accordingly, I conclude that the Defendants have waived their failure
to exhaust defense.
2. The Retroactive Benefits
McCoy claims that, under the terms of the Plan in effect at the time of
his application, he is entitled to benefits retroactive to the date of
his eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. See Pl.'s Br.
at 9. The Trustees maintain, consistent with their initial
determination, that McCoy is entitled to benefits beginning the month
after his application, or January, 1999. I must defer to a Plan
Administrator's interpretation of the Plan unless it is "arbitrary and
capricious." Skretvedt v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 268 F.3d 167,
173 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch,
489 U.S. 101, 111 (1989)). Interpretations, however, that contravene the
plain language of the Plan are arbitrary and capricious, and can command
no deference. Epright v. Entl. Res. Mgmt., Inc. Health and Welfare
Plan, 81 F.3d 335, 342 (3d Cir. 1996).*fn5
The core of the dispute between McCoy and the Defendants is the
applicability of an amendment to the Plan, which went into effect January
1, 1998, about eleven months before McCoy filed his application. See
Hildebrand Decl. Exh. G. Prior to the amendment, participants who wished
to claim a "Disability Retirement Benefit" were required to submit to the
Trustees evidence demonstrating their disability. Applicants whom the
Trustees found to be disabled became "eligible to receive a Disability
Retirement Benefit" on the first day of the seventh month following the
onset of their disability, or the first day of the month following the
Trustees' receipt of the application, whichever was later. See id. Exh.
C at 10. The 1998 amendment revamped that scheme, so that rather than
offering proof of disability to the Trustees in the first instance, an
applicant instead need only show that he had been awarded a disability
benefit under the Social Security Act. See id. Exh. G. Only if the
Social Security Administration denied benefits would the Trustees
consider any evidence. Id. As the amendment's drafters plainly
realized, applications for Social Security benefits can take a long time
before final resolution. Thus, the amendment provided that successful
applicants "shall be eligible to receive a Disability Retirement Benefit"
retroactive to the first date of eligibility under the Social Security
As the Defendants appear to concede, the plain language of the
amendment governs applications for Disability Benefits received after its
effective date, January 1, 1998. Indeed, it is unclear what else
"Effective January 1, 1998" could mean.*fn6 The Defendants respond,
however, by offering two mutually inconsistent explanations for their
First, the Defendants argue that in order to be "consistent" and
"fair," they were obliged to treat McCoy's application as though the 1995
version of the Plan were still in effect. Defs.' Br. at 18-19. Or, put
another way, in order to be consistent, they had to treat McCoy
differently from everyone else who applied after January 1, 1998. In
support of this rather unbelievable leap of logic, the Defendants claim
that to do otherwise would undermine the actuarial integrity of the
Plan. Since McCoy was not working during the period between the date of
his disability and the date of his application, he (or his employer) was
not making any contributions to the Plan. Thus, the Defendants say, if
the Plan pays McCoy retroactively, it will be making benefits payments
without offsetting contributions. Yet that is the precise situation for
every applicant for Disability Retirement Benefits under the revised
§ 4.3(a). By its terms, the revised § 4.3(a) expressly provides
for retroactive payments to participants who have been disabled, and
therefore are out of work.
Alternatively, the Defendants claim that § 4.3, in either of its
versions, is completely inapplicable to McCoy because his application
was, in fact, more properly considered as one under § 4.4, "Deferred
Vested Retirement Benefit." Section 4.4, however, applies only to "A
Participant who is not otherwise entitled to receive a Retirement Benefit
hereunder . . . ." Hildebrand Decl. Exh. C at 11. Therefore, before even
considering § 4.4, the Administrator should first have determined
whether McCoy was entitled to benefits under § 4.3.
In sum, I conclude that the plain language of the amended §
4.3(a), whether read alone or in context, requires that McCoy be found
"eligible to receive a Disability Retirement Benefit which shall begin as
of the first day that he is eligible to receive a disability benefit
under the Social Security Act." Id. Exh. G. Therefore, he is entitled to
benefits retroactive to July, 1995. See id. Exh. N at 5. The Defendants'
determination to the contrary, inasmuch as it is inconsistent with the
plain language of the Plan, is arbitrary and capricious and must be set
aside. Therefore, I will grant the Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment on this issue.
3. The Amount of Retroactive Benefits
My decision that McCoy is entitled to receive benefits retroactive to
July of 1995 necessarily requires me to determine the dollar value of
those benefits. McCoy argues that, inasmuch as the Defendants began his
payments in 1999, the amount of his benefits should be computed as though
he became "eligible" at that time, which would entitle him to a payment
of $120 per month per Year of Credit. See id. Exh. J. The Defendants
determined that McCoy's pension would be calculated as if he were
"eligible" in 1997. See Defs.' Br. Exh. N at 1. Therefore, they awarded
him a monthly total of $80.00 times his Years of Credit. Hildebrand
Decl. Exh. H.
Although "eligible" is not defined straightforwardly at all points of
Plan, it is clearly defined for recipients of Disability Retirement
Benefits. According to the revised § 4.3, which I have determined is
the provision controlling McCoy's application, a Participant becomes
"eligible" on "the first day that he is eligible to receive a disability
benefit under the Social Security Act." Id. Exh. G. For McCoy, that
date is 1995. Therefore, his retroactive benefits should be calculated
according to the terms of the Plan applicable to Participants who became
"eligible on or after January 1, 1994 through December 31, 1995." Id.
Exh. F. That figure is $60 per Year of Credit earned prior to January
1, 1986, and $75 per Year of Credit earned on or after January 1, 1986.
Id. Additionally, McCoy's pension would have been subject to periodic
increases. See id. Exhs. H, J. McCoy is also entitled to receive
pre-judgment interest on the unpaid benefits. See Fotta v. Trustees of
United Mine Workers of Am., Health & Ret. Fund of 1974, 165 F.3d 209
(3d Cir. 1998) (citing Anthuis v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp.,
971 F.2d 999
, 1010 (3d Cir. 1992); Schake v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp.
Severance Plan for Salaried Employees, 960 F.2d 1187
, 1192 n. 4 (3d Cir.
Obviously, this figure is lower than the number sought by either McCoy
or the Plan. I am, however, bound by the terms of the Plan. I cannot
make McCoy whole for benefits to which he was not entitled.
Accordingly, I must deny McCoy's Motion for Summary Judgment insofar as
he seeks a retroactive award of benefits at $120 per month per Credit
Year. I also must grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment to
the extent that it seeks to terminate McCoy's claim to retroactive
benefits at the $120 level. I shall order the Plan to reimburse McCoy
for retroactive benefits from July of 1995 to January of 1999 according
to the computation I have just set out, plus pre-judgment interest at the
judgment rate as of January 1, 1999.*fn7 I leave the exact calculation
of the proper amount of McCoy's retroactive benefits to the Plan
Administrator in the first instance.
4. The Future Benefits
Again citing the Defendants' determination that he was entitled to
receive payments as of January 1, 1999, McCoy claims that the amount of
his benefits from that date going forward should have been set at $120
per month per Credit Year. And, again, my determination that McCoy was
"eligible" as of January, 1995, necessarily forecloses that argument.
See III.B.4., supra. Therefore, I will deny McCoy's Motion for Summary
Judgment, and grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, on this
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment seeks to dismiss
various allegations that the individual Trustees, Glass and Harris,
breached their fiduciary duty to McCoy. More particularly, McCoy
alleges the individual Trustees instructed him to wait until he had been
found disabled before applying for Disability Retirement Benefits, and
that the individual Trustees never told him that by waiting to file an
application, McCoy would be forfeiting benefits for the period he
In order to establish a claim that an ERISA fiduciary has, through
misrepresenation, breached its duty, a plaintiff must show: "(1) the
defendant's status as an ERISA fiduciary acting as a fiduciary; (2) a
misrepresentation on the part of the defendant; (3) the materiality of
that misrepresentation; and (4) detrimental reliance by the plaintiff on
the misrepresentation." Daniels v. Thomas & Betts Corp., 263 F.3d 66, 73
(3d Cir. 2001) (citing In re Unisys Corp. Retiree Med. Benefit "ERISA"
Litig., 242 F.3d 497, 505 (3d Cir. 2001); Adams v. Freedom Forge Corp.,
204 F.3d 475, 492 (3d Cir. 2000)).
In light of my resolution of McCoy's claims for benefits, see III.B.,
supra, I conclude that McCoy has not suffered any detriment as a result
of any possible misrepresentations or omissions by the individual
Trustees.*fn10 Accordingly, I will grant the Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment on the breach of fiduciary duty claims.
D. The Summary Plan Description
Finally, McCoy seeks an injunction ordering the Defendants to make
available an updated copy of the Summary Plan Description, as required by
ERISA. See 29 U.S.C. § 1021(a)(1). The only Summary Plan Description
presently available to participants in the Plan was written in 1993. See
Hildebrand Decl. Exh. K at page i. ERISA requires the administrator of a
plan to "furnish to each participant, and each beneficiary receiving
benefits under the plan, every fifth year . . . [a Summary Plan
Description] which integrates all plan amendments made within such
five-year period." 29 U.S.C. § 1024(b)(1).
The Defendants do not dispute that there have been amendments to the
Plan since 1993, and that they have never prepared an updated Summary
Plan Description. See Defs.' Br. at 37; Hildebrand Decl. Exh. AA at 12;
id. Exh. BB at 18-19. Instead, the Defendants claim that the Local Plan's
merger into the State Plan makes McCoy's request moot. Defs.' Br. at
37. Even accepting Defendants'
unstated premise that the State Plan is a legally distinct entity under
ERISA, Defendants are still obligated to provide a Summary Plan
Description under §§ 1021 and 1024. If, as they imply, all
participants in the Local Plan exited the Local Plan and became
participants in the State Plan, the Defendants were required to
furnish a Summary Plan Description to each participant "within 90 days
after he bec[ame] a participant" in the State Plan. 29 U.S.C. § 1024
(1)(A). It has been more than ninety days since the merger. See Zinni
Aff. ¶ 4.
Thus, I must grant McCoy's Motion for Summary Judgment on this claim.
The Defendants shall furnish McCoy with a copy of an official Summary
Plan Description, describing the pertinent features of the State Plan,
within ten days of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Trustees
of the State Plan.
For the reasons set forth above, I shall grant McCoy's Motion for
Summary Judgment on his claim for retroactive benefits for the period
from July, 1995 through January, 1999. The Defendants are ordered to
compute the appropriate amount of benefits under the Plan as if McCoy had
become "eligible" in July of 1995, and pay such benefits to him as soon
as is practicable. I shall also grant McCoy's Motion for Summary Judgment
insofar as it requests that the Defendants provide McCoy with a Summary
Plan Description of the Plan in which he is now a participant, the State
Plan. The Defendants will make the Summary Plan Description available to
McCoy within ten days of the next regularly scheduled meeting of their
Trustees. McCoy's Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied in all
other respects. Additionally, I shall grant the Defendants' Cross-Motion
for Summary Judgment on McCoy's claims seeking benefits at $120 per month
per Credit Year, and on his claims for breach of fiduciary duty. The
Court will enter an appropriate form of Order.