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Goldstein v. Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States

December 5, 2007

WILLIAM GOLDSTEIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE EQUITABLE LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hughes, U.S.M.J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States ("Defendant") [dkt. entry no. 26], returnable November 5, 2007. Defendant's Motion was opposed by Plaintiff William Goldstein ("Plaintiff") on October 22, 2007. The Court heard oral argument on December 3, 2007. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 on September 19, 2007 [dkt. entry no. 28].

Defendant argues that Summary Judgment should be granted because there is no longer a pending case or controversy to adjudicate. On the other hand, Plaintiff argues that a voluntary dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2), not summary judgment, is appropriate so the Court can grant attorney's fees and issue an injunction against Defendant. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Likewise, Defendant's counterclaim is also dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on September 29, 2005. Plaintiff's Complaint seeks benefits for total disability under the terms of the disability insurance contract issued to Plaintiff by Defendant in 1983. Plaintiff filed a claim for disability benefits in October 2001 claiming that he was paid the benefits due through April 30, 2005.*fn1

At present, Defendant has placed Plaintiff's claims back on "premium-waiver" active status. (Def.'s Reply Mem. at 4.) Defendant has issued Plaintiff a check in the amount of $84,000, which represents the full monthly total disability benefits for twenty-eight (28) months of benefits at $3,000 per month from May 1, 2005 through August 31, 2007. Id. In addition, by letter dated November 1, 2007, Defendant issued a $6,000 check representing the full benefits paid from September 1, 2007 through October 31, 2007. Id. Defendant also wrote a check in the amount of $4,290.00 which represents the interest upon the past-due benefits forwarded on September 7, 2007. Id. Moreover, Defendant issued another check in the amount of $2,732.60, which represents a refund of all premiums paid by Plaintiff upon his Policy Number 83715239. Id. Defendant also issued a check in the amount of $1,012.75, which represents a refund of all premiums paid by Plaintiff upon his Policy Number 83715240. Id. Defendant also issued two other checks, one in the amount of $160.40, which represents interest paid upon the premiums refunded that were paid on Policy Number 83715239, and the other in the amount of $59.58, which represents the interest upon the premiums refunded that were paid on Policy Number 83715240. Id. Defendant also brought an additional check of $3,000 to the oral argument for payment of November 2007. Id. at 5.

In its argument for a voluntary dismissal, Plaintiff seeks to (1) enjoin the video surveillance tactics used by Defendant, (2) award attorney's fees and costs relative to prosecution of this action, (3) award Dr. Goldstein a prevailing rate on the back benefits payments made to him when he was put back on claims as well as on the premium payments he was unnecessarily force to pay while disabled, (4) and reimburse Defendant for the premiums he paid while disabled, but which should not have been required during disability pursuant to the terms of his disability insurance policy. (Pl.'s Opp. Br. at 1.) Plaintiff also requests that Defendant bring his current disability payments to him and reinstate premium waivers to Defendant. Id. at 2.

Defendant argues that since it has paid the Plaintiff past due benefits, interest, and return of premiums, Plaintiff has received all legal remedies pled in his one-count Complaint. Accordingly, there is no remaining case or controversy to adjudicate. (Def.'s Reply Mem. at 2.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Summary Judgment

A court may enter summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that based on the evidence, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In deciding whether a disputed issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the underlying facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Matsuhita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); see also Pennsylvania Coal Ass'n v. Babbitt, 63 F.3d 231, 236 (3d Cir. 1995).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the non-moving party must show that a genuine issue of material fact indeed exists. See id. at 324. A genuine issue of fact exists where "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).

B. Plaintiff's Claims are Moot and Do Not Constitute a "Case or Controversy" Pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution

Plaintiff's claim for relief is rendered moot because he has been tendered all past due benefits and has been placed back on active status pursuant to the policy in question. As such, pursuant to Article III, there is no "case or ...


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