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MAXFIELD v. CENTRAL STATES HEALTH

November 30, 1982

DONALD
v.
MAXFIELD, PLAINTIFF, V. CENTRAL STATES, SOUTHEAST AND SOUTHWEST AREAS HEALTH, WELFARE AND PENSION FUNDS, TRUSTEES LORAN W. ROBBINS, MARION M. WINSTEAD, HAROLD J. YATES, EARL L. JENNINGS, JR., ROBERT J. BAKER, HOWARD MCDOUGALL, THOMAS F. O'MALLEY, R.V. PULLIAM, SR., JACK YARBROUGH, ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AND JOHN DWYER, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Donald V. Maxfield ("Maxfield") brought this action against his former employer, Defendant Central States Pension Funds ("Fund") and various Trustees and Directors of the Fund for violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. The Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. and the common law of Illinois in relation to his discharge.*fn1 This action is presently before the Court on five separate motions filed by defendants. The rulings of these motions are set forth below.

FACTS

Maxfield was employed as a comptroller for the fund until he was discharged on September 18, 1979. He was not given any specific reasons for his dismissal at the time,*fn2 but evidence adverse to his job performance has been presented through depositions and affidavits of his supervisors*fn3 taken as part of discovery in the instant action. Maxfield filed a four count amended complaint alleging violations of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 621, ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., and the public policy of Illinois, as well as loss of additional pension benefits in relation to his discharge from the Fund.

MOTION TO STRIKE PUNITIVE DAMAGES

Defendants' Motion to strike punitive damages prayer from Count II, alleging violations of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is granted. While the District Courts are not unanimous on the issue of the availability of punitive damages for a claim under ERISA, the instant action falls within the majority view denying such relief. The Eighth Circuit stated:

  We do not think punitive damages are provided for in
  ERISA. Ordinarily, punitive damages are not presumed;
  they are not the norm; and nowhere in ERISA are they
  mentioned . . . We believe that, as a matter of
  federal common law, an award of punitive damages is
  inappropriate to a claim of interference with
  employee benefit plans. Dependahl v. Falstaff Brewing
  Corp. 653 F.2d 1208, 1216 (8th Cir. 1981) cert. den.
  [454 U.S. 968] 102 S.Ct. 512 [70 L.Ed.2d 384] (1981)
  (citations omitted)

Plaintiff Maxfield relies on Bittner v. Sadoff & Rudoy Industries, 490 F. Supp. 534 (E.D.Wis. 1980) in which a motion to strike punitive damages under an ERISA claim was denied. The Bittner Court, however, held that only the employer could be held liable for payment on any punitive damage award. The Court also noted that the punitive prayer was not unreasonable in light of what possibly could be awarded.

  The case at bar is distinguishable from Bittner, supra. If
liability is ultimately found on Count II, the ERISA charge, and
punitive damages are awarded, the Fund itself would have to pay.
That result would be contrary to the remedial nature of ERISA,
29 U.S.C. § 1001(b). Hurn v. Retirement Fund Trust Of The Plumbing,
Heating And Piping Industry Of Southern California, 424 F. Supp. 80
 (C.D.Cal. 1976); Calhoun v. Falstaff Brewing Corp.,
478 F. Supp. 357 (E.D.Mo. 1979); Dependahl, supra.

Accordingly, defendants' motion to strike the punitive damages prayer from Count II of plaintiff's amended complaint is granted.

MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT III

Defendants' motion to dismiss Count III is granted. Count III of the Amended Complaint alleges that plaintiff should have received additional pension benefits. Plaintiff argues that these benefits are due and owing pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1140 with civil enforcement available under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a). The language of Count III, however, appears to track 29 U.S.C. § 1141, a criminal provision, in which enforcement is the exclusive prerogative of the attorney general. West v. Butler, 621 F.2d 240, 240 (6th Cir. 1980). Count II of the instant complaint is premised upon 29 U.S.C. § 1140. Therefore, if plaintiff premised Count III upon § 1141, it is dismissed pursuant to Butler supra, and if plaintiff premised Count III upon § 1140, it is dismissed due to its redundancy with Count II.

Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss Count III of plaintiff's amended complaint, pursuant to Rule ...


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