United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
December 20, 1982
BRUCE D. OVITZ, PLAINTIFF,
JEFFERIES & COMPANY, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Bruce D. Ovitz ("Ovitz") has filed a three-count Complaint
against his former employer Jefferies & Company, Inc.
("Jefferies"), Jefferies' profit sharing plan (the "Plan") and
the Plan's administrators (the
"Administrators"), challenging the refusal to pay Ovitz (1)
interest on his Profit Sharing Account from January 1, 1981 to
the date the Account was paid him and (2) a pro-rata share of
Jefferies' 1981contributions to the Plan:
1. Count I asserts the Plan's refusal to pay
Ovitz those additional amounts violated the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1101-45, and specific
provisions of the Plan itself.
2. Count II charges ERISA infractions and state
law fiduciary breaches by the Administrators.
3. Count III is a breach of contract claim
Ovitz has requested a jury trial on all three counts, and
defendants have moved to strike the jury demand. For the
reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order,
defendants' motion is denied.
Relying heavily on Wardle v. Central States, Southeast and
Southwest Areas Pension Fund, 627 F.2d 820 (7th Cir. 1980),
defendants contend the ERISA claims in Count I and II are
equitable in nature and thus ineligible for jury determination.
They also dispute Ovitz' asserted right to jury trial on the
state law claims in Counts II and III because those claims (1)
share the same factual nucleus as the ERISA claims and are
therefore equitable in character and (2) are in any event
preempted by ERISA, see 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a).
But Wardle actually refutes the premise of defendants'
resistance to Ovitz' jury demand — that his ERISA claims are
equitable. Wardle treated suits for pension benefits as
equitable because of their resemblance to equitable suits
brought in state courts under the law of trusts. It contrasted
"suits for pension benefits by disappointed applicants" (said
to be "equitable in character," 627 F.2d at 829), with remedies
at law against a trustee (id.):
This conclusion has been based primarily on the
law of trusts, which provides a beneficiary with
a legal remedy only with respect to money the
trustee is under a duty to pay unconditionally
and immediately to the beneficiary.
Restatement (Second) of Trusts §§ 197-198 (1959).
Wardle himself was held to assert an equitable claim because,
as a "disappointed applicant" contesting exclusion from the
class of beneficiaries eligible to participate until future
retirement or death, he was of course not entitled to
"unconditional" and "immediate" payment.
In stark contrast, Ovitz' ERISA (and state law) claims are
predicated on defendants' alleged obligation to pay him
certain amounts both "unconditionally and immediately" upon
his resignation from Jefferies. Thus Wardle itself confirms the
legal nature of the relief sought in Ovitz' Complaint*fn1 and
hence the propriety of his jury demand.
Ovitz is entitled to a jury trial on his claims. Defendants'
motion to strike his jury demand is denied.