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TOLLE v. CARROLL TOUCH

February 16, 1993

CONNIE M. TOLLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CARROLL TOUCH, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:

OPINION

ERISA.

This cause is before the Court on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The Plaintiff originally brought suit in this Court alleging a violation of § 510 of ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1140), and breach of contract and breach of an implied covenant of good faith by the Defendant. This Court entered summary judgment for the Defendant on the Plaintiff's claims.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed this Court's entry of summary judgment for the Defendant, but found that although the Plaintiff had failed to assert a claim for relief under § 502(a)(1)(B) and § 503 of ERISA, the complaint raised allegations that might support a recovery under those sections of ERISA. See generally, Tolle v. Carroll Touch, Inc., 977 F.2d 1129 (7th Cir. 1992). Consequently, the Seventh Circuit remanded the case to this Court for a determination of whether the Plaintiff's claims under § 502(a)(1)(B) and § 503 of ERISA are barred by any statute of limitations, and if not, then whether the Plaintiff is entitled to relief under § 502(a)(1)(B) and § 503 of ERISA. Id. at 1142.

In accordance with the opinion of the Seventh Circuit, this Court directed the parties to file motions for summary judgment concerning whether the Plaintiff is entitled to relief under § 502(a)(1)(B) and § 503 of ERISA. The parties have since filed their motions for summary judgment, and the Court now addresses those motions.

I. Background

The Defendant is a manufacturer of electrical equipment that was formerly located in Champaign, Illinois. The Plaintiff began working for the Defendant in 1978. In 1984 the Defendant began to relocate its operations to Texas, and as part of that relocation, certain employees were notified that their services would no longer be required. The Plaintiff received such notification in September of 1984 and was informed that she would be terminated as of October 19, 1984, but that she would be entitled to employee benefits through November 30, 1984.

The Plaintiff had previously been diagnosed with a mild heart condition, and on October 1, 1984 the Plaintiff's physician, Dr. Bloomfield, diagnosed the condition as rheumatic mitral stenosis. On that same day, and as a result of the diagnosis, the Plaintiff made an oral request for a medical leave of absence. On October 10, 1984, the Plaintiff met with the Defendant's personnel manager and obtained a claim form, which she promptly completed. The claim form was then given to Ploeger and Associates, the company that managed the Defendant's employee benefit plans. Ploeger and Associates forwarded the claim form to the Plaintiff's physician to obtain certification that the Plaintiff was disabled.

However, due to the Plaintiff's mild heart condition, Dr. Bloomfield would not certify the Plaintiff as being disabled. Consequently, on November 8, 1984, Ploeger and Associates wrote to the Plaintiff and informed her that her claim for a leave of absence due to disability could not be processed because Dr. Bloomfield had not certified that the Plaintiff was disabled. Ploeger and Associates advised the Plaintiff that if she wished to pursue the matter, she should discuss it with Dr. Bloomfield and then resubmit a claim form to the company. However, the Plaintiff never contacted Dr. Bloomfield again to discover why he had not certified her as disabled, nor did she contact any other physician for a disability determination.

After October of 1984, the Plaintiff did nothing more to pursue her disability claim until she contacted the Defendant in January of 1988. Then, it was not until September of 1989 that the Plaintiff filed her lawsuit against the Defendant. The Plaintiff now has only two claims for review by this Court.

II. Summary Judgment

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted if the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Black v. Henry Pratt Co., 778 F.2d 1278, 1281 (7th Cir. 1985). The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553-54, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of a material fact exists, the evidence is to be taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Once the moving party has ...


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