MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Eileen D. Mlsna ("Plaintiff") filed this action against defendant Unitel Communications, Inc. ("Unitel") claiming violation of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 ("COBRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1161-1167 (1991). Specifically, Eileen Mlsna claims Unitel's failure to give her notice of her right to elect continuation of health care coverage violated the notice requirement of COBRA. 29 U.S.C. § 1166. She seeks retroactive coverage under Unitel's health care plan and payment for medical bills. Unitel filed a third party complaint against Theodore M. Mlsna claiming that any failure to comply with COBRA was due to his willful conduct. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment.
For reasons stated below, this Court grants plaintiff Eileen Mlsna's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability. Defendant Theodore Mlsna's motion for summary judgment is granted. Defendant and third party plaintiff Unitel's motion for summary judgment is denied.
"The Supreme Court [has] held that Rule 56(c), 'by its very terms, . . . provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.'" Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2509-10, (1986) (emphasis in original). In the present case, the parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment. The material facts are not in dispute; therefore, summary judgment is proper.
The following facts are not in dispute. From 1987 through 1989, Unitel employed plaintiff's spouse, Theodore Mlsna. During this time, Unitel's group health plan, covered Eileen Mlsna as a dependent of her spouse. On January 23, 1989, Theodore Mlsna submitted his resignation to Mr. Mallin, the president of Unitel. Either immediately or on January 25, 1989, Mr. Mallin relieved Theodore Mlsna of his duties. Following the termination of Theodore Mlsna's employment, Unitel did not notify plaintiff of her right to elect continuation of health care coverage under Unitel's group health plan. After plaintiff's coverage under Unitel's health care plan ended, she incurred substantial medical bills.
I. APPLICABLE COBRA PROVISIONS
In 1986, Congress enacted COBRA to amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") by providing for limited continuation coverage rights under employer-provided group health insurance plans. Swint v. Protective Life Ins. Co., 779 F. Supp. 532, 552 (S. D. Ala. 1991). Congress found ERISA did not adequately ensure individuals would not be abruptly left without health care coverage. Therefore, COBRA is remedial legislation. National Companies Health Plan v. St. Joseph's Hosp. Inc., 929 F.2d 1558, 1567 (11th Cir. 1991). The legislative history of the COBRA amendments shows Congressional concern "with reports of the growing number of Americans without any health insurance coverage and the decreasing willingness of our Nation's hospitals to provide care to those who cannot afford to pay." H. R. Rep. No. 241, Part 1, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 44, reprinted in 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 579, 622. Congress designed COBRA to "allow a spouse or former spouse who has been a qualified beneficiary under a group plan to elect continuation coverage on his or her own behalf." Id.
"The administrator's duties under COBRA are not onerous while the result of noncompliance could be disastrous for the discharged employee." Phillips v. Riverside, Inc., 796 F. Supp. 403, 411 (E.D. Ark. 1992). COBRA mandates:
The plan sponsor of each group health plan shall provide . . . that each qualified beneficiary who would lose coverage under the plan as a result of a qualifying event is entitled, under the plan, to elect, within the election period, continuation coverage under the plan.