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02/21/96 WALTER PETERS v. SUNDSTRAND CORPORATION

APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT


February 21, 1996

WALTER PETERS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SUNDSTRAND CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 93--MR--271, Honorable Gerald F. Grubb, Judge, Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Geiger delivered the opinion of the court: Colwell, J., concurs. Justice Bowman, concurring in part and dissenting in part:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Geiger

The Honorable Justice GEIGER delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Walter Peters, brought a declaratory Judgment action against the defendant, Sundstrand Corporation (Sundstrand), seeking a declaration that he, as a former Sundstrand employee, was entitled to certain benefits under the Sundstrand Corporation Retirement Plan. The trial court granted Sundstrand's motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff timely appealed. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.

The following facts are taken from the record. The plaintiff, born on July 10, 1947, worked for Sundstrand from July 25, 1977, until his termination on September 22, 1992. Thus, at the time of his termination, the plaintiff was 45 years old and had worked at Sundstrand for 15 years.

In 1984, Sundstrand furnished the plaintiff with a summary plan description (the 1984 SPD) of the January 1, 1977, Sundstrand Corporation Retirement Plan (the Plan). The first page of the 1984 SPD, under a section labelled "Retirement Benefits in Brief," stated:

"Normal Retirement

An employee who retires on his normal retirement date and has ten or more years of service will be eligible for a normal retirement benefit ***.

Early Retirement

If an employee leaves the Company after he has attained age 55 but prior to his attainment of age 65 and has ten or more years of service he will be eligible for an early retirement benefit. The early retirement benefit is determined in the same manner as a normal retirement benefit. However, if payments begin before the employee attains age 62 they will be reduced according to a schedule of reductions.

Vested Retirement

If an employee leaves the Company after completing ten or more years of service, but prior to attaining age 55, at age 65 he will be eligible to receive a monthly retirement benefit ***. The employee may choose to begin receiving the benefit as early as age 55 but the amount will be reduced actuarially because the benefit will be paid for a longer period of time."

Pages 4-6 of the 1984 SPD described in greater detail the eligibility requirements for early retirement benefits and vested retirement benefits. In a section labelled "Early Retirement," the 1984 SPD stated:

"To qualify for an early retirement benefit an employee at the time of retirement must be at least age 55 and have ten or more years of service. The monthly early retirement benefit will be determined in the same manner as a normal retirement benefit based upon the employee's years of participation and monthly 'final average earnings' at the time of his termination of employment."

The section also provided a "schedule of reductions," listing the percentage reduction of benefits to an employee electing to have payments commence after age 55 but prior to age 62.

Immediately following the "Early Retirement" section of the 1984 SPD came a section designated as "Vested Rights," which provided:

"If an employee leaves Sundstrand after completing ten or more years of service and is not eligible for any other benefit under the Plan he will be eligible to receive a vested retirement benefit. *** The employee may choose to receive his vested retirement benefit as early as age 55. If the employee elects to receive the benefit prior to age 65, it will be determined in the same manner as if it were to commence at his age 65 except that it will be reduced actuarially for early payment of the benefit."

Unlike the "Early Retirement" section, the "Vested Rights" section contained no schedule of the actuarial reduction of benefits received prior to age 65.

In a section labelled "Other Benefits after Retirement," the 1984 SPD also provided that "when an employee retires at or after age 55 with at least ten years of service he can continue to enjoy Sundstrand health care coverage. At age 65, when he becomes eligible for Medicare, his Sundstrand Group Health Insurance is coordinated with Medicare benefits."

In 1989, Sundstrand gave the plaintiff a document labelled "Annual Value of Your Benefits." This document listed the plaintiff's base pay in 1989, his primary benefits, and the annual cost Sundstrand incurred in providing those benefits to him. According to the document, the cost to Sundstrand of the plaintiff's retirement benefits, based on his "specific rate of pay," was $5,600.

In the summer of 1992, after Sundstrand informed the plaintiff of his impending termination, the plaintiff requested assurances from Sundstrand that he would be entitled to early retirement benefits and health care coverage at age 55. Sundstrand informed the plaintiff that he would only be entitled to an actuarially-reduced benefit according to the "vested deferred retirement" schedule. The plaintiff was further informed that he did not qualify for health insurance coverage.

The plaintiff requested a review of the denial of the benefits by the Retirement Plan Benefit Committee (the Retirement Committee). The Retirement Committee denied the plaintiff his requested benefits, which decision was subsequently affirmed by the Plan Appeal Review Committee. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court of Winnebago County against Sundstrand seeking early retirement benefits and health insurance benefits.

Following the dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 1994)), the plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking the same benefits. The allegations in the amended complaint mirrored those in the original complaint, except that the amended complaint contained four additional paragraphs. These paragraphs alleged that the 1984 SPD was not accurate; that Sundstrand allowed other employees to return to work after reaching age 55 so that they could receive benefits; that employees were led to believe that a sum of money was being set aside to fund their retirement; and that the 1984 SPD encouraged Sundstrand to terminate employees prior to reaching age 55. Sundstrand filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to section 2--619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2--619 (West 1994)), which the trial court granted with prejudice. The plaintiff timely appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff contends that (1) he is entitled to retirement benefits pursuant to the early retirement reduction schedule contained in the 1984 SPD; (2) he is entitled to health care coverage under the 1984 SPD; and (3) he is entitled to the funds in his individual account under the Sundstrand plan. Preliminarily, however, we must resolve two issues: (1) whether plaintiff's claim arises under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) (29 U.S.C.A. § 1001 et seq. (West Supp. 1995)); and (2) if so, what the appropriate standard of review under ERISA is.

It is well-settled that a participant or beneficiary to an employee benefit plan can file suit under ERISA to recover benefits due under a plan, to enforce rights due under a plan, and to obtain a declaratory judgment of future entitlement to benefits under a plan. See 29 U.S.C.A. § 1132(a)(1)(B) (West 1995). A participant or beneficiary filing suit must do so under ERISA, as ERISA preempts all state laws that have any direct or indirect relation to an employee benefit plan. See Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 96-98, 77 L. Ed. 2d 490, 500-02, 103 S. Ct. 2890, 2899-2900 (1983). Here, although the amended complaint makes no express reference to ERISA, it does seek a clarification of the plaintiff's rights under Sundstrand's plan. As such, the plaintiff's claim falls within ERISA's purview. Thus, we will view the amended complaint, as the trial court apparently did, as an attempt to claim relief under section 1132(a)(1)(B).

Because we are treating the plaintiff's claim as one under section 1132(a)(1)(B), we must determine the appropriate standard of review. For cases arising under section 1132(a)(1)(B), a denial of benefits by a plan administrator is reviewed under a de novo standard unless the benefit plan gives the administrator discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits or to construe the terms of the plan. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, 489 U.S. 101, 115, 103 L. Ed. 2d 80, 95, 109 S. Ct. 948, 956 (1989). If such discretionary authority exists, we review a denial of benefits only to determine whether it was arbitrary and capricious. Donato v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 19 F.3d 375, 380 (7th Cir. 1994). In determining whether the plan gives the administrator discretionary authority, the plan's language need not contain an explicit grant of discretionary authority. Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis v. SwedishAmerican Group Health Benefit Trust, 901 F.2d 1369, 1371 (7th Cir. 1990). Nevertheless, although "magic words," such as "the administrator has discretion," are not necessary to grant discretionary authority ( Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, 901 F.2d at 1371), the plan must express some intention to grant discretionary authority to the administrator. Compare Bali v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield Ass'n, 873 F.2d 1043, 1047 (7th Cir. 1989) (applying arbitrary and capricious standard of review where plan clause stated that disability would be "'determined on the basis of medical evidence satisfactory to the Committee'") with Bruch, 489 U.S. at 112-16, 103 L. Ed. 2d at 93-96, 109 S. Ct. at 955-57 (discretionary authority did not exist where there was no evidence under plan that the administrator had the power to construe uncertain terms or that eligibility determinations were to be given deference).

In the present case, there is no evidence that the Sundstrand plan grants the administrator discretionary authority to interpret the plan. The only "evidence" Sundstrand cites in support of its position is its assertion that the Retirement Committee had the authority to determine the plaintiff's claims. By itself, however, this "evidence" is insufficient to establish that the plan gave the administrator discretionary authority. Because Sundstrand does not cite, and our review of the record does not reveal, any provision in the plan which we could construe as granting the administrator discretionary authority to determine the plaintiff's eligibility for benefits or to construe the terms of the plan, we will review the denial of the plaintiff's benefits under a de novo standard of review.

We turn, then, to the merits of the case. Under ERISA, the administrator of an employee benefit plan is required to furnish to each participant a summary plan description. 29 U.S.C.A. § 1021(a)(1) (West Supp. 1995). Statements in a summary plan description are binding and, if such statements conflict with those in the plan itself, the summary plan description governs. Aiken v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 13 F.3d 138, 140 (4th Cir. 1993). This rule is based on fairness: "It is grossly unfair to hold an employee accountable for acts which disqualify him from benefits, if he had no knowledge of these acts, or if these conditions were stated in a misleading or incomprehensible manner in the plan booklets." H.R. Rep. No. 533, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. (1974), reprinted in 1974 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4639, 4646; see also McKnight v. Southern Life & Health Insurance Co., 758 F.2d 1566, 1570 (11th Cir. 1985) ("It is of no effect to publish and distribute a plan summary booklet designed to simplify and explain a voluminous and complex document, and then proclaim that any inconsistencies will be governed by the plan. Unfairness will flow to the employee for reasonably relying on the summary booklet").) Thus, to secure relief in a claim based on a faulty summary plan description, the participant or beneficiary must show some significant reliance upon, or possible prejudice from, the faulty summary plan description. Aiken, 13 F.3d at 141; Kochendorfer v. Rockdale Sash & Trim Co., Inc. Profit Sharing Plan, 653 F. Supp. 612, 616 (N.D. Ill. 1987).

The style and contents of the summary plan description which the administrator must furnish are outlined in section 1022:

"The summary plan description shall include the information described in subsection (b) of this section, shall be written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant, and shall be sufficiently accurate and comprehensive to reasonably apprise such participants and beneficiaries of their rights and obligations under the plan." 29 U.S.C.A. § 1022(a)(1) (West 1985).

Section 1022(b) provides as follows:

"The plan description and summary plan shall contain the following information: *** The plan's requirements respecting eligibility for participation and benefits; a description of the provisions providing for nonforfeitable pension benefits; [and] circumstances which may result in disqualification, ineligibility, or denial or loss of benefits ***." 29 U.S.C.A. § 1022(b) (West 1985).

In determining whether the summary plan description is sufficiently accurate and comprehensive, a court should interpret it as would an average plan participant. Brewer v. Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., 921 F.2d 150, 153-54 (8th Cir. 1990). However, the court should still be mindful of the fact that no document can include every detail and still remain a summary plan description. See Herrmann v. Cencom Cable Associates, Inc., 978 F.2d 978, 983-84 (7th Cir. 1992); see also Lorenzen v. Employees Retirement Plan of Sperry & Hutchinson Co., 896 F.2d 228, 236 (7th Cir. 1990) ("Plan summary is not required to anticipate every possible idiosyncratic contingency that might affect a particular participant's or beneficiary's status").

The plaintiff contends that an average employee would conclude, after reading the 1984 SPD, that he would be eligible for an actuarially-reduced retirement benefit after leaving Sundstrand, provided he had completed 10 years of service. According to the plaintiff, however, the actuarial reduction must be made according to the schedule of reductions contained in the "Early Retirement" section of the 1984 SPD. The plaintiff argues that because the "Vested Rights" section of the 1984 SPD provided no such schedule of reductions, an average plan participant would conclude that the actuarial reduction in his vested retirement benefit was the same as the reduction for early retirement benefits under the 1984 SPD.

In response, Sundstrand claims that the plaintiff's retirement benefits must be determined according to the summary plan description distributed to the plaintiff in 1992 (the 1992 SPD). In a section labelled "Vested Deferred Retirement," the 1992 SPD provided:

"If you leave Sundstrand after completing at least five years of service and are not eligible for a normal or early retirement benefit under the plan (in other words, you have not attained at least age 55), you will be eligible to receive a vested deferred retirement benefit. Your vested deferred retirement monthly benefit is calculated in the same manner as a normal retirement benefit based upon your years of participation and 'final average earnings' *** at the time you leave the Company. You may choose to receive your vested deferred retirement benefit as early as age 55. If you elect to receive the benefit prior to age 65, it will be determined in the same manner as if it were to begin at age 65, except that it will be reduced actuarially for early payment of the benefit as follows."

Unlike the 1984 SPD, the 1992 SPD then set forth a chart detailing the actuarial reduction for early payment of the vested deferred retirement benefit, with significantly greater reductions at each age level than the early retirement reductions provided in the 1984 SPD. Sundstrand asserts, pursuant to the affidavit of its human resources counsel, that although the actuarial reduction chart was not provided until the 1992 SPD, the 1992 reduction chart "was always included in the plan by reference" and that Sundstrand consistently applied the actuarial reduction for early withdrawal of vested retirement benefits. Thus, Sundstrand contends that the plaintiff is only eligible for vested deferred retirement benefits at the actuarially-reduced rate detailed in the 1992 SPD.

We agree with Sundstrand that under the plain language of the 1992 SPD an average plan participant would conclude that an employee who has left Sundstrand after completing at least five years' service and has not yet attained age 55 would be eligible for a vested deferred retirement benefit, reduced actuarially for payment prior to age 65. Likewise, the language of the 1984 SPD was clear in its provision that an employee leaving the company prior to age 55 with at least 10 years' service is only eligible for vested retirement benefits, also subject to an actuarial reduction for early payment.

What did not become clear until the 1992 SPD, however, was the amount of the actuarial reduction for vested retirement benefits. Both early retirement and vested benefits were subject to reductions for early payment under the 1984 SPD, with similar explanations offered as to the necessity of the reductions. For example, in a section labelled "Retirement Benefits in Brief," the 1984 SPD explained that an employee's vested retirement benefits received as early as age 55 would be actuarially reduced "because the benefit will be paid for a longer period of time." Likewise, just beneath the reduction chart in the "Early Retirement" section, the 1984 SPD explained that the reduction in benefits taken prior to age 62 was necessary "because payments will be made for a longer period of time than would be the case of someone retiring at age 62 or older."

Yet, even though both early retirement and vested benefits were subject to reduction for early payment due to the payments being made for a longer period of time, the 1984 SPD provided participants with only the schedule of reductions contained in the "Early Retirement" section. Using the rules of federal common-law contract interpretation, which govern our interpretation of an ERISA plan ( Hickey v. A.E. Staley Manufacturing, 995 F.2d 1385, 1389 (7th Cir. 1993)), and construing any ambiguities in the plan against Sundstrand, as the drafter of the plan ( Meredith v. Allsteel, Inc., 11 F.3d 1354, 1358 (7th Cir. 1993)), we believe that the language stating that the vested retirement benefits would be "reduced actuarially" failed to reasonably apprise the average plan participant that the reduction would be anything other than that set forth in the schedule contained in the early retirement section of the 1984 SPD. Only one reduction schedule was provided in the 1984 SPD, and nothing in the document as a whole suggested or would have put an average plan participant on notice that an actuarial reduction would not be the same as the early retirement reduction.

That the 1992 SPD set forth an actuarial table of reductions for a vested deferred retirement benefit does not change our analysis. Until the issuance of the 1992 SPD, the plaintiff had a reasonable expectation, based upon the ambiguous language of the 1984 SPD, that any vested retirement benefits to which he would be entitled would be reduced pursuant to the early retirement schedule of reductions. Once the 1992 SPD was issued and the actuarial table provided, any ambiguity was resolved. It would be grossly unfair, under these circumstances, to reduce the plaintiff's benefits which accrued prior to 1992 according to the actuarial chart provided in the 1992 SPD, where the 1984 SPD failed to reasonably apprise him of the amount of the actuarial reduction.

Next, the plaintiff argues that he is entitled to health care coverage pursuant to the "Other Benefits after Retirement" section of the 1984 SPD, which provided coverage to "an employee [who] retires at or after age 55 with at least 10 years of service." The plaintiff contends that the 1984 SPD's use of the word "employee" was not restricted to mean people employed by Sundstrand at the time of their retirement, but to include former Sundstrand employees as well.

We agree. The plain language of the 1984 SPD detailed only two requirements: that an employee retire at or after age 55 and that said employee have completed at least 10 years of service with the defendant. To construe the word "employee" to mean one who retires from Sundstrand at or after age 55 with 10 years of service would essentially read in the additional requirement that a retiree must have been working for Sundstrand at the time of his retirement, thus excluding former employees from coverage. In the absence of language barring former employees from coverage, we find that an average plan participant would interpret the quoted phrase as applying to both employees who retired from Sundstrand with at least 10 years of service and those, like the plaintiff, who had completed at least 10 years of service prior to leaving their employment with Sundstrand.

The plaintiff's third argument on appeal is that he is entitled to the funds in his individual account under the Sundstrand plan and to have Sundstrand invest those funds for him. In 1989, Sundstrand gave its employees a statement entitled "Annual Value of Your Benefits." This statement set forth the costs Sundstrand incurred in providing benefits for that employee. The statement received by the plaintiff indicated that the cost to Sundstrand of the plaintiff's retirement was $5,600. The plaintiff maintains he is entitled to this amount as retirement benefits and that he is entitled to have these amounts invested for him.

There appears to be no dispute that Sundstrand's retirement plan is a defined-benefits plan. In a defined-benefits plan, the benefits received by an employee are determined by a formula, which generally considers years of service and salary but which is not correlated with the amount of contribution made by the individual employee. In re Marriage of Blackston, 258 Ill. App. 3d 401, 402, 196 Ill. Dec. 606, 630 N.E.2d 541 (1994); see 29 U.S.C.A. § 1002(35) (West 1985). A participant in a defined-benefits plan is entitled only to the defined benefits; he has no right to the assets of the plan. Bash v. Firstmark Standard Life Insurance Co., 861 F.2d 159, 163 (7th Cir. 1988). A defined-contribution plan, by contrast, is a pension plan which provides for an individual account for each participant and for benefits based solely upon the amount contributed to the participant's account. 29 U.S.C.A. § 1002(34) (West 1985); see also Blackston, 258 Ill. App. 3d at 402 (under a defined-contribution plan, each participant has a separate account, and the benefit earned by the employee is based on the balance in his account).

Because Sundstrand's plan is a defined-benefit plan, the plaintiff is not entitled to the $5,600. Rather, the plaintiff is entitled only to his defined benefits as outlined by the plan. The document labelled "Annual Value of Your Benefits" did not suggest, much less state, that $5,600 was set aside for the plaintiff individually, but merely indicated that the amount represented Sundstrand's cost of retirement benefits for the plaintiff, based on plaintiff's specific rate of pay. Thus, although plaintiff assumed that $5,600 was being set aside for him in an individual account, the document could not reasonably support this assumption.

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the circuit court of Winnebago County is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

COLWELL, J., concurs.

The Honorable Justice BOWMAN, concurring in part and dissenting in part:

I agree with the majority that plaintiff is not entitled to the $5,600 he claims Sundstrand set aside for him in an individual account. However, I disagree with the majority's conclusion that plaintiff is entitled to (1) retirement benefits pursuant to the early retirement reduction schedule contained in the 1984 SPD; and (2) health care coverage under the 1984 SPD.

My first disagreement with the majority is with its conclusion that plaintiff is entitled to retirement benefits pursuant to the early retirement reduction schedule contained in the 1984 SPD. Under the 1984 SPD, both early retirement and vested benefits are subject to reduction for early payment because the payments are made for a longer period of time. However, only the "Early Retirement" section contains a reduction schedule. Because of this, the majority reasons, an average plan participant would conclude that vested retirement benefits would be reduced pursuant to the early retirement schedule of reductions.

Before addressing the majority's reasoning, I note that while statements in a summary plan description are binding on the administrator of the plan (see Aiken v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 13 F.3d 138, 140 (4th Cir. 1993)), no summary plan description can include every detail and remain a summary ( Herrmann v. Cencom Cable Associates, Inc., 978 F.2d 978, 983-84 (7th Cir. 1992)). Furthermore, an interpretation of a summary plan description cannot be "'unrealistically narrow.'" Wise v. El Paso Natural Gas Co., 986 F.2d 929, 939 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied U.S. , 126 L. Ed. 2d 154, 114 S. Ct. 196 (1993), quoting Sharron v. Amalgamated Insurance Agency Services, Inc., 704 F.2d 562, 566 (11th Cir. 1983). To prevent an unrealistically narrow interpretation, the contents of the entire summary plan description, rather than one specific paragraph, page, or portion, should be considered and read as a whole. See Hansen v. Continental Insurance Co., 940 F.2d 971, 981 (5th Cir. 1991) ("It would be error to attend only to one paragraph, page, or portion of the summary"); Sharron, 704 F.2d at 566 (To "focus on only one page of the summary [would] represent[] an unrealistically narrow view of how a reasonably prudent employee would read and review this important document").

Bearing these principles in mind, I believe an average plan participant would conclude, after considering all of the provisions of the 1984 SPD, that plaintiff is entitled only to vested retirement benefits. The first page of the 1984 SPD states that an employee is entitled to early retirement benefits if, inter alia, he leaves Sundstrand "after he as attained age 55 but prior to his attainment of age 65," whereas an employee is entitled only to vested benefits if, inter alia, he leaves Sundstrand "prior to attaining age 55." Moreover, the "Early Retirement" section states that a participant qualifies for early retirement benefits if "at the time of retirement [he is] at least age 55," and the "Vested Rights" section states that an employee is entitled to receive vested retirement benefits if he "leaves Sundstrand after completing ten or more years of service and is not eligible for any other benefit under the Plan." When read together, these provisions reasonably apprise plan participants that early retirement benefits are available to employees who leave Sundstrand after age 55. Thus, because he was only 45 years old and had 15 years of service at the time of his termination, plaintiff is entitled only to vested retirement benefits.

Rather than consider the provisions of the 1984 SPD as a whole, however, the majority focuses its analysis on the document's failure to include a schedule in the "Vested Rights" section listing the rate of actuarial reductions. I am unpersuaded by this approach for two reasons. First, it ignores the plain language of the document. As noted, the document provides that early retirement benefits are available only to employees who leave Sundstrand after age 55.

Second, it is an "unrealistically narrow" interpretation of the "Vested Rights" section when that section is viewed in relation to the entire document. The "Vested Rights" section does not expressly provide that early payment of vested rights benefits will be reduced according to the reduction schedule contained in the "Early Retirement" section. By contrast, the section labelled "'Rule of 50' Rights," which immediately follows the "Vested Rights" section, does. It specifically provides that "the reduction percentage [for benefits payable prior to reaching age 62] is the same as for an early retirement benefit." Thus, the "'Rule of 50' Rights" section expressly incorporates by reference the reduction schedule contained in the "Early Retirement" section whereas the "Vested Rights" section does not. Reading these sections together rather than focusing on the "Early Retirement" and "Vested Rights" sections separately (see Hansen, 940 F.2d at 981; Sharron, 704 F.2d at 566), I believe the average plan participant would conclude that the schedule in the "Early Retirement" section does not apply to the "Vested Rights" section.

In summary, while the majority believes that Sundstrand could have made the document crystal clear by including such a schedule in the "Vested Rights" section, ERISA imposes no such legal requirement. The schedule was in the plan itself, and plaintiff could have looked it up while he was an employee if he was curious about it. See Herrmann, 978 F.2d at 984. I would therefore affirm the trial court's ruling on this issue.

I also disagree with the court's conclusion that plaintiff is entitled to continued health care coverage under the 1984 SPD. The 1984 SPD provided continued health care coverage "when an employee retires at or after age 55 with at least ten years of service." Although not defined in the document, I believe an average plan participant would interpret "employee" in the context of this provision as referring to an individual who retires from Sundstrand at or after age 55. In my view, the provision as a whole reasonably apprised plan participants that continued health care coverage was available only to those individuals who retire at or after age 55 with at least 10 years of service.

I respectfully concur in part and dissent in part.

19960221

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