The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castillo, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Kathryn Gomoluch sued Defendants alleging that Ameritech and
Ameritech's Long Term Disability Plan ("LTDP") violated the Employment
Retirement Income and Security Act ("ERISA") when it terminated her long
term disability benefits. Gomoluch's claim is brought pursuant to ERISA's
civil enforcement provision, 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (a)(1)(B). Currently
before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Ameritech
also asks us to dismiss the case against it, arguing that it is not a
proper defendant to this suit. We grant Defendants' motion for summary
judgment for the reasons stated below.
Gomoluch worked as a Service Representative at Ameritech. She suffered
from interstitial cystis, and as a result, experienced pain in her
abdomen and an increased need to urinate. On June 19, 1995, she stopped
reporting to work and began receiving short-term disability benefits
under Ameritech's Sickness and Accident Disability Plan. When those
benefits expired, Gomoluch applied for long-term disability benefits
under Ameritech's LTDP. Although she received benefits for June and July
of 1996, Defendants terminated her benefits as of August 1, 1996. In a
letter dated December 12, 1996, Ameritech notified Gomoluch that her
benefits had been terminated, explaining that although she met the
definition of disability under Ameritech's LTDP for the months of June
and July, "[t]here was no medical documentation submitted which would
substantiate continued disability after July 1996."
Gomoluch contacted Ameritech's Long Term Disability Manager, Bradley
Johnson, to obtain information for appealing the termination decision.
Johnson informed Gomoluch that the Benefit Committee decided appeals.
Johnson directed Gomoluch to send the committee a letter stating the
reasons she was entitled to benefits, along with medical documentation
supporting her claim that she was unable to work after July of 1996.
Gomoluch complied, supplying the Benefit Committee with an explanatory
letter and her medical records from August to October of 1996. In
addition, Gomoluch submitted letters from three different treating
physicians, dated August, October, and December 1996. In the December 1996
letter, Gomoluch's physician, Dr. Sproul stated that Gomoluch had been
prescribed Elmiron to manage her pain and that "[a]lthough she seems
significantly improved on these medicines, she continues to have problems
with urinary frequency and urgency and inability to hold her urine for
any length of time." Dr. Sproul opined that "[t]his combined with her
ileostomy and her chronic asthma has made it difficult for her to
maintain a schedule that will allow her to work regularly."
Linda Nikitas, the Benefit Committee Coordinator, directed a letter to
Gomoluch acknowledging receipt of the correspondence and documentation,
and requesting any additional documentation Gomoluch believed was
pertinent to her appeal. No further documentation was forthcoming.
The Assistant Secretary to the Benefit Committee, Kathy Ort,
subsequently received Gomoluch's file. Ort prepared a report for the
Benefit Committee that summarized Gomoluch's case and recommended
upholding the termination. Dr. Anfield, the medical advisor to the Benefit
Committee, agreed with Ort's recommendation.
Nikitas distributed Gomoluch's entire file to the Benefit Committee
several days before it met to vote on Gomoluch's appeal. Gomoluch's file
contained her appeal letter; her medical records; notes from plan
administrators regarding her claim; letters from treating physicians
dated August 28 and November 1, 1996; Dr. Sproul's December 18, 1996
letter; Dr. Simon's handwritten notes; and Ort's recommendation and
Dr. Anfield and Ort attended the Benefit Committee meeting held on May
27, 1997. Dr. Anfield summarized the information contained in Gomoluch's
file, discussing the medical findings and their significance, and
answered the members' questions regarding Gomoluch's condition. The
Committee voted to uphold the termination of Gomoluch's long-term
benefits. On June 5, 1997, Ort sent a letter to Gomoluch informing her
that the Committee voted to deny Gomoluch's benefits "due to a lack of
objective medical documentation to substantiate" her claim that she was
"unable to engage in any occupation or employment (with reasonable
accommodation), for which [she was] qualified, or may reasonably become
qualified, based on training, education or experience." This suit
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material
fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). To avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must
advance "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A genuine issue for trial exists when "the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the ...