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Kamler v. H/N Telecommunication Services

September 16, 2002

BRENT KAMLER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
H/N TELECOMMUNICATION SERVICES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 00-C-4024--Suzanne B. Conlon, Judge.

Before Cudahy, Coffey and Williams, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cudahy, Circuit Judge

ARGUED APRIL 16, 2002

In this appeal, Brent Kamler challenges a grant of summary judgment entered against him on his ERISA-related claims against H/N Telecommunication Services, Inc., formerly known as PAL Telecom Group, Inc. (PAL), PAL Telecom Group, Inc. Employee Welfare Plan (PAL Plan) and Royal & SunAlliance (Royal). This case presents a tangled factual scenario which we will try to untangle as best as we can.

I.

The relationship between Kamler and PAL arose when PAL decided to hire three managers for a construction project in Brazil. George Lamplota, PAL's director of project management, telephoned Kamler for an initial telephone interview. During this interview, Kamler asked Lamplota for an annual salary of $95,000, full medical benefits plus per diem expenses. Kamler, who resides in California, demanded health insurance before he would go to Brazil. Lamplota allegedly responded that Kamler would be insured. Lamplota offered Kamler medical benefits under the PAL Plan, but there is a factual dispute about whether Kamler stated that he did not want PAL's health insurance if he had to pay premiums. See Kamler v. H/N Telecommunication Serv., Inc., No. 00-C-4024, 2001 WL 740516, *1 (N.D. Ill. June 29, 2001).

On March 17, Kamler signed a letter of commitment memorializing the agreement with respect to his compensation package, but this letter is silent about health insurance coverage. Two days later, Kamler left for Brazil. A short time later, Lamplota obtained a personnel manual and an enrollment form for the PAL Plan for Kamler, which was to be faxed via PAL's office in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The personnel manual's section on insurance states "medical, life and long-term disability insurance are carried by the firm on a group basis for the benefit of its employees." Kamler, 2001 WL 745016, at *2.

The PAL Plan was an employee welfare benefit plan established by PAL for eligible employees through participation in a group medical, life and disability insurance program. The PAL Plan is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The PAL Plan was underwritten by Trustmark Insurance Company and administered by Star Marketing & Administration, Inc. (Starmark). Kamler, 2001 WL 745016, at *3. The Plan provided that all eligible employees must apply for coverage by filling out an enrollment form. Id. If an employee applied before working 30 continuous days, his effective date occurred at the end of the 30-day period, and if he applied after this date, the effective date was the first day of the month following the date he applied. Id. This 30-day period could be waived by a request submitted with the enrollment form. Id. The enrollment form provided in part:

To be completed by the employees only. Failure to provide complete facts may be cause for cancellation of your coverage as of its effective date.

NOTE: As part of our routine underwriting procedure, you may receive a phone call . . . to obtain personal information needed to evaluate your insurability . . . . Unless waived above, I request insurance under my employer's insurance plan . . . . I authorize my employer to make deductions from my earnings for my share of the cost, if any, for the benefits for which I may become entitled. Kamler, 2001 WL 745016, at *4.

The PAL Plan also provided that, after an employee filled out an enrollment form and was accepted by Trustmark (the insurance company providing coverage), the employee would receive a certificate of insurance.

On March 30, Lamplota faxed the personnel manual and enrollment form to Victor Jaworski in PAL's Brazil office with the following cover memorandum:

Victor: Enclosed please find [PAL's] . . . Personnel Manual and the Employee Enrollment Form (Insurance) to be forwarded to Brent Kamler . . . . [He] should fill out the Employee Enrollment Form and return it back to me as soon as possible, the coverage is to start by 05-01-1998. Kamler, 2001 WL 745016, at *3.

Jaworski did not recall receiving this fax before May 1998.

On May 5, Lamplota resent the March 30th memorandum with the attachments to Jaworski. Id. On May 6, Jim Oliva faxed this information to Kamler's hotel in Brazil, with a cover note that read: "Hi Brent: I was asked by Victor [Jaworski] to follow up on George Lamplota's fax. Please fill out the requested forms and fax ...


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