United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
October 18, 2004.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
Plaintiff, Eula Tyler, brings this action under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"),
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), seeking to recover benefits due to her under the
Bank One Corporation Cash Balance Pension Plan. Defendants, Bank
One Corporation and Bank One Corporation Personal Pension Plan
(collectively referred to as "Bank One"), have moved to dismiss.
Bank One's motion is denied.
According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Eula Tyler began
working for NBD Bancorp, Inc., ("NBD") in 1971. (R. 11-1, Am.
Compl. ¶ 8). While at NBD, Plaintiff was a participant in the NBD
Bancorp, Inc., Retirement Plan ("The NBD Plan") and carned
retirement benefits under that plan. (R. 11-1, Am. Compl. ¶ 9).
In 1996, NBD merged with First Chicago Corporation creating First
Chicago NBD Corporation. When NBD and First Chicago merged, the
NBD Plan merged with the First Chicago Pension Plan creating the
First Chicago NBD Corporation Personal Pension Account Plan (the
"First Chicago NBD Plan"). (R. 11-1, Am. Compl. ¶ 10). After the
merger of NBD and First Chicago, Plaintiff continued to work for
the merged company and was a participant in the First Chicago NBD
Plan. (R. 11-1, Am. Compl. ¶ 11).
In 1998, First Chicago NBD merged with Bank One Corporation.
During this merger, the First Chicago NBD Plan merged with the
Bank One Corporation Cash Balance Pension Plan (the "Bank One
Plan"). (R. 11-1, Am. Compl. ¶ 12). After the merger of First
Chicago NBD and Bank One Corporation, Plaintiff continued to work
for the merged company, Bank One Corporation, and participated in
the Bank One Plan, until her employment was terminated on
November 30, 2001. (R. 11-1, Am. Compl. ¶ 13). Upon her
termination, Plaintiff requested and received a lump sum pension
benefit from the Bank One Plan. (R. 11-1, Am. Compl. ¶ 19).
Plaintiff's complaint is based on her assertion that Defendant
calculated her lump sum benefit according to a formula not
contained in the Bank One Plan, in violation of
29 U.S.C. §§ 1102(a)(1) and (b)(4). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that
Defendants failed to calculate her lump sum payment in accordance
with § 1.7 of the Bank One Plan.
In analyzing Defendants' motion to dismiss, the Court must
assume as true all facts alleged in the complaint, construing the
allegations liberally and viewing them in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiff. McMath v. City of Gary,
976 F.2d 1026, 1031 (7th Cir. 1992). Dismissal is only proper if it is
clear that the Court could not grant relief under any set of
facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. See
Weatherly v. Ill. Bell Tel., 856 F.Supp. 1301, 1303 (N.D. Ill.
1994) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73
(1984)). "[D]ocuments attached to a motion to dismiss are
considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the
plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim. Such
documents may be considered by a district court in ruling on the
motion to dismiss." Wright v. Assoc. Ins. Cos. Inc.,
29 F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994). See also Chemetall GMBH v. ZR
Energy, Inc., 320 F.3d 714, 718 n. 4 (7th Cir. 2003).
ERISA is a comprehensive statute regulating pension plans and
their administrators. Central to ERISA is the right of a
participant to civilly enforce claims to recover benefits due
under the terms of a pension. See Saracco v. Local Union 786
Bldg. Material Pension Fund, 942 F.2d 1213, 1214 (7th Cir.
1991); 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3). ERISA requires that
every employee benefit plan shall specify the basis on which
payments are made to and from the plan. 29 U.S.C. § 1102(b)(4).
This requirement ensures that each plan participant knows where
he or she stands with respect to the plan. Kaszuk v. Bakery and
Confectionery Union and Indus. Int'l Pension Fund, No.
83-C-1177, 1985 WL 2183, at *1 (N.D. Ill. July 15, 1985). The
pension plan agreement must set forth any rights to a particular
method of payment. Id. must be found in the pension plan
agreement itself. Id.
According to Defendants, § 5 of the Bank One Plan grants
various "Retirement Benefits" to participants of the Plan, and
Plaintiff was entitled to have her benefits calculated under §
5.3 of the plan, which provides for grandfathered NBD Plan
benefits. Section 5.3 entitles Plaintiff to receive (1) the
benefit provided in § 5, or (2) the benefit set forth in
Supplement B to the Bank One Plan, whichever is greater. The
parties have agreed that Supplement B provides Plaintiff with the
Section 2 of Supplement B describes three distinct retirement
and termination benefits. Section 2.1 provides for a "Normal
Retirement Allowance" that is payable to a participant who
retires on or after his normal retirement date. Defendants claim
that § 2.1 does not apply because Plaintiff did not retire on or
after her normal retirement date. Section 2.2 provides for an
"Early Retirement Allowance" that is payable to participants who
are "age 55 with at least 5 years of vesting service." Based on
Plaintiff's allegation that she is less than 55 years old,
Plaintiff is not eligible for benefits provided by § 2.2.
The final benefit, § 2.3 provides for a "Deferred Vested
Retirement Allowance" that is payable "annually" to a
participant, on his Normal Retirement Date, "who has not attained
the age of 55, but who has completed at least five years of
Vesting Service and whose employment with an Employer is
terminated." Section 2.3 defines Deferred Vested Retirement as
the sum of the Member's Basic Vested Retirement Allowance and the
Contributory Deferred Vested Retirement Allowance.
Defendants insist that they calculated Plaintiff's lump sum
benefit in accordance with § 2.3 of Supplement B. Plaintiff
alleges that she received a lump sum payment. Neither § 5 of the
Bank One Plan or § 2.3 of Supplement B describe the calculation
of a lump sum payment. Rather, § 2.3 defines the "annual amount"
of the Deferred Vested Retirement Allowance. Clearly, none of the
sections identified by Defendants can be used to calculate a lump
sum payment. In fact, no lump sum formula is found anywhere in
the Bank One Plan, except § 1.7, which defines the Lump Sum Value
of the NBD Benefit. The Bank One Plan, however, does not specify
the time at which a participant is entitled to receive the lump
sum value of the NBD Benefit defined in § 1.7. Indeed, the Bank
One Plan does not provide a method for calculating any lump sum
payment that a participant is eligible for. Thus, Plaintiff
properly alleges that the lump sum payment she received was
calculated according to a formula not contained in the plan.
Defendants claim that § 1.7 does not apply because it is simply
a definition and does not provide any entitlement to Plaintiff.
The Bank One Plan, though, must be read as a whole and all the
provisions, including definitions, should be given effect. See
Ryan v. Chromalloy American Corp., 877 F.2d 598, 604 (7th
Cir. 1989). As noted, § 1.7 is the only section that discusses a
method of calculating a lump sum payment. While it is unclear
whether § 1.7 applies to the calculation of Plaintiff's lump sum
payment, this Court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of
the Plaintiff. Midwest Grinding Co. v. Spitz, 976 F.2d 1016,
1019 (7th Cir. 1992). Therefore, it is rational that
Plaintiff alleges that § 1.7 provides the proper calculation for
the lump sum benefit that should have been received by Plaintiff
because this is the only section that discusses lump sum benefits
of an NBD Benefit. As a result, the allegations contained in the
complaint are sufficient to make a claim that § 1.7 should have
been used to calculate the lump sum payment that Plaintiff was
entitled to receive.
The Amended Complaint is commensurate with the notice pleading
requirement of Federal Court. See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). Notice
pleading requires a "short and plain statement" sufficient to
give the Defendants fair notice of the claims and grounds on
which relief is sought. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
(1957). Plaintiff's allegation are enough to put Defendants on
notice that the lump sum retirement benefit Plaintiff received
was calculated according to a formula not contained in the Bank
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