United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 10, 2004.
JULIE CLARK, Plaintiff,
HEWITT ASSOCIATES, LLC, an Illinois limited liability company, and HEWITT ASSOCIATES LIFE INSURANCE PLAN, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MORAN, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In our Memorandum Opinion and Order dated October 22, 2004, we
granted summary judgment for defendants Hewitt Associates, LLC
and Hewitt Associates Life Insurance Plan (collectively Hewitt),
in this Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) case.
Plaintiff Julie Clark now brings a motion to reconsider.*fn1
Her motion is denied.
A party can bring a motion for reconsideration to correct
errors of law or fact, or present newly discovered evidence.
See Bordelon v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees,
233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing LB Credit Corp. v.
Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263 (7th Cir. 1995)). "A
motion for reconsideration performs a valuable function where the
Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision
outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the
parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of
apprehension." Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales,
Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990). Motions for reconsideration should not
serve to introduce new legal theories for the first time.
Publishers Resource, Inc. v. Walker-Davis Publications, Inc.,
762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985); Pickett v. Prince,
5 F.Supp.2d 595, 597 (N.D.Ill. 1998).
Though plaintiff does not seek to introduce new theories, she
does try to revive old theories with new citations to ERISA law.
In her amended complaint, plaintiff brought a count for "Failure
to provide an explanation of benefits, failure to provide summary
plan description and breach of fiduciary duty in violation of
ERISA" (Count I), as well as a contract claim (Count II) and a
state law claim (Count III). The court dismissed Counts II and
III due to ERISA preemption, but found that Count I survived
under one theory plaintiff could seek benefits due to her under
the terms of her husband's optional life insurance policy,
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). Count I failed to state a
claim under the other theories plaintiff presented. Despite this
holding, plaintiff continues to argue that she is entitled to
relief because Hewitt did not provide her husband, Thomas Clark
(Clark), with a summary plan description.
In her response to defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff
argued that, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1)(B), she was
entitled to life insurance benefits because of defendants'
failure to provide her husband with documents containing the
terms of his optional life insurance policy. As explained in our
decision, this claim failed because § 1132(c)(1)(B) imposes
liability on plan administrators who fail or refuse to comply
with a "request for any information which such administrator is
required by this subchapter to furnish to a participant," and
plaintiff did not allege that her husband requested any
information. Plaintiff recast this argument in response to
defendants' motion for summary judgment. Aware that the suicide
limitation in her husband's optional life insurance policy did
not entitle her to benefits, she maintained that state law and estoppel barred defendants from denying her
benefits since her husband did not receive a summary plan
document or insurance policy. The court considered and rejected
these arguments, finding that the state law, 215 ILCS 5/2(e), did
not apply and the elements for estoppel under federal common
law were not met. We further noted that while it was unknown
whether Clark received any policy documents from Hewitt, it was
undisputed that the summary plan description was available on an
online database for Hewitt employees and that the description
notified participants how to get plan documents containing actual
In her motion for reconsideration, plaintiff now argues that
summary judgment was improper because there was no proof that a
summary plan description was provided to Clark. Plaintiff cites
to certain sections of ERISA (29 U.S.C. §§ 1021(a), 1024(b)) for
the first time, as well as to federal regulations. Plaintiff does
not, however, cite any new law supporting the contention that a
participant's failure to receive a summary plan description
renders policy terms unenforceable. In fact, plaintiff's entire
motion is devoid of any citations to case law, other than a
reference to a case cited by the court in support of its ruling.
Plaintiff fails to direct the court to any newly discovered
evidence or error of apprehension that would require
reconsideration of her argument regarding 215 ILCS 5/2(e), or
estoppel, under the federal common law of ERISA.
Nonetheless, we will briefly consider plaintiff's reconfigured
argument. Even if plaintiff could prove that defendants violated
ERISA by failing to furnish a summary plan description or some
other policy document, plaintiff would not be entitled to
benefits. The Seventh Circuit has declared that procedural
violations of ERISA entitle plaintiff to monetary relief "only in
exceptional cases," where the employer acted in bad faith,
actively concealed the benefit plan, or induced their employees to rely on a faulty plan
summary. Kreutzer v. A.O. Smith Corp., 951 F.2d 739, 743
(7th Cir. 1991) (citing Blau v. Del Monte Corp.,
748 F.2d 1348, 1353 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 865 (1985);
Govoni v. Bricklayers, Masons & Plasters, 732 F.2d 250, 252
(1st Cir. 1984)); see also Jackson v. E.J. Brach Corp.,
176 F.3d 971, 979 (7th Cir. 1999) ("Under ERISA, technical
violations do not create a right to monetary relief."). In
Kreutzer, the Seventh Circuit denied any relief to plaintiff
employees despite the defendant employer's failure to furnish
summary plan descriptions. 951 F.2d at 744. The court noted that
the defendant notified the employees where they could find the
plan and there was no evidence that defendant acted in bad faith
or attempted to conceal its policy. Id. at 745. Clark has never
alleged that Hewitt acted in bad faith or attempted to conceal
its policy. Furthermore, as we discussed in our prior opinion
granting summary judgment, an online database for Hewitt
employees allowed them to access summary plan descriptions and
informed them how to get further information about the terms of
their insurance policies. Plaintiff's bald assertion that Eileen
Grant's deposition creates an issue of fact regarding whether
defendants acted in bad faith, actively concealed the terms of
the plan, or induced reliance on a faulty summary is baseless.
Of course, even before we reach the question of whether
plaintiff would be entitled to any relief, she would need to
establish that defendant violated ERISA. Defendants' alleged
violation is the failure to provide a summary plan description in
accordance with ERISA provisions. In her motion to reconsider
plaintiff cites 29 U.S.C. § 1021(a), which requires plan
administrators to furnish summary plan descriptions to
participants in accordance with § 1024(b). That section requires
the administrator to furnish the summary plan description "within
90 days after he becomes a participant. . . ." According to the
undisputed facts, Clark began receiving coverage under the optional and basic life
insurance plans on January 1, 2002. He committed suicide
twenty-eight days later, on January 29, 2002. Therefore, at the
time of Clark's death, when there was no longer a participant to
whom Hewitt could deliver a summary plan description, the plan
administrator still had sixty-two days to fulfill its obligation
under 29 U.S.C. § 1024(b).
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion is denied.