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Knowles v. United Healthcare Services

May 19, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar United States District Judge


Plaintiff Heather Knowles ("Plaintiff") is suing Defendant United HealthCare Services, Inc. ("Defendant") for violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Before this Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

I. FACTS*fn1

Both parties have failed to comply strictly with the Local Rules in presenting the facts of this case. In responding to Defendant's statement of material facts, Plaintiff omitted specific references to supporting materials when contradicting certain facts;*fn2 failed to respond to other facts with a denial or an admission;*fn3 and admitted still other facts, but improperly included additional facts or arguments with the admission.*fn4 See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) (the opposing party shall file a "response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon"); Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) ("All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party."). The consequence of these improper responses is that, for each, Defendant's version of the facts is deemed admitted. See McGuire v. United Parcel Service, 152 F.3d 673, 675 (7th Cir. 1998) ("An answer that does not deny the allegations in the numbered paragraph with citations to supporting evidence in the record constitutes an admission."); id. ("We will not take into consideration those additional facts improperly inserted into [the parties'] pleadings."); Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 F.2d 363, 369 (7th Cir. 1992) ("Any facts asserted by the movant and not contradicted in the manner specified by the rule are deemed admitted."); id. ("[A] responsive statement that is a flat denial, without reference to supporting materials, or with incorrect or improper references, and containing irrelevant additional facts, has no standing . . . .").

Defendant's response to Plaintiff's statement of additional facts is also lacking. Defendant responded to each fact that it disputes with mere citation to Northern District of Illinois or Seventh Circuit case law. Defendant failed to indicate to the Court the nature of its objection, leaving the Court to guess whether Defendant disputes the fact's materiality, or its relevance, or its truth. The Court repeats the rule stated above: "An answer that does not deny the allegations in the numbered paragraph with citations to supporting evidence in the record constitutes an admission." McGuire, 152 F.3d at 675; see also Local Rules 56.1(a),(b)(3)(B). Thus, with the exception of Plaintiff's additional facts that Defendant's statement of material facts already encompasses, for every one of Plaintiff's additional facts that Defendant disputes with mere reference to case law, Plaintiff's additional fact is deemed admitted.


Plaintiff was born on July 4, 1959. She began working for Defendant in August of 1995 as Director of Billing and Banking in California. Thereafter, from July through October of 1997, Plaintiff worked on a temporary basis as a project manager for Defendant's local health plan in Chicago.

In December of 2002, Plaintiff joined Defendant's Clinical Operations medical management expense team in Chicago. She was a Senior Medical Expense Analyst until December of 2003, when she was told that a reorganization of the Clinical Operations Group would take place and she should apply for up to three other positions to retain her employment. Defendant ultimately offered Plaintiff all three positions to which she applied-Manager of Employer Group Benefits, Consultant of Employer Group Benefits, and Senior Regional Utilization Specialist. Plaintiff contends that she was considered the top or second candidate for each position, and different managers fought to have her join their teams. She accepted the third position, Senior Regional Utilization Specialist.

Senior Regional Utilization Specialist

Plaintiff began her transition to her new position on February 16, 2004. The position was in the Hospital Utilization unit of the Healthcare Affordability department in the Clinical Operations Group.Defendant planned to staff this new unit with three specialists, each of whom was responsible for monitoring utilization and expenses for the hospital and facilities in his or her assigned demographic area. Plaintiff's responsibilities included analyzing information that she pulled from a data warehouse system, and making recommendations based on those analyses.

Defendant hired Carrie Cooper ("Cooper") and Alan Stacy ("Stacy") as Senor Regional Utilization Specialists in March of 2004 and May of 2004, respectively. Consequently, by May of 2004, there were three Senor Regional Utilization Specialists, including Plaintiff, in Plaintiff's unit. All three reported to Dr. Norm Ryan ("Dr. Ryan"), Medical Director.

Plaintiff's Work for Ralph O'Brien

Ralph O'Brien ("O'Brien"), Director of Delivery Systems, is a member of the senior management for the Clinical Operations Group, and is therefore responsible for Healthcare Affordability.

Plaintiff worked directly with O'Brien on a presentation that he gave to the Medical Cost Oversight Group ("MCOG") in June or July of 2004. The MCOG is comprised of senior level executives, including the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Medical Officer.

Plaintiff was responsible for performing analyses to determine the impact that having nurses on-site had on utilization of services. Plaintiff's analysis, based on the data she pulled and the criteria she was given, showed that on-site nurses did not impact utilization.

According to Defendant, O'Brien questioned the accuracy of Plaintiff's results in at least two conversations. Specifically, Plaintiff's analysis contained conflicting data points, and Plaintiff re-performed the analysis several times but arrived at a different, clearly incorrect result each time. Defendant further maintains that, the night before O'Brien's presentation, he found several errors in Plaintiff's formulas and discovered that Plaintiff "cut and pasted" data in cells, causing some of the errors. Although O'Brien personally made corrections in the spreadsheet that night, he was not confident that the analysis was error-free or that the supporting data was valid. He testified that he had to present the data to the MCOG with the caveat that the data was still being verified. O'Brien believed that Plaintiff's mistakes set the project back for him and his entire team, and that their credibility was damaged in front of the MCOG.

According to Plaintiff, O'Brien merely had a brief discussion or two with Plaintiff about the mistakes in two calculations and the one incorrect formula they discovered upon proofreading the report. Plaintiff admits that the information she provided to O'Brien contained these two mistakes and the one incorrect formula. Plaintiff maintains that she was never told that O'Brien had to recalculate the cells in her report before his presentation.

Plaintiff's Termination

In July of 2004, Defendant identified the need to reduce operating expenses by forty million dollars to sustain profitability. O'Brien was asked to determine if the Healthcare Affordability department could be reorganized to reduce costs. He did so, and an analysis showed that the Hospital Utilization and Physician Utilization units could be consolidated into one team that focused on overall utilization management. The consolidation would reduce duplication of work and hospital data sharing activities. O'Brien also believed that by consolidating the two units, he could eliminate one Senior Regional Utilization Specialist position.

Accordingly, O'Brien decided that the Hospital Utilization unit would be eliminated and the duties performed by its Senior Regional Utilization Specialists would be absorbed by the single, remaining team. O'Brien worked with Defendant's human resources group to determine which specialist would be eliminated in accordance with the company's guidelines on downsizing. The guidelines for managers to follow when selecting individuals for a reduction in force ("RIF") are found in the company's "Downsizing Analysis." Defendant maintains that the Downsizing Analysis is an objective method that allows managers to select the individuals best qualified to remain with Defendant so that it can achieve its business objectives. As a part of this process, a manager ...

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