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Sharon Murray v. Nationwide Better Health

July 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, United States District Judge.

Monday, 11 July, 2011 09:08:02 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This cause is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Stay Proceedings Including Discovery Pending the Decision on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Other Relief (Motion to Stay) (d/e 111), Plaintiff's Emergency Motion to Strike and/or Deny Defendant's Motion to Stay (Motion to Strike) (d/e 116), and Plaintiff's Motion for Continuance to Complete Discovery (Motion for Continuance) (d/e 121). On June 24, 2011, U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore took under advisement the Motion to Stay and the Motion to Strike. This Court now GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Motion to Stay, the Motion to Strike, and the Motion to Continue.


Defendant Nationwide Better Health was the third-party administrator who handled Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.) and short term disability claims for Plaintiff's employer AT&T Mobility, LLC (AT&T). Defendants Cynthia Northrup and Barbara Ley were employees of Nationwide Better Health.

In 2008, AT&T terminated Plaintiff Sharon Murray for absenteeism. Thereafter, Plaintiff sued AT&T for violations of the FMLA and ADA. Plaintiff alleged: (1) AT&T improperly interfered with her rights under the FMLA by miscalculating her FMLA usage and improperly retaliated against her for using FMLA leave; and (2) violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to grant her an accommodation and by refusing to rehire her with accommodations. In September 2009, summary judgment was granted in favor of AT&T, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. See Murray v. AT&T Mobility, 2009 WL 2985721 (C.D. Ill. 2009) (granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the federal claims and declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims); aff'd, 374 Fed. Appx. 667 (7th Cir. 2010) (hereinafter, "the AT&T litigation").

In October 2010, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint against Nationwide Better Health, Northrup, and Ley. The Complaint alleges violations of the FMLA, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq.) (ERISA), violations of her Constitutional rights, and various state-law claims.*fn1 The Complaint also alleges a perjury claim pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1621 and 28 U.S.C. § 1746. The factual basis of the Complaint is primarily based on Plaintiff's belief that (1) Northrup provided intentionally misleading information regarding the authenticity of a document presented in the AT&T litigation and (2) records were not preserved. Plaintiff asserts that the failure to properly preserve documents has caused her "significant harm, damages, including employee health benefits and her rights to future benefits under ERISA." As relief, Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $500,000 and punitive damages.

On June 22, 2011, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants assert they are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on the FMLA claims because: (1) the claims are barred by the doctrine of issue preclusion because Plaintiff has already litigated the issues in her FMLA claims in the AT&T litigation; (2) Nationwide Better Health was not Plaintiff's employer as defined by the FMLA; (3) the FMLA claims are barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Defendants assert they are entitled to summary judgment on the ERISA claims because: (1) Plaintiff's claims have nothing to do with an ERISA plan or any fiduciary duty to an ERISA plan; (2) Defendants are not covered by any of the ERISA sections cited by Plaintiff; (3) Plaintiff's ERISA claims are for spoliation of records and she has not alleged facts to support claims under ERISA; and (4) Plaintiff did not assert a civil enforcement provision under ERISA under which she alleges her ERISA claims.

Finally, Defendants claim they are entitled to summary judgment on: (1) the Constitutional claims because Defendants are not state actors;

(2) the perjury claims because the statutes upon which Plaintiff relies do not provide a private right of action; and (3) the state law claims, to the extent the Court exercises supplemental jurisdiction, because the facts alleged do not support the claim.


On June 22, 2011, Defendants filed the Motion to Stay, asking that the Court stay all proceedings, including discovery, until the Court decided Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant assert a stay would be appropriate because the Motion for Summary Judgment is primarily based on the legal standards of the various causes of action.

Plaintiff objects to the Motion to Stay. In her Motion to Strike, Plaintiff asserts a stay would prejudice and tactically disadvantage her and would provide no benefit in the form of simplifying the issues for trial. Plaintiff further asserts that permitting discovery to proceed would allow her to obtain information that supports her claims that (1) she had not exhausted her FMLA leave; ...

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