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Sharon Murray v. Nationwide Better Health

January 12, 2012

SHARON MURRAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONWIDE BETTER HEALTH, BARBARA LEY, AND CYNTHIA NORTHRUP, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge:

E-FILED Thursday, 12 January, 2012 02:59:09 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Sharon Murray's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint and Joinder of Parties (d/e 158). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.

Plaintiff Sharon Murray seeks leave to file an amended complaint that amends her claims against Defendants Nationwide Better Health, Barbara Ley, and Cynthia Northrup (Current Defendants), and adds additional Defendants Cingular/AT&T IDCS Benefit Plan, AT&T Mobility f/k/a Cingular Wireless (AT&T), Gaye Ann Pusch, Darlene Webster, and Sedgwick CMS (Proposed Defendants) (collectively All Defendants). Murray's proposed amended complaint, entitled Pro Se Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (d/e 159-62) (Proposed Amended Complaint), seeks to allege claims against All Defendants under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq., and 2601 et seq. She also makes reference to Constitutional violations and violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 29 U.S.C. § 794. She also alleges a number of common law and Illinois state statutory claims against All Defendants.

Leave to amend pleadings is to be freely given when justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The Court may deny leave to file an amendment to a complaint when the amendment would be futile or cause undue delay. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The Defendants object to the proposed amended pleading because the amendment would cause undue delay and because the additional claims would be futile.

Defendants complain that they have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 108) on June 22, 2011, and have been trying to get a resolution of that motion. They argue that the Proposed Amended Complaint would create an undue delay by forcing them to start over. They are correct that the filing of the Proposed Amended Complaint would moot the pending Motion for Summary Judgment. The Defendants could revive the Motion for Summary Judgment within fourteen days. Local Rule 7.1(E). The Proposed Amended Complaint, however, alleges claims against the existing Defendants in a substantially different manner and adds additional claims. The Defendants would be forced the rewrite the Motion for Summary Judgment in light of these differences. Allowing the amendment at this juncture could delay the Current Defendants' efforts to secure a resolution of their request for summary judgment.

The joinder of the Proposed Defendants would also complicate the case and could cause delays in the resolution of the issues raised in the Current Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion. The Motion for Summary Judgment has been pending for over six months, and the current Defendants are entitled to a resolution of that motion. At this point, allowing Murray to file the Proposed Amended Complaint would cause undue delay in the resolution of the pending summary judgment motion. See e.g., Groth v. Orkin Exterminating Co., Inc., 909 F.Supp. 1143, 1148 (C.D. Ill. 1995) (The fact that the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment "alone supports the Court's decision to deny the Motion for Leave to Amend.") citing Sanders v. Venture Stores, Inc., 56 F.3d 771, 774-75 (7th Cir. 1995)).

Filing the Proposed Amended Complaint also would be futile. Murray's claims arise from her employment with AT&T. That employment ended in 2008. She sued AT&T regarding these matters in this Court and lost. Murray v. At&T Mobility LLC, Case No. 08-CV-3159, Judgment entered September 16, 2009 (case no. 08-CV-3159 d/e 70). The decision was affirmed on appeal. Murray v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 374 Fed. Appx. 667 (7th Cir. 2010) rehearing and rehearing en banc denied (May 17, 2010). The judgment is final and bars all claims against AT&T based on the same core of operative facts that were or could have been brought in that action. Smith v. City of Chicago, 820 F.2d 916, 917 (7th Cir. 1987). Thus, Murray's efforts to name AT&T as a defendant in this case is futile. She attempts to allege some continuing violations of her rights as an employee of AT&T, but the first case resolved the issue that her employment was terminated in 2008. Thus, AT&T does not have any obligations to her as an employer and she does not have any claim against AT&T as an employee. Her federal claims against AT&T would be futile.

Murray argues that the judgment in Case no. 08-CV-3159 is void due to fraud. A motion to set aside a judgment due to fraud, however, must be made within a year of the entry of the judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3); see Pantoja v. Texas and Transmission Corp., 890 F.2d 955, 960 (7th Cir. 1989). The judgment in Case no. 08-CV-3159 was entered on September 16, 2009, far more than a year ago. Murray, thus, will have a very difficult time challenging the judgment in Case No. 08-CV-3159 based on fraud.

Murray relies on the case of Long v. Shorebank Development Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 561 (7th Cir. 1999), for the proposition that a void judgment procured by fraud can be attacked at any time, in any court, either directly or collaterally. The Long case involved an Illinois state judgment, not a federal judgment on federal claims. The Long case further explained that the quoted rule of Illinois law applied to cases in which the court rendering the judgments lacked jurisdiction. If the court had jurisdiction, and the judgment was procured by fraudulent conduct of the parties during the proceedings, then the judgment would be voidable in Illinois, and could only be overturned by reopening the case in which the judgment was entered and attempting to get the judgment set aside in the case directly. Id.

This Court had both personal and subject matter jurisdiction in Case. 08-CV-3159. Murray's claims of fraud relate to conduct by the defendant in that case during the proceeding. Thus, even if Illinois law applied, Murray would need to reopen Case No. 08-CV-3159 and seek relief from that judgment. She could seek that relief under Rule 60(b), but as explained, a motion to set aside a judgment based on fraud would be untimely. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3).

Murray also argues that the judgment is otherwise void, but the Court does not see any reason that the judgment would be void. The Court had subject matter and personal jurisdiction, and the judgment has been affirmed on appeal. The judgment in Case no. 08-CV-3159 is final and resolved Murray's claims against AT&T. She lost. She cannot make AT&T defend again. Her proposed amended claims against AT&T then would be futile.

Murray alleges a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against All Defendants under ERISA. The fiduciary duty claims all appear to be futile. Congress enacted ERISA to protect employee benefits plans. 29 U.S.C. § 1101. Congress established that certain individuals and entities that manage and administer ERISA qualified employee benefit plans are fiduciaries that owed fiduciary duties to the plan and to the plan participants and beneficiaries. 29 U.S.C. §§ 1102-1109. The Proposed Amended Complaint alleges that Murray was a beneficiary under an ERISA qualified plan that provided short term disability benefits. She alleges that all of the defendants were fiduciaries under the plan. She alleges that she was denied benefits under the plan and that all ...


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