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Paul Crane v. Charlotte Sartain

September 27, 2012

PAUL CRANE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLOTTE SARTAIN, THE PACKER GROUP, INC., ANF THE PACKER GROUP, INC. EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP PLAN AND TRUST, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

When Paul Crane was terminated from The Packer Group, Inc., he was told that although he had approximately $78,000.00 in vested shares in the company's employee stock ownership plan ("ESOP"), he would not be paid due to the company's unstable financial condition. Crane filed suit under various provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), alleging that the plan administrator failed to provide him with required documents, and that the defendants failed to pay him the benefits due him and breached their fiduciary duties to Crane.

Currently pending before the Court are the following motions:

(1) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. # 25];

(2) Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment Relating to New Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims [Dkt. # 37], which, in addition to the normal response and reply, includes a sur-reply and response to the sur-reply;

(3) Defendants' Cross-motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. # 40];

(4) Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment Relating to New Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims or, in the alternative, to Amend Complaint to Conform to Evidence [Dkt. # 44]; and

(5) Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Scurrilous Statements [Dkt. # 88].

For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Counts I and II is denied and as to Count III is granted. Crane's motion for summary judgment as to all claims is denied. The defendants' motion to strike Crane's motion for summary judgment relating to the new breach of fiduciary duty claims, Crane's motion to strike the defendant's motion to strike Crane's summary judgment motion relating to the breach of fiduciary duty claims, and Crane's motion to strike scurrilous statements are denied as moot.

I. Analysis

A. Crane's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment Crane filed suit alleging that: (1) Charlotte Sartain, as the plan administrator, failed to provide him with documents required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1024(b)(2)-(4) (Count I); (2) the defendants failed to pay Crane the benefits due him under the company's employee stock option plan in violation of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §1132(a)(1)(B) (Count II); and (3) the defendants breached their fiduciary duties to Crane in violation of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1104 (Count III). Crane and the defendants have cross-moved for summary judgment as to each claim.

1. Facts

The court notes at the outset that contrary to the requirements of Local Rule 5.2(f), Crane has submitted as courtesy copies to the Court three oversized binders of untabbed exhibits with no indexes. Crane's failure to abide by basic filing requirements has significantly increased the time this Court has spent addressing the merits of the pending motions.

The parties agree on certain facts as stated here. Other undisputed facts are discussed as necessary in the analysis section of the order. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the action involves application of ERISA and venue is proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because a substantial portion of the events giving rise to the complaint occurred in this district. Paul Crane was an employee of The Packer Group, Inc. ("TPG") until 2009 when his employment was terminated. (Defs.' Resp. Pl's. Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts, Dkt. # 42 ¶ 1.) TPG sponsors The Packer Group, Inc. ESOP, which is a tax qualified retirement plan under Title I of ERISA. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) While employed by TPG, Crane became a participant in the ESOP and has vested benefits in the ESOP in the form of TPG company shares. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Defendant Charlotte ...


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