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Webb v. Gardner, Carton & Douglas LLP Long Term Disability Plan

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 22, 2012

Edward WEBB, Plaintiff,
v.
GARDNER, CARTON & DOUGLAS LLPLONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, Unum Life Insurance Company of America, and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, f/k/a Gardner, Carton & Douglas LLP, Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Martina Frank Brendel, Daley, Debofsky & Bryant, Mark D. DeBofsky, Chicago, IL, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Daniel J. Delaney, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Kimberly Ann Jones, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Chicago, IL, David R. Levin Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, Washington, D.C., Mark E. Schmidtke, Eric P. Mathisen, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Valparaiso, IN, Attorney for Defendants: Gardner, Carton & Douglas LLP Long Term Disability Plan Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MILTON I. SHADUR, Senior District Judge.

Edward Webb (" Webb" ), formerly an equity partner in law firm Gardner, Carton & Douglas LLP (" Gardner Carton" ) (now merged into Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (" Drinker" )), has brought an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (" ERISA," 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461) [1] against Gardner, Carton & Douglas LLP Long Term Disability Plan (the " Plan" ), Unum Life Insurance Company of America (" Unum" ) and Drinker. Drinker and the Plan have filed a joint motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. (" Rule" ) 12(b)(6),

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and Unum has filed its own Rule 12(b)(6) motion. For the reasons explained in this opinion, all three of Webb's claims are dismissed as untimely.

Rule 12(b)(6) Standards

Under Rule 12(b)(6) a party may move for dismissal of a complaint for " failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." By now it is stale news that over five years ago Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562-63, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) repudiated as overly broad the then half-century-old formulation in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) " that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Instead Twombly, id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 teaches that a complaint must provide " only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Or put otherwise, " [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level" ( id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) have since provided further Supreme Court enlightenment on the issue.

Familiar Rule 12(b)(6) principles— still operative under the new pleading regime— require this Court to accept as true all of Webb's well-pleaded factual allegations, with all reasonable inferences drawn in his favor (Christensen v. County of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 457 (7th Cir.2007) (per curiam)). What follows in this opinion adheres to those principles.[2]

Background

Until May 16, 2002 Webb was an equity partner at Gardner Carton (Cmplt. ¶ 14) and was also a member of the ERISA-regulated Plan— a group policy issued by Unum and administered by Gardner Carton ( id. ¶¶ 10, 34). In the event of a plan participant's long term disability, the Plan provided monthly cash benefits based on the participant's salary and— before 2002, anyway— capped at $15,000 (Ex. G).

In January 2002 Gardner Carton equity partners gained access to an individual disability income policy (the " IDI Plan" ) that provided a monthly payment of $6,500 to the disabled ( id.; Cmplt. ¶ 10). Defendants do not dispute that the IDI Plan payments were a supplement to the Plan (see U. Mem. 2; D. Mem. 2), but the parties disagree about the maximum allowable benefits. After the 2002 alteration to the insurance scheme, the Plan language still indicated that its payments were capped at $15,000 (Ex. A), suggesting a total monthly disability cap of $21,500 for equity partners.

To the contrary, defendants have continually asserted that the post-January 2002 Plan was actually supposed to have a monthly cap of $8,500 and that the $15,000 Plan maximum was a drafting error (Cmplt. ¶ 20). That is evidenced, defendants suggest, by two letters allegedly sent to the plan participants— one in December 2001 and one in April 2002— explaining the changes to the insurance scheme and placing the Plan's monthly maximum at $8,500 (Exs. F and G). But Webb contends that he never saw those letters until January 2003 (W. Resp. U. 2).

On May 15, 2002 Webb experienced a heart attack— his second— and permanently ceased his work at Gardner Carton

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(Cmplt. ¶ 14). He began receiving both the Plan and IDI Plan benefits on December 20, 2002 (retroactive to November 12, 2002), but his request for waiver of life insurance premiums was denied ( id. ¶ 16). Unum calculated that Webb would receive $14,124.95 monthly under the Plan and $6,500 monthly under the IDI Plan ( id. ). In January 2003 Gardner Carton informed both Webb and Unum that it believed Webb was being overpaid ( id. ¶ 19), with Gardner Carton's executive director Michael Marget (" Marget" ) sending a January 15 letter to Unum explaining that the Plan contained a drafting error, that Gardner Carton intended the maximum monthly benefit under the Plan to be $8,500 and ...


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