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Laskin v. Siegel

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 29, 2013

Sharon Laskin, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees,
Veronica Siegel, individually, and as trustee of the Phillip Siegel Revocable Trust Dated August 28, 1998, and as Executor of the Estate of Phillip P. Siegel, Defendant-Appellee, Cross-Appellant, and SMS Services, LLC, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Argued June 5, 2013

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 09 C 03749, Edmond E. Chang, Judge.

Before Easterbrook, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

Bauer, Circuit Judge.

In 1991, Jefco Laboratories terminated its Profit Sharing Plan. More than seventeen years later, Susan Laskin and Susan Isaacson filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, alleging that their rights were violated when the Jefco Laboratories' Profit Sharing Plan was terminated without distributing benefits to them. The district court granted summary judgment to the Defendants. We affirm.


In 1966, Sharon Laskin began working for Jefco Laboratories. As a Jefco employee, Laskin participated in the company pension plan. Laskin worked for Jefco until 1974, and by then, had accumulated a fully vested retirement account balance of $5, 976.09. After Laskin parted ways with the company, her account stopped growing at the "market rate" and started accruing at the "passbook rate"—the amount of interest earned on money deposited for one year in an ordinary savings account.

Shortly after Laskin left the company she contacted Philip Siegel, a trustee of the company pension plan, and asked if she could withdraw the funds in order to buy real estate. In April 1976, Philip Siegel sent Laskin a letter explaining that her account would accrue interest at the passbook rate and also notified her that the plan had been amended in 1975, and the retirement eligibility age had increased from fifty-five to sixty- five.

Over the next ten years, Laskin received account statements of her assets in the pension plan. The statements indicated that she was receiving anywhere from 5% to 5.5% interest on her balance. In 1988, Laskin contacted the controller of Jefco to update her contact information and ask for an updated account statement. The updated statement Laskin received indicated that as of March 31, 1988, her account balance was $12, 602.86.

The pension plan dissolved on December 31, 1991. In September 2008, seventeen years after the pension plan dissolved, Laskin contacted Jeffrey Siegel, Philip Siegel's son, to discuss her retirement account. (Jeffrey purchased Philip's interest in Jefco in 1994.) Laskin faxed Jeffrey documentation of her pension account and requested an updated account balance. Jeffrey informed Laskin that the pension plan had been dissolved, and its funds had been completely disbursed, and that she did not receive a payout because she could not be located.

In December 2008, Laskin contacted the Department of Labor, which advised Laskin to send a letter to Philip that sought to "officially appeal" the denial of her claim. In February 2009, Philip sent Laskin a letter that explained he was no longer in charge of Jefco because he had sold his interest to his son Jeffrey. In June 2009, Laskin filed suit against Philip, Jefco, the pension plan, and an unnamed pension plan administrator alleging breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. One year later, Laskin amended the complaint to include Jeffrey and his company, SMS Services, and add an additional plaintiff, Susan Isaacson. Isaacson is the widow of another pension plan beneficiary who also never received a payout.[1]

Philip Siegel died in November 2010. In June 2011, Laskin amended the complaint a second time, and replaced Philip with Veronica Siegel—the trustee of Philip's estate. SMS Technology and Vanguard Individual Retirement Account 29847011 (where Philip allegedly deposited the pension plan's assets) were also added as defendants.

On January 13, 2012, Laskin moved for summary judgment on all counts of the Second Amended Complaint. The Defendants also moved for summary judgment, claiming Laskin and Isaacson's claims were barred by ERISA's statute of limitations contained in 29 U.S.C. ยง 1113. On August 6, 2012, the district court denied Laskin's motion for summary judgment and granted the Defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that all of Laskin and Isaacson's claims were time barred. Laskin and Isaacson appeal the district court's order granting ...

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