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Walton v. Nigpp

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

March 24, 2014

WILLIE J. WALTON, Plaintiff,
N.I.G.P.P., and N.I.G.P.P. BOARD OF TRUSTEES, Defendants.


GEORGE M. MAROVICH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Willie J. Walton ("Walton") filed a pro se complaint. He seeks relief with respect to his pension benefits under the National Integrated Group Pension Plan ("NIGPP") or the "Plan"). Defendants NIGPP and NIGPP Board of Trustees (the "Trustees") have filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

Local Rule 56.1 outlines the requirements for the introduction of facts parties would like considered in connection with a motion for summary judgment. The Court enforces Local Rule 56.1 strictly. Facts that are argued but do not conform with the rule are not considered by the Court. For example, facts included in a party's brief but not in its statement of facts are not considered by the Court because to do so would rob the other party of the opportunity to show that such facts are disputed. Where one party supports a fact with admissible evidence and the other party fails to controvert the fact with citation to admissible evidence, the Court deems the fact admitted. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-818 (7th Cir. 2004). This does not, however, absolve the party putting forth the fact of its duty to support the fact with admissible evidence. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012). In this case, plaintiff Walton did not file a response to defendants' statement of facts. The Court has carefully reviewed defendants' statement of facts and has deemed admitted only those asserted facts supported by deposition testimony, documents, affidavits or other evidence admissible for summary judgment purposes.

The following facts are undisputed.

Plaintiff Walton turned 65 years of age in January 2012. Earlier in his life, from October 1, 1988 through December 31, 1989, he had been employed by American Steel Container Corporation ("American Steel").

At the time, American Steel was a signatory to a Collective Bargaining Agreement between it and the United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers Local 759. American Steel also signed a Participation Agreement with defendant NIGPP.

NIGPP is a multiemployer defined benefit pension plan governed by ERISA. Employers can participate in the NIGPP pension plan by signing both a collective bargaining agreement with a participating union and a participation agreement with NIGPP. Based on the terms of the respective collective bargaining and participation agreements, participating employers contribute to the Plan, and the contributions are held in common trust for the payment of benefits to participants. The Plan sets forth a claims procedure whereby participants can dispute benefit decisions or other rights under the Plan. Section 9.01 of the Plan states, in relevant part:

The decisions of the Board in all matters pertaining to the administration of the Plan shall be final. The Board shall have the Power to resolve all disputes and ambiguities relating to the interpretation of the Plan, and the application of the terms of the Plan to any circumstances and the decisions of the Board in all such matters will be final.

(NIGPP at IX-1).

American Steel participated in NIGPP from 1967 until 1993. During that time, it made contributions on behalf of at least some of its employees. Walton earned one benefit unit service credit with NIGPP for his employment with American Steel.

American Steel withdrew from NIGPP in 1993. Under the Participation Agreement in effect at the time American Steel withdrew, the benefit level for each benefit unit earned by a participating employee was $8.10 per month. At the time that American Steel withdrew, the Plan stated that if the terminating employer's proportionate share of the plan's assets was greater than the amount required to pay pensions to vested participants of that employer, any excess would be used to provide a pension to certain participants who were not otherwise vested. The upshot was that Walton, whose benefit was not otherwise vested, would from that day forward be treated as vested for the pension level equivalent of one benefit unit.

No other participating employer ever contributed to NIGPP on behalf of Walton. Thus, he never accrued any additional benefit units under the Plan.

On March 18, 1994, NIGPP sent Walton a letter to inform him that he would be eligible for a pension of $8.10 per month when he turned 65 years of age. In early 2011, Walton requested an estimate of his NIGPP pension. NIGPP sent him a letter in which it stated that Walton's ...

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