United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MILTON I. SHADUR, Senior District Judge.
Eric Berg ("Berg") brings this breach of contract action against New York Life Insurance Company ("New York Life") and Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("Unum") (New York Life and Unum are collectively "Insurers"), alleging that Insurers have refused to pay the full disability benefits due under the contractual terms of two insurance policies ("Policies") that Berg purchased from New York Life. Although Insurers provided Berg with total disability benefits between (1) the February 2010 date when he started to see a doctor for his disability and requested Policy benefits and (2) the September 2010 date on which he started work as a financial advisor, Berg contends both that he is entitled to benefits dating back to the 2007 date when he left his job as a pit broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2007 and that he continues to be entitled to such benefits even after starting his new job.
Berg has filed the current motion to narrow the issues pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 16, seeking rulings (1) that the Policies do not require that Berg be under the care of a doctor as of his alleged disability onset date, so long as he was under a doctor's care as of the date he applied for disability benefits, (2) that Berg's occupation at the onset of his disability was that of a pit broker rather than that of an unemployed person (as Unum has asserted) and (3) that Berg's entitlement to benefits dates back to when he ceased working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in September 2007. With those issues having been teed up for decision by the parties' submissions, this opinion turns to the task.
Rule 16 Issue-Narrowing Standard
Resolution of issues as a matter of law, although neither expressly provided for under Rule 16 nor an appropriate subject for a motion for partial summary judgment under Rule 56, can play the role of a useful adjunct toward facilitating the disposition of a case. And if such an undertaking is initiated, it makes sense to apply familiar Rule 56 principles to frame the legal analysis.
Those principles impose on the movant the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact ( Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). For that purpose courts consider the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to nonmovants and draw all reasonable inferences in their favor ( Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co. , 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002)). Courts "may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts" in resolving such motions ( Payne v. Pauley , 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003)). But a nonmovant must produce more than "a mere scintilla of evidence" to support the position that a genuine issue of material fact exists, and "must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial" ( Wheeler v. Lawson , 539 F.3d 629, 634 (7th Cir. 2008)).
Berg was self-employed as a commodity pit broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange until September 2007. He purchased the two essentially identical Policies (Exs. 1 and 2) from New York Life in 1991 and 1994 respectively. Each Policy is now administered by Unumand entitles Berg to fixed monthly disability income benefits if he is totally disabled, or to a prorated amount if he has a less than total (or "residual") disability. Both total and residual disability are defined by the Policies:
Total Disability means that the Insured cannot do the substantial and material duties of his or her regular job. The cause of total disability must be an injury or a sickness.
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Residual Disability... means that due to an injury or a sickness as defined in this policy, the Insured:
(a) is not able to do one or more of the substantial and material duties of his or her regular job; or
(b) directly and apart from any other cause, has a loss of income as defined in this ...