United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge.
I. Introduction and Background
Pending before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment: Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 23) and defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 25). Based on the following, the record and the applicable case law, the Court grants defendants' motion and denies plaintiff's motion.
On March 4, 2014, plaintiff Joseph Lance filed a two-count first amended complaint against defendants Hubbell Incorporated and Hubbell Incorporated Retirement Plan for Collectively Bargained Hourly Employees in the Saint Clair County, Illinois Circuit Court (Doc. 2-1). Count 1 is for breach of contract and Count 2 is vexatious refusal pursuant to 21 ILCS 5/155. The first amended complaint contains a claim for disability benefits under an employer-sponsored retirement plan. On April 14, 2014, defendants timely removed the case to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as plaintiff's claims are pre-empted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et. seq. (Doc. 2). On May 9, 2014, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against defendants containing one count under ERISA (Doc. 18). The second amended complaint alleges that plaintiff is entitled to a benefit under the Plan for disability income; that defendants should not have deducted workers' compensation payments from any disability payment and that deductions amounted to approximately $175, 000. In addition to the $175, 000 in benefits, plaintiff seeks attorney's fees, costs, and pre/post judgment interest.
On August 25, 2014, plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment (Doc. 23). Plaintiff argues that the case has two issues: (1) the start of plaintiff's disability period and (2) whether defendants are entitled to an offset for workers' compensation benefits. Plaintiff maintains that defendants are not entitled to an offset and thus summary judgment should be entered in his favor. Shortly thereafter, defendants filed their motion for summary judgment (Doc. 25). Defendants argue that the Retirement Plan properly withheld plaintiff's workers' compensation benefits from his disability retirement benefit and that the Retirement Plan properly calculated the start of plaintiff's disability retirement benefit as the first month after his disability retirement date.
On September 25, 2014, the parties filed a joint stipulation (Doc. 30). The joint stipulation provides that the parties agree and stipulate to the following: (1) that plaintiff was terminated by Hubbell on February 3, 2012; (2) that as a result of the termination, plaintiff's retirement date, pursuant to the Plan was March 1, 2012; (3) on February 4, 2014, it was determined that plaintiff was disabled and therefore eligible for disability retirement benefits under the Plan; (4) plaintiff received disability benefits for the period from March 2012 to the present He received a lump sum retroactive payment (with interest) for the period from March 2012 to June 2014. Starting in July 2014, plaintiff began receiving monthly disability retirement benefits; and (5) that there are no issues of fact and that the only issue of law to be decided is that which is contained in the motions for summary judgment: whether the Plan's Retirement Committee was within its authority to deduct plaintiff's worker's compensation benefits from his disability retirement benefit. As the motions are fully briefed, the Court turns to address the merits of the motions.
Lance is a former Wiegmann Hubbell employee who eased his work duties for the company on September 30, 2008, though he remained employed by Hubbell. From November 2008 to July 2013, Lance received $1, 627.24 per month in workers' compensation payments. Lance settled his workers' compensation claim and received a lump sum payment of $99, 890 and after attorney's fees, Lance received $79, 234.91.
Lance was terminated from his employment on February 3, 2012. Prior to his termination in 2012, Lance continued to receive paid vacation, paid sick days and bonuses. In 2009, Lance received $2, 944.00 in paid vacation, $236.64 in paid sick days and a $25.00 Christmas bonus for a total of $3, 205.64. In 2010, Lance received $2, 422.40 in paid vacation, $242.24 in paid sick leave and $25.00 Christmas bonus for a total of $2, 689.64. In 2011, Lance received $2, 422.40 in paid vacation, $242.24 in paid sick days for a total of $2, 664.64. In 2012, Lance received a total of $2, 422.40 in paid vacation. In addition, from 2010-2011, Hubbell contributed $16, 667 to Lance's healthcare coverage.
On February 4, 2014, the Plan determined that Lance was eligible for disability retirement benefits under the Plan. On June 10, 2014, Lance was paid $3, 386.34, plus interest, for disability retirement benefits for the period of March 1, 2012-June 2014. In July 2014, Lance's regular monthly disability retirement benefit of $159.35 began.
III. Summary Judgment Standard
A motion for summary judgment asks that the Court find that a trial based on the uncontroverted and admissible evidence would-as a matter of law-conclude in the moving party's favor and is thus unnecessary. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c). When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must give the non-moving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidence submitted and resolve "any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial... against the moving party." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n. 2, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Nevertheless, "the Court's favor toward the non-moving party does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture." Singer v. Raemisch, 593 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir. 2010). The non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a material issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265. The key inquiry is the existence of evidence to support a plaintiff's claims or affirmative defenses, not the weight or credibility of that evidence, both of which are assessments reserved to the trier of fact. See Schacht v. Wis. Dep't of Corrections, 175 F.3d 497, 504 (7th Cir. 1999).
Cross-motions for summary judgment do not automatically mean that all questions of material fact have been resolved. Franklin v. City of Evanston, 384 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir. 2004). The Court must evaluate each motion independently, making all reasonable inferences in ...