Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

TIGER v. AT & T TECHS. PLAN FOR EMPLES. PENSION

April 18, 1986

BARRY I. TIGER, Plaintiff,
v.
AT & T TECHNOLOGIES PLAN FOR EMPLOYEES' PENSION, DISABILITY BENEFITS (formerly Western Electric Plan for Employees' Pensions, Disability Benefits and Death Benefits) and AT & T TECHNOLOGIES, INC. (formerly Western Electric Co., Inc.), Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCLAUGHLIN

McLAUGHLIN, District Judge

This is an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). 29 U.S.C. ยง 1001 et seq. (1976). Plaintiff seeks damages arising out of the denial of his claim for disability benefits allegedly owing him under the terms of the defendant employee benefit plan ("the Plan"). Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Plan. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

 Facts

 From January 1957 until September 1979, plaintiff was employed by Western Electric Co., Inc., the predecessor of defendant AT&T Technologies, Inc. (hereinafter collectively referred to as "AT&T-TI"). As such, plaintiff was an eligible participant in the defendant Plan.

 On March 13, 1978, plaintiff suffered a work-related injury. From March 14, 1978 to approximately September 6, 1979, he remained off the job receiving disability benefits under the Plan.

 Sometime in 1979, AT&T-TI determined that plaintiff was fit to return to a light-duty position. Accordingly, plaintiff twice was directed to report to work. When plaintiff failed to respond to his employer's directives, he was deemed to have resigned his position, and his disability benefits ceased.

 Shortly thereafter, plaintiff filed a claim for further benefits. By certified letter dated August 19, 1980, plaintiff was notified that his claim was denied by the Plan's Northeastern Region Area Benefit Committee. The letter indicated that plaintiff had 60 days in which to submit a written appeal of the Committee's decision. *fn1"

 Plaintiff did not appeal the denial of his claim within the requisite 60-day period. Indeed, plaintiff waited until November 27, 1983 -- more than three years later -- before requesting reconsideration of the Committee's action. Plaintiff's request for reconsideration was rejected as untimely. Accordingly, this action ensued.

 Discussion

 Defendants concede that plaintiff's complaint is not barred by the applicable six-year statute of limitations. See Defendants' Reply Memorandum at 6 n.8. Defendants maintain, however, that by failing to file an administrative appeal within the time prescribed by the Plan, plaintiff has waived his right to judicial review of his underlying claim for benefits.

 Not surprisingly, plaintiff argues that his failure to comply with the 60-day time limit cannot bar his request for judicial review. Alternatively, plaintiff asserts that, as a matter of equity, his failure to file a timely administrative appeal should be excused in light of his mistaken belief that his union was pursuing his claim. I will address plaintiff's arguments in turn.

 1. Waiver

 It is well-established that a claimant in an ERISA action must exhaust all available intra-plan remedies before seeking federal court review. See e.g., Amato v. Bernard, 618 F.2d 559, 567 (9th Cir. 1980); Revello v. Metropolitan Insurance Co., Civ. No. 84-2911 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 1984). In the typical case, the exhaustion doctrine is invoked to forestall premature resort to a judicial forum. However, this case presents the question whether the failure to exhaust administrative remedies within the time-frame set forth in the Plan may forever bar an action in this Court.

 Plaintiff relies, primarily, upon the Seventh Circuit's decision in Jenkins v. Local 705 International Brotherhood of Teamsters Pension Plan, 713 F.2d 247, 254 (7th Cir. 1983). The plan at issue in Jenkins contained a 60-day appeals provision similar to the one in this case. Notwithstanding the claimant's failure to appeal his claim within the 60-day period, the Seventh Circuit held that the claimant had exhausted his intra-plan remedies ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.