process. Item 17, Exh. K. Again, Plaintiff claims there was no response.
GMC, as Defendant, moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff was not a GMC employee within the meaning of the Plan since he refused to comply with the "Return to Work Notice" delivered to him on December 6, 1983, which required him to report to work within 3 days, and Plaintiff therefore became a "voluntary quit" having "broke seniority" under § 111(b) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between GMC and the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America ("UAW") (the "National Agreement") (see Exhibits of Defendant GMC, Item 11(a), Exh. 1, pp. 83-84); (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his three-fold administrative remedies as provided in the National Agreement (id., pp. 26-43 (Grievance Procedures)), including his GMC contractual remedies, intra-Union remedies, or intra-Plan remedies; (3) Plaintiff has failed to join GMC, UAW, the GMC-UAW Joint Board of Plan Administration, and Metropolitan Life (the Plan's 2hunderwriter) as indispensable Parties pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b), and has improperly sued the Plan which is not a suable legal entity; and, (4) GMC's determinations that Plaintiff was not an eligible "employee" and that he could return to work are res judicata and beyond the applicable statutes of limitations (30 days under the Plan, or 6 months under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185), commencing December 12, 1983 (the date it was determined that Plaintiff was a "voluntary quit"). See Defendant's Brief in Support, Item 12.
In opposition (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, Item 18), Plaintiff argues that the instant action was clearly brought "to recover benefits due to him under the terms of the Plan, to enforce his rights under the terms of the Plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under the terms of the Plan" as provided in § 502 of ERISA. According to Plaintiff, he attempted to apply for disability pension benefits based on the fact that he was permanently and totally disabled prior to December 12, 1983--the date Defendant contends he was a "voluntary quit"--but was denied this attempt. Thus, according to Plaintiff, he was disabled while he was still emloyed by GMC, and was wrongfully denied the opportunity to recover benefits due him under the Plan in violation of ERISA, a claim wholly distinct from any claim that GMC breached the National Agreement when it made the "voluntary quit" determination (Item 18, pp. 7-11).
Plaintiff also contends that the Plan is a proper party under the express provisions of ERISA, which provides that "an employee benefit plan may sue or be sued under [§ 502] as an entity." Thus, according to Plaintiff, his claim for relief against the Plan for enforcement of his right to collect benefits is correctly sued (id., pp. 11-12), and within the six-year statute of limitations applicable to ERISA (id., pp. 13-14). Plaintiff further contends that § 224 of the GMC-UAW National Agreement specifically provides that "no matter respecting the provisions of the Pension Plan . . . shall be subject to the grievance procedure established in this Agreement, . . ." (Item 11(a), Exh. 1, p. 146), and therefore no remedy is provided by the National Agreement under which he could sue for the relief he seeks (Item 18, 12-13).
Finally, Plaintiff contends that the Plan itself does not contain an administrative appeals procedure for dental of an application for benefits and failure to issue an eligibility determination, and thus exhaustion of administrative remedies would have been futile in this case (id., p.15). See, e.g., Berger v. Edgewater Steel Co., 911 F.2d 911 (3d Cir. 1990).
Oral argument was held on June 16, 1992, at which counsel for the parties were heard. Based on the matters addressed at argument and on the record before me, for the reasons discussed below, I recommend that the court deny each of Defendant GMC's motions, and further recommend that the court direct the Plan Administrator to provide Plaintiff with appropriate application forms or to otherwise allow Plaintiff to properly apply for disability pension benefits under the Plan's provisions for Total and Permanent Disability Retirement.
Section 502 of ERISA provides, in relevant part:
(a) Persons empowered to bring a civil action
A civil action may be brought--