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HOWARD v. NATIONAL EDUC. ASSN. OF NEW YORK

April 2, 1994

CAROLE C. HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK and HARTFORD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.


McAvoy


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS J. MCAVOY

MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER

 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), Carole C. Howard ("plaintiff") has brought before this court a motion to remand the case at bar to the Supreme Court, State of New York, County of Broome. For the reasons to follow, plaintiff's motion is denied in its entirety.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Richard C. Howard, plaintiff's deceased husband, was an employee of the defendant, National Education Association of New York ("NEANY"). He was also a member of a collective bargaining unit represented by the Staff Organization of New York Educators ("SONYE"), the recognized collective bargaining representative of such unit. Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between NEANY and SONYE, NEANY provided Mr. Howard with life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, together with common carrier coverage at no cost. Plaintiff is the beneficiary of a certain group insurance policy issued by defendant Hartford Life Insurance Company ("Hartford") upon the life of Mr. Howard.

 On or about September 23, 1990, Mr. Howard died suddenly as the result of a stress induced heart attack. In a litigated workers' compensation proceeding, it was determined that the heart attack occurred in the course of employment. Thus, plaintiff has alleged that she in entitled to be paid the accidental death and dismemberment insurance benefit equivalent to three times Mr. Howard's basic annual earnings. Plaintiff filed her claim for such benefit with Hartford, but Hartford denied payment on the claim. *fn1"

 On or about January 20, 1994, plaintiff commenced legal action in the New York State Supreme Court, Broome County, against the two defendants seeking payment of accidental death benefits for which plaintiff claims Hartford is liable.

 About one month after plaintiff commenced her suit, defendants filed a Notice of Removal with the accompanying Petition with this court. The defendants contend that plaintiff's action seeks benefits pursuant to an insurance policy which is part of an "employee benefit plan" and thus, is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. ("ERISA"). Accordingly, defendants assert that removal of the instant case to federal court was proper since this area of the law was completely preempted by federal law.

 Congress has declared that the purpose of ERISA is to

 
protect . . . participants in employee benefits plans and their beneficiaries, by requiring the disclosure and reporting to participants and beneficiaries of financial and other information with respect thereto, by establishing the standard of conduct, responsibility, and obligation of fiduciaries of employee benefit plans, and by providing the appropriate remedies, sanctions, and ready access to the Federal courts.

 29 U.S.C. § 1001(b). ERISA comprehensively regulates, among other things, employee welfare benefit plans that, "through the purchase of insurance or otherwise," provide medical, surgical, or hospital care, or benefits in the event of sickness, accident, disability, or death. Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 44, 107 S. Ct. 1549, 1551, 95 L. Ed. 2d 39 (1987) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1)).

 Within the ERISA statute, Congress has set out three provisions addressing the preemptive effect of the statute on state causes of action which may arise from the same set of facts as an ERISA claim. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 1144(a), 1144(b)(2)(A) & 1144(b)(2)(B). Of the three provisions, only one -- 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a) -- is relevant to the case at bar. Section 1144(a) states, in pertinent part, that

 
except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, the provision of this subchapter and subchapter III of this chapter shall supersede any and all State laws in so far as they may now or ...

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