The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN G. KOELTL
John G. Koeltl, District Judge:
For the purpose of deciding this motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the allegations of the complaint as true.
The complaint alleges as follows. Madelene E. Barnett, worked for the defendant, International Business Machines Corporation ("IBM"), from in or about September 1984 to on or about April 25, 1991. In December 1986, Barnett was injured on the job while attempting, under protest, to lift a tool weighing between sixty and ninety pounds into the trunk of an automobile. She suffered muscular and neurological injuries to her left shoulder.
The deteriorating condition of Barnett's shoulder, resulting in the loss of the use of her left hand and sensation in it, caused Barnett to be unable to work for substantial amounts of time between April and July, 1987. She was therefore often absent from her job. Barnett was compensated for some or all of these absences under short-term disability coverage provided by IBM.
In July 1987, IBM directed Barnett to take time off in order to allow her injuries to heal. Barnett returned to work in or about May, 1988 as a staff cost, data engineer.
Until this time, Barnett's medical bills related to her injury were paid by IBM's workers' compensation carrier. However, in or about April 1988, the carrier began to refuse to make payment and Barnett retained counsel to seek workers' compensation benefits. In or about January, 1989, and occasionally thereafter, IBM management and personnel department employees advised Barnett not to file claims for benefits under IBM's disability policies until the dispute regarding workers' compensation benefits was resolved.
In or about May, 1989, Barnett's manager informed her that management believed that she was lying about her injuries and that IBM "would never find her another job" at IBM. On or about June 20, 1989, out of despair and fear that she was going to be terminated, Barnett attempted suicide by slitting her wrists. On or about July 11, 1989, Barnett returned to work and was evaluated by IBM's psychologist who told her to return home and not to come back to work until further notice. Barnett complied with an order to return to work on or about November 11, 1989.
On or about August 5, 1990, Dr. George Senter determined that Barnett was disabled and unable to continue to perform the duties of her position. Dr. Senter communicated this opinion to physicians employed by IBM and recommended that, if Barnett was to continue working, her computer keyboard work be reduced from up to six hours per day to two hours per day. On or about December 10, 1990, Barnett was given an unsatisfactory review based on her job performance for the period ending on or about September 1, 1990.
In or about February 1991, Barnett was hospitalized for physical and emotional problems and was directed by her physician not to resume work upon her release. Despite recommendations by Barnett's physician to the contrary, on April 24, 1991 IBM ordered Barnett to return to work on April 25, 1991. Barnett complied with the order and was rehospitalized the same day, whereupon IBM terminated her employment.
The complaint alleges that IBM discouraged Barnett from applying for long-term disability benefits not only by urging her not to apply for them until the dispute regarding her workers' compensation benefits was resolved, but also by informing her that IBM had undertaken its own independent review of whether she would be eligible for disability benefits, which concluded that any application would be denied. For these reasons, Barnett never applied for long-term disability benefits.
The foregoing facts are pleaded in the complaint and are assumed to be true solely for the purpose of deciding this motion.
The complaint, which contains three claims for relief, seeks damages, declaratory relief, and attorneys fees. The first claim alleges that the purported independent evaluation by IBM of whether Barnett was entitled to long-term disability benefits resulted in a de facto denial of any claims for such benefits and that this de facto denial gives rise to a cause of action under 29 U.S.C. § 1332 (ERISA § 502), because Barnett was entitled to such benefits.
Barnett alleges a de facto denial of benefits, because she never applied for long-term disability benefits and thus IBM never actually denied such a claim. She alleges that she did not apply for long-term disability benefits, because such an application would have been futile. Complaint P 38.
Barnett's second claim for relief alleges that her termination was motivated by IBM's "desire to undermine and impermissibly foreclose Barnett's eligibility for and opportunity to make claims for disability compensation to which she would have otherwise been entitled," in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1140 (ERISA § 510).
Barnett alleges that IBM terminated her employment in an attempt to avoid having to pay disability benefits to her. Complaint, PP 42, 43.
Barnett's third claim for relief asserts that IBM's alleged de facto review and denial of her eligibility for long term disability benefits violated 29 U.S.C. § 1133
(ERISA § 503), because Barnett was not afforded an opportunity for a full and fair review of her case.
IBM argues that Barnett's first claim for relief, arising under 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (ERISA § 502), should be dismissed because she did not exhaust administrative remedies or adequately allege the futility of doing so, or, alternatively, because if there was futility, Barnett's claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. IBM also alleges that the § ...