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RUSSELL v. NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORP.

March 29, 1996

CHARLES RUSSELL, Plaintiff, against NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SEYBERT

 SEYBERT, District Judge:

 On April 14, 1995, plaintiff Charles Russell commenced this action alleging a violation of Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") and seeking a judgment (1) awarding compensatory damages for lost benefits and for lost earnings from the date of his dismissal, September 23, 1993, to the day of the entry of judgment; (2) ordering defendant Northrop Grumman Corporation to reinstate plaintiff to his rightful position and to restore retroactively the benefits of plaintiff's employment, including his pension plan; (3) awarding plaintiff costs and reasonable attorneys' fees; and (4) awarding plaintiff any other relief that the Court deems just and proper. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

 On June 9, 1995, defendant made a motion, currently pending before this Court, to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and to strike plaintiff's demand for back pay. Defendant asserts that plaintiff conclusorily paraphrased a portion of the statute allegedly violated, and thus failed to sufficiently plead specific intent, an essential element of this cause of action. Additionally, defendant contends that damages for lost wages are not recoverable under section 510 of ERISA. Plaintiff, in turn, alleges that the complaint contains a statement of the claim entitling him to relief, and that lost wages are recoverable under ERISA. Oral argument was heard on the motion on March 25, 1996.

 For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim and defendant's motion to strike plaintiff's demand for lost wages are both denied.

 STATEMENT OF FACTS1

 Plaintiff, a United States citizen and resident of New York, was born on February 16, 1954 and worked for defendant corporation or its predecessor in interest from April 22, 1974 until September 23, 1993, when he was involuntarily terminated at age thirty-nine. During this period of employment which lasted approximately nineteen years and five months, the defendant maintained a pension plan for the benefit of its employees, including plaintiff, which was known as the "Grumman Pension Plan."

 Plaintiff alleges that upon the completion of twenty years of service for defendant, he would have become entitled to sixty-five percent (65%) "of pension plan" at age fifty. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant terminated plaintiff's employment to interfere with plaintiff's rights under the Grumman Pension Plan. Finally, plaintiff claims that recourse to the pension plan's internal review procedure would be futile because he was discharged to prevent him from obtaining benefits under the plan.

 DISCUSSION

 I. THE COMPLAINT SUFFICIENTLY SETS FORTH A CAUSE OF ACTION UPON WHICH RELIEF CAN BE GRANTED

 Plaintiff's complaint alleging that defendant discharged him for the purpose of interfering with his attainment of entitled rights under defendant's established pension plan, coupled with the alleged fact that this discharge took place approximately seven months prior to the accrual of certain benefits, sufficiently sets forth a claim upon which relief could be granted.

 A. Standards for Granting a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

 I. STANDARDS GOVERNING A MOTION TO DISMISS UNDER RULE 12(B)(6)

 A district court should grant a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim only if "'it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'" H.J. Inc. V. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 249-50, 109 S. Ct. 2893, 2906, 106 L. Ed. 2d 195 (1989) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S. Ct. 2229, 2232, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59 (1984)); Annis v. County of Westchester, 36 F.3d 251, 253 (2d Cir. 1994); Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011, 1014 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 112 S. Ct. 1943, 118 L. Ed. 2d 548 (1992). In applying this standard, a district court must "read the facts alleged in the complaint in the light most favorable" to the plaintiff, and accept these allegations as true. Id. at 249, 109 S. Ct. at 2906; see Christ Gatzonis Elec. Contractor, Inc. v. New York City Sch. Constr. Auth., 23 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168, 113 S. Ct. 1160, 1163, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1993) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) to demonstrate liberal system of 'notice pleading' employed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

 The court's duty merely is "to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1980); accord Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). The appropriate inquiry, therefore, is not "whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974); Ricciuti v. New York City Transit Authority, 941 F.2d 119, 124 (2d Cir. 1991) (plaintiff is not compelled to prove his case at the pleading stage). Additionally, the Rules do not required the claimant to set out in detail the facts upon which he or she bases a claim, but only that he or she gives a statement of his or her claim that will give defendant "fair notice of what [his or her] claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957).

 Therefore, where a complaint is filed that charges each element necessary to recover, dismissal of the case for failure to set out evidential facts can seldom be warranted. U.S. v. Employing Plasterers Assoc'n, 347 U.S. 186, 188-89, 74 S. Ct. 452, 453-54, 98 L. Ed. 618 (1954). Individual allegations, however, that are so baldly conclusory that they fail to give notice of the basic events and circumstances of which the plaintiff complains are meaningless as a practical matter and, as a matter of law, insufficient to state a claim. Barr v. Abrams, 810 F.2d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 1987).

 Thus, construing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, in the instant motion to dismiss, the Court must determine whether plaintiff can prove a set of facts entitling him to relief or whether he has merely ...


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