final disposition of the matter presented by the original complaint and to enter judgment accordingly or, alternatively, to retain jurisdiction of the matter pending the outcome of the remand proceeding.
This question has been raised in previous cases. Several district courts have retained jurisdiction pending remand, some staying proceedings in the interim. Rakoczy v. Travelers Insurance Co., 914 F. Supp. 166, 172 (E.D. Mich. 1996); Rutledge v. American General Life and Accident Insurance Co., 871 F. Supp. 272, 278 (N.D. Miss. 1994); Copeland v. Carpenters District Council of Houston and Vicinity Pension Fund, 771 F. Supp. 807, 810 (E.D. Tex. 1991); Pickett v. United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds, 467 F. Supp. 2, 4 (E.D. Tenn. 1978); see Baker v. United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds, 929 F.2d 1140, 1142-44 (6th Cir. 1991). At least one has regarded the remand as a final disposition closing the case. Teeter v. Supplemental Pension Plan of Consolidated Rail Corp., 705 F. Supp. 1089, 1097 (E.D. Pa. 1989). None, however, has advanced a rationale in support of either result.
The argument in favor of regarding the remand as a final disposition which closes the case rests substantially on the notion that cases ought not to remain on the dockets of the district courts in circumstances where the district courts do not have the same ability to bring them to judgment as they do in ordinary civil actions. The pendency of such cases poses some additional burdens on court staff in checking periodically on their status and insuring that the cases ultimately are terminated if benefits are granted on remand or moved to final resolution if they are not. It also arguably inflates somewhat the data concerning the numbers of cases pending in the district courts.
Three arguments cut in the other direction. First, if this decision were treated as a final disposition of this matter and plaintiff proves unsuccessful on remand, plaintiff would be obliged to pay another filing fee in order to obtain district court review. It is doubtful that Congress intended to erect such an additional barrier to obtaining review of benefit denials, particularly where, as here, the remand has not been necessitated by any action or omission by the plaintiff.
Second, treating this decision as a final disposition would raise the question whether the present determination is a final judgment appealable to the court of appeals as a matter of right under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and, if it is, require that the court of appeals decide a controversy that may be eliminated if the defendant rules in plaintiff's favor on remand. The well established policy against piecemeal appeals thus counsels against according finality to this decision.
The final consideration is one that applies only in those cases in which the defendant has obtained a favorable determination of a counterclaim. The entry by the district court of final judgment at this stage would expose the plaintiff to enforcement of the judgment on the counterclaim despite the lack of ultimate resolution of his claim that the defendant owes him unpaid benefits. At least on the facts of this case, that would be inappropriate.
Taking all of these considerations into account, the Court concludes that the appropriate course of action is to retain jurisdiction over this case pending the outcome of the remand while at the same time ensuring that the remand is dealt with expeditiously.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted to the extent that (a) defendant is awarded judgment against plaintiff on its counterclaim in the amount of $ 10,155, and (b) plaintiff's claim that he was entitled to disability benefits on the theory that he was physically disabled is dismissed. The motion otherwise is denied. The defendant's rejection of plaintiff's claim for disability benefits on the theory that he is totally disabled by reason of post-traumatic stress disorder is vacated and the matter returned to the defendant for reconsideration of that claim. The plaintiff shall submit to a psychiatric examination within 30 days of the date of this decision if requested to do so by the defendant. Unless the defendant grants plaintiff's disability claim within 21 days after the date of any such examination, it shall provide plaintiff, within the 21 day period, with the report of the examination and any other information upon which it intends to rely in acting upon the claim. Plaintiff within 21 days after receipt of any such materials may submit additional evidence to rebut any evidence upon which the defendant could rely to deny benefits. See Miller, 72 F.3d at 1074. The defendant shall grant or deny plaintiff's claim within 30-days of the earlier of (a) the expiration of the period within which the plaintiff may submit rebuttal evidence, or (b) the submission of any such evidence. The parties are directed to report the status of the remand to this Court by letter on the 60th and 120th days after the date hereof. All other proceedings before this Court are stayed pending further order of the Court and the case is placed in the suspense docket.
Dated: January 2, 1997
Lewis A. Kaplan
United States District Judge