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HARLESS v. RESEARCH INST. OF AMERICA

March 26, 1998

MARK HARLESS, Plaintiff, against RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF AMERICA and THOMSON HOLDINGS, INC., Defendants.

Peter K. Leisure, U.S.D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEISURE

OPINION & ORDER

LEISURE, District Judge :

 Plaintiff Mark Harless brings this action against defendants Thomson Holdings, Inc. ("Thomson"), and Research Institute of America ("RIA"), alleging untimely disclosure of documents requested pursuant to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), miscalculation of his Long-Term Disability ("LTD") benefits in violation of ERISA, and miscalculation of his Short-Term Disability ("STD") benefits in violation of state contract law. Pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's first and second claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants also move for summary judgment on plaintiff's second and third claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Plaintiff has cross-moved to amend his Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15. For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants defendants' motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment and denies plaintiff's cross-motion to amend.

 BACKGROUND

 Harless was employed from 1986 until 1992 by RIA, a division of Thomson, as a commissioned account representative. See Complaint at P 12. He worked out of his home in California. See Affidavit of James A. Loring ("Loring Aff.") at P 4. Thomson's headquarters are located in Stamford, Connecticut. See Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Fact ("Def.'s 3(g)") at P 3. RIA's headquarters are located in New York City. See Loring Aff. at P 5. In early 1991, Harless was involved in a work-related automobile accident and suffered significant back and nerve damage. See Affidavit of Mark Harless ("Harless Aff.") at PP 3-4. These injuries led to Harless's seeking STD and LTD benefits. See id. at PP 3-6.

 Plaintiff's claims are related to the following six Thomson employee benefit plans in which he participated:

 
1. The LTD Plan;
 
2. The PruCare Health Insurance Plan;
 
3. The Vision Service Plan;
 
4. Thomson's 401(k) Plan;
 
5. The Defined Benefit Plan; and
 
6. The STD Plan.

 See Loring Aff. at P 1. The first five of these plans are governed by ERISA; they were administered from Thomson's Connecticut headquarters, with Thomson naming Basil A. Marraffa as Designated Administrator of the first three plans, the Administrative Committee as Designated Administrator of the 401(k) Plan, and the Plan Administrator as Designated Administrator of the Defined Benefit Plan. See id. at P 7. Marraffa and Loring were charged with fulfilling the administrative obligations of the Administrative Committee and Plan Administrator. See id.

 Plaintiff alleges that he made numerous requests for plan documents between 1992 and 1994. Specifically, he asserts that his quest for documents began on January 9, 1992, when he called James Robinson, RIA's Benefits Administrator, seeking copies of the plans in which he was enrolled. See Complaint at P 18. After a month had passed, plaintiff renewed his request in writing, and asked for additional documents. See Harless Fax dated 2/11/92, annexed as Exhibit C to Loring Aff. Plaintiff followed up a week later with a written request to Joseph Kelly, RIA's Vice President of Human Resources. See Harless Aff. at P 21. Then, on March 2, 1992, plaintiff made another document request to Robinson via fax and registered mail. See Harless Letter, annexed as Exhibit D to Loring Aff. Three days later, plaintiff again wrote to Kelly. See Harless Letter dated 3/5/92, annexed as Exhibit E to Loring Aff. On March 13, 1992, Robinson sent a PruCare Health Plan, a Dental Plan, and an outline of the STD Plan to Harless via overnight mail, and stated that Robinson had forwarded the request for further information to "the parent office" in Stamford where the information was located. Robinson Letter, annexed as Exhibit 17 to Harless Aff.

 Plaintiff continued to press his request for documents, writing Robinson on April 2, April 27, and August 27, 1992. See Harless Letters, annexed as Exhibit F to Loring Aff., Exhibit 2 to Harless Aff., and Exhibit I to Loring Aff., respectively. On May 22, 1992, plaintiff again wrote to Kelly seeking the desired information. See Harless Letter, annexed as Exhibit G to Loring Aff. Plaintiff next wrote to Richard Harrington, President of Thomson, on June 17, 1992. See Harless Letter, annexed as Exhibit H to Loring Aff. Plaintiff eventually retained an attorney, Amiram Givon, Esq., who wrote to Diane Gasser, Robinson's replacement as RIA Benefits Administrator, demanding plan documents. See Givon Letter dated 12/14/93, annexed as Exhibit J to Loring Aff. Gasser forwarded some, but not all, of the requested documents. See Plan Summaries, annexed as Exhibit 3 to Harless Aff.; see also Gasser Letter dated 1/4/94, annexed as Exhibit 4 to Harless Aff. Givon then renewed his request for certain other documents. See Givon Letter dated 2/2/94, annexed as Exhibit I to Loring Aff. Finally, on March 24, 1994, Givon wrote to the Thomson Plan Administrator seeking documents. See Givon Letter dated 3/24/94, annexed as Exhibit L to Loring Aff. On April 13, 1994, the requested documents were furnished to Givon.

 Under the LTD Plan, Harless was entitled to monthly disability payments equaling 70% of his basic monthly earnings from the previous year. See LTD Plan at 2, annexed as Exhibit O to Loring Aff. Beginning July 13, 1992, Harless received LTD disability benefits in the amount of $ 3058.58 each month. See Affidavit of Mark D. Halton ("Halton Aff.") at P 2. In a letter dated January 30, 1995, Givon complained that plaintiff was entitled to greater monthly benefits because his 1991 base salary had been miscalculated. See Givon Letter dated 1/30/95 at 6-10, annexed as Exhibit M to Loring Aff. Specifically, Givon complained that Harless's 401(k) contributions as well as certain bonuses erroneously had been excluded in determining his 1991 salary for purposes of establishing the level of benefits to which he was entitled. See id. Thomson responded by acknowledging that Harless's 401(k) deferrals should have been included in his 1991 base salary. See Letter of Richard S. Chargar dated March 22, 1995, annexed as Exhibit N to Loring Aff. However, Thomson denied that Harless's 1991 bonuses also should have been included in his base salary under the LTD Plan. See id. UNUM Life Insurance Company of America ("UNUM"), which issued the LTD Policy to Thomson and administered benefit payments to Harless, sent a check for $ 12,129.70 to Harless on September 1, 1995. See Halton Aff. at P 5; see also UNUM Payment History Detail, annexed as Exhibit B to Halton Aff. This payment represented the acknowledged shortfall, plus interest, in Harless's prior LTD Plan benefits. See Halton Aff. at P 5.

 In September of 1995, Harless and UNUM reached an agreement pursuant to which Harless would receive three lump-sum payments of $ 50,000 in lieu of his monthly LTD benefits. See Def.'s 3(g) at P 9; see also Halton Aff. at P 6. In connection with this agreement, Harless signed a Settlement Release on October 5, 1995 (the "Release"), waiving any further claims relating to his LTD benefits. See Release, annexed as Exhibit C to Halton Aff. Specifically, Harless agreed to the following:

 
Upon execution by me of this Settlement and Release, UNUM will pay me the sum of $ 150,000.00, in addition to benefits provided to date, if any, as full, final, and complete satisfaction and settlement of its past, present, and future liability to me under Policy Number 00351921.
 
I understand that by signing this Settlement and Release, I am forever relinquishing any and all claims I have or may have against UNUM, including but not limited to, any claim for additional benefits for any disability from UNUM under Policy Number 00351921 and under any other UNUM group disability policy, under which I may become insured. This is a legally binding document and I understand and acknowledge that I have the right to have this Settlement and Release reviewed by an attorney and/or other personal, financial or medical advisor(s) prior to signing this Settlement and Release.

 Id. at PP 2-3. Harless now claims that he executed the Release under duress. See Harless Aff. at P 56. Pursuant to his settlement with UNUM, Harless received payments of $ 50,000 on December 4, 1995, January 2, ...


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