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MEDOY v. WARNACO EMPLOYEES' LONG TERM DISAB. PLAN

April 6, 1999

AUDREY MEDOY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WARNACO EMPLOYEES' LONG TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE PLAN, AND WARNACO INC., PERSONALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE WARNACO EMPLOYEES' LONG TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE PLAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Johnson, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Audrey Medoy ("Plaintiff") brings this action against the Warnaco Employees' Long Term Disability Insurance Plan (the "Plan") and Warnaco, Inc. ("Warnaco"), personally and as administrator of the Plan (collectively, "Defendants"), under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1001-1461 (1994).*fn1 Defendants presently move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff was employed by the White Stag Corporation ("White Stag") between August 13, 1979 and February 13, 1983, when she stopped working due to the onset of Crohn's disease. With the assistance of William R. Horner, an attorney, she filed an application for long-term disability benefits with the Plan, which was fully insured by Cigna Group Insurance ("CIGNA"), and began receiving benefits on June 25, 1984 (retroactive to the date of her application). Warnaco subsequently acquired White Stag's assets.

Plaintiff applied for Social Security disability benefits on the advice of Warnaco, and was informed that upon receipt of a Social Security award her benefits would be adjusted accordingly. Her initial application was denied on November 16, 1984, and the appeal was denied on August 21, 1985. Plaintiff forwarded copies of these decisions to CIGNA. A later application resulted in an award of Social Security disability benefits on October 3, 1989, which was initially made retroactive to April 1987 and was subsequently made retroactive to May 31, 1985.

On or about August 31, 1987, the Plan discontinued benefit payments to Plaintiff without providing notice as required by ERISA § 503, 29 U.S.C. § 1133.*fn3 On July 22, 1993 — nearly six years after her benefits were terminated — Plaintiff, by her attorneys, delivered to Warnaco a written request for resumption of her long-term disability benefits, and for the production of "copies of all documents and correspondence, which contain the reason(s) and basis for the termination of Ms. Medoy's disability benefits." Having received no response, she renewed her request and additionally asked for "a current copy of the long term disability plan, including the claim and appeal procedure as soon as possible," on November 3, 1993.*fn4 She was informed that under the terms of the Plan, CIGNA was responsible for retaining Plan records and responding to information requests from Plan participants. CIGNA later indicated that it had destroyed Plaintiff's file, and therefore could not respond to the document requests.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff's benefits claim should be dismissed as untimely. They further argue that Plaintiff is not within the class of persons owed a duty of disclosure, see ERISA § 104(b)(4), 29 U.S.C. § 1024(b)(4), and that Warnaco had no duty to retain Plaintiff's claims records under ERISA.

DISCUSSION

I. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the function of the district court is to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to weigh the evidence that may be offered at trial. See LaBounty v. Adler, 933 F.2d 121, 123 (2d Cir. 1991). The court must accept as true all material facts well pleaded in the complaint and must make all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id.; see also Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). A motion to dismiss should be granted only when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of her claim that would entitle her to relief. Yusuf v. Vassar College, 35 F.3d 709, 713 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)).

II. Benefits Claim

ERISA does not prescribe a statute of limitations for actions under Section 502. In this case, the parties do not dispute the applicability of the six-year limitations period for breach of contract actions in Rule 213(2) of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, which the Second Circuit has held to be the most analogous state limitations statute and therefore applicable to ERISA benefits claims. Miles v. New York State Teamsters Conference Pension Plan, 698 F.2d 593, 598 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 829, 104 S.Ct. 105, 78 L.Ed.2d 108 (1983).*fn5 Accordingly, Plaintiff's claim alleging wrongful termination of benefits is untimely if it accrued before November 1991.

"The Second Circuit in Miles also announced the rule that the moment of accrual in a Section 1132 action is `when there has been a repudiation by the fiduciary which is clear and made known to the beneficiaries.'" Patterson-Priori v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of America, 846 F. Supp. 1102, 1106 (E.D.N.Y. 1994) (quoting Miles, 698 F.2d at 598). This standard has since been reaffirmed by the Second Circuit. See Larsen v. NMU Pension Trust of NMU Pension & Welfare Plan, 902 F.2d 1069, 1073-74 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that correspondence which did not clearly repudiate claimant's rights as a survivor of a plan participant was not sufficient to trigger the statute of limitations). It is well established that an ERISA cause of action accrues upon the denial of an application for benefits, provided that "[t]he repudiation or denial of benefits [is] `clear,' `unequivocal,' and `continuing.'" Mitchell v. Shearson Lehman Bros., Inc., No. 97 Civ. 0526, 1997 WL 277381, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 1997) (quoting Daill v. Sheet Metal Workers' Local 73 Pension Fund, 100 F.3d 62, 66 (7th Cir. 1996)); see also Patterson-Priori, 846 F. Supp. at 1106. Because Defendants provided no notice ...


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