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WALSH v. EASTMAN KODAK CO.

June 24, 1999

EDWARD J. WALSH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Larimer, Chief Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff Edward J. Walsh ("Walsh") commenced this action on September 23, 1998 against defendant Eastman Kodak Company ("Kodak"). Pending before this Court is defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6).

For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

II. Factual Allegations*fn1

Walsh, who was a Kodak employee in 1997, advised Kodak that he was electing to retire on January 1, 1998. He requested a single lump-sum payout of the benefits due to him. Based upon plaintiff's requested retirement date of January 1, 1998, the amount of the lump-sum retirement benefit that he was entitled to receive was calculated. The parties agree that this amount was paid in January, 1998. Plaintiff does not raise any dispute with respect to the principal amount of the lump sum paid to him. Rather, plaintiff claims that, because the lump sum benefit was payable January 1st and was not paid until twenty-five days later, he was denied the use of the money for that period, and is entitled to interest thereon.

Plaintiff states that prior to his retirement "it was spelled out to [him] the exact amount of the lump sum . . . and also the fact that its delivery would be delayed for administrative reasons." Plaintiff knew therefore that he would not be paid the lump sum benefit on January 1, 1998. Plaintiff does not allege that Kodak ever made any representation that it would pay him any interest for any delay. Rather, plaintiff maintains that "[t]here was no discussion, either pro or con, around the question of interest." Plaintiff further alleges that interest earned on periods of delay in delivery of lump sum benefits is "used to pay company program costs."

Defendant moves under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss what it characterizes as a claim for extracontractual damages. The exact basis on which Walsh relies for his claim is, to say the least, murky. Plaintiff's complaint fails to specify under which statute he pursues his claim for interest. Rather, it merely states: "From 1/98 plaintiff has money due for interest lost on lump sum payment which was withheld for 25 days." Defendant maintains that this represents a claim premised upon the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. ("ERISA"). Given the amorphous nature of Walsh's complaint, I will address the possible bases for relief.

III. Discussion

In assessing a defendant's motion to dismiss, a court must accept as true "all well-pleaded factual averments in the complaint" and "draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Wright v. Ernst and Young, LLP, 152 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1998), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 870, 142 L.Ed.2d 772 (1999). The court's consideration "is limited to facts stated on the face of the complaint and in documents appended to the complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference, as well as to matters of which judicial notice may be taken. Automated Salvage Transport, Inc. v. Wheelabrator Environmental Systems, Inc., 155 F.3d 59, 67 (2d Cir. 1998). Dismissal of the complaint is proper only where `it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Id. (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); see FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b).

In Kodak's motion as well as in plaintiff's response thereto, the parties allege facts not found in the complaint. Consistent with Rule 12(b), having chosen not to convert the motion into one for summary judgment, this Court's inquiry is limited to the four corners of the complaint. Additional facts raised in submissions filed subsequent to the complaint will not be considered in evaluating the motion to dismiss.

However, when a party is proceeding pro se, as is the case with plaintiff, the Court is obliged to "read his supporting papers liberally, and . . . interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Soto v. Walker, 44 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)).

As an initial matter, it cannot be disputed that since Walsh seeks money from Kodak's retirement income plan, an ERISA covered plan, it is only under ERISA's provisions that he may proceed. See Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 52-54, 107 S.Ct. 1549, 1555-1556, 95 L.Ed.2d 39 (1987); Plumbing Industry Board, Plumbing Local Union No. 1 v. E.W. Howell Co., Inc., 126 F.3d 61 (2d Cir. 1997). The Court must next determine whether ERISA's civil enforcement provisions permit the requested relief.

Section 502(a) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132, sets forth six civil enforcement provisions. A participant or beneficiary may bring a civil action, for instance, (1) "to recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan, to enforce his rights under the terms of the plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under the terms of the plan," 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B); (2) "for appropriate relief under section 409," 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2); and (3) "to enjoin any act or practice which violates any provision of this title or the terms of the plan, or . . . to obtain other appropriate equitable relief . . . to redress such violations . . .," 29 U.S.C. § ...


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