The opinion of the court was delivered by: McAVOY, Chief Judge.
MEMORANDUM — DECISION & ORDER
Plaintiff Cynthia Hotaling, a former employee of Hartwick
College, commenced the present action against defendant Teachers
Insurance and Annuity Association of America ("TIAA") pursuant to
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"),
29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., to recover benefits claimed under the terms of
a long term disability benefit plan (the "Plan"). Defendant now
moves the Court for summary judgment dismissing Hotaling's claim
for long term disability benefits or, in the alternative, moves
in limine requesting that: (1) the action be tried by the Court
rather than a jury; (2) the trial be limited to the
administrative record upon which TIAA based its decision to
discontinue plaintiff's long term benefits; and (3) Hotaling not
be entitled to seek
recovery for prospective benefits in the event that judgment is
entered in her favor after trial. See Def. Mem. of Law at 2.
In January 1997, plaintiff, former Director of Student Loans
and Internal Collections at Hartwick College, applied for
disability benefits alleging that she suffered from lower back
pain which prevented her from sitting for extended periods of
time. See Def. Notice of Motion, Ex. D, at 2-2A (hereinafter
"Administrative Record"). Plaintiff first sought treatment for
her back pain from her treating physician, Dr. Del Giacco, in
July 1996. At that time, Dr. Del Giacco recommended a two-week
leave of absence and physical therapy based on plaintiff's
complaints of chronic lower back pain. Although plaintiff's
treatment was beginning to provide her relief from her pain, Dr.
Del Giacco extended plaintiff's leave of absence until September
1996. Upon re-examination in late August 1996, Dr. Del Giacco
Patient is improving slowly but is still not ready to
return to full work. I suggested that she discuss
with her supervisor a trial of 2 hours of work daily
to see how things go.
Administrative Record at 92; see also Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stat. at ¶
In October 1996, plaintiff was referred to a second treating
physician, Dr. Elting, who determined that Hotaling "[was]
disabled and has a good deal of pain." Administrative Record at
94. Shortly thereafter, however, Dr. Elting concluded that
plaintiff's condition may not qualify her as disabled, noting
Hotaling returns with subjective complaints. . . .
This is a rather difficult situation as we move
along. This woman appears to be making no efforts to
even consider a return to work. I don't know whether
she would really qualify as disabled from physical
Id. at 95; see also Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stmt. at ¶ 7.
Around March 1997, plaintiff's physician noted that she was
"doing much better" and that her condition was improving based on
plaintiff's participation in an increased exercise program and
physical therapy. See Administrative Record at 120. Around that
time, defendant had plaintiff's file reviewed by its registered
nurse, Joseph Brookes, who concluded that:
Based on the information in the file . . . [t]here is
not sufficient documentation to support the
limitation of no return to work. There is
documentation that [Hotaling] could try a return to
work for 2 hours per day. The position is sedentary
without many physical requirements that may result in
injury or exacerbation. There is also documentation
regarding [Hotaling's] lack of motivation to consider
a return to work, which is an area of concern since
her functional ability is not greatly impacted.
Id. at 167; see also. Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stat. at ¶ 9.
Based on Brookes' recommendation, defendant requested that
Hotaling undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation which would
assess her performance levels for a variety of work-related
tasks. See Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stmt. at ¶ 10. That evaluation,
conducted in May 1997, concluded that:
Administrative Record at 127-28.
The evaluation also assessed plaintiff's dynamic strength
(ability to lift, carry, pull and push objects of varying
weights) as "light"; her position tolerance (ability to stand and
kneel) as "sedentary"; and her mobility (ability to climb, walk,
and squat) as "medium."*fn3 See id. at 129-31. Significantly,
plaintiff's position at Hartwick College was sedentary in nature
and generally required her to work at her desk. Accordingly,
plaintiff's position did not require her to perform physically
demanding tasks on a regular basis. In June 1997, following
defendant's review of plaintiff's medical evaluations and her
Functional Capacity Evaluation, Hotaling was awarded disability
benefits for the period February 1, 1997 through June 1,
1997.*fn4 See id. at 38-40.
After reviewing the findings in plaintiff's Functional Capacity
Evaluation, Dr. Del Giacco stated:
I agree with the findings . . . [regarding] the
functional ability of Ms. Hotaling. I anticipate an
ability to return to part-time work with some
limitations due to pain. She can perform only light
or sedentary work and must have periodic rest periods
due to pain.
When asked how many hours Hotaling was able to work in a day, Dr.
Del Giacco recommended "one hour periods of steady work followed
by fifteen minutes of rest." Id. at 144. Dr. Del Giacco further
If Ms. Hotaling's work is to be limited strictly to
sitting at a desk, I do not believe she will need the
frequent rest periods [previously described]. Based
upon her Physical Work Performance Evaluation, I
believe she should be able to work an eight-hour day
of desk work with the usual breaks for stretching
afforded to any employee.
Plaintiff disagreed with Dr. Del Giacco's findings. See id. at
54; Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stmt. at ¶ 14. After examining Hotaling in