United States District Court, Northern District of New York
August 23, 1999
CYNTHIA HOTALING, PLAINTIFF,
TEACHERS INSURANCE AND ANNUITY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.
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:
[Hotaling] is capable of performing work at the light
level as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor. . .
. Based on this evaluation, [Hotaling] is incapable
sustaining the light level of work for an 8-hour
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.
See id. at 139.
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.
Id. at 148.
Plaintiff disagreed with Dr. Del Giacco's findings. See id. at
54; Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stmt. at ¶ 14. After examining Hotaling in
late July 1997, Dr. Del Giacco now reported:
On examination [Hotaling] has decreased motion in the
lumbar spine in all directions. . . . She reports
that she is unable to sit for more than 15 minutes
without back pain. . . . Based on her current
symptoms and findings on exam I do not feel she is
able to perform a job which requires prolonged
Administrative Record at 150 (emphasis added).
When pressed to submit objective evidence to support this
diagnosis in light of his previous agreement with the results of
plaintiff's Functional Capacity Evaluation, Dr. Del Giacco
I disagree with your assessment [as provided in the
Functional Capacity Evaluation]. This disagreement
is based upon the patient's reported symptoms, hence
I am not enclosing objective evidence to support this
Id. at 161 (emphasis added); see also Def. 7.1(a)(3) Stmt. at
After reviewing the Functional Capacity Evaluation, Dr. Elting,
plaintiff's second treating physician stated:
I do agree with the [F]unctional [C]apacity
[E]valuation. . . . However, Ms. Hotaling's clinical
situation is complex
and not the least of her worries is the fact that she
had a pelvic mass removed in the not too distant
Therefore, there is a gulf between what she can do
and what she will do. I believe I need not expand
on this any further.
Id. at 152 (emphasis in original).
Finally, Ms. Buzzell, the physical therapist who performed the
Functional Capacity Evaluation, reported that "Ms. Hotaling can
work 4 hours a day, and after a month, increasing each week by an
additional hour until she reaches 8 hours a day." Id. at 157.
Ms. Buzzell limited her evaluation, however, to light duty. See
Based on the Functional Capacity Evaluation, and the objective
evidence and findings of plaintiff's treating physicians and
physical therapist, defendant found that plaintiff was no longer
disabled as defined in the Plan, and discontinued her benefits
after September 1, 1997.*fn5 See id. at 55-57. After plaintiff
was unsuccessful in restoring her disability benefits, she
brought suit in New York State Supreme Court in May 1998.
Defendant removed the action to this Court in June 1998 pursuant
to federal question jurisdiction under 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et
A. The Standard for Summary Judgment
The standard for summary judgment is well-settled. Under
FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c), if there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact, the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead
a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party."
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); see also
Chertkova v. Connecticut Gen. Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 86
(1996). The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing
the . . . court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting
FED. R.CIV.P. 56(c)). The initial burden is to demonstrate "that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case." Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548.
Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party
must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322,
106 S.Ct. 2548; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 585-86, 106 S.Ct. 1348.
A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party; that is,
whether the non-movant's case, if proved at trial, would be
sufficient to survive a motion for judgment as a matter of law.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). When reasonable minds,
however, could not differ as to the import of the evidence, then
summary judgment is proper. Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979,
982 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849, 112 S.Ct. 152, 116
L.Ed.2d 117 (1991).
Although the trial court must resolve all ambiguities and draw
all inferences in favor of that party against whom summary
judgment is sought, Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank,
865 F.2d 460, 465 (2d Cir. 1989); Eastway Constr. Corp. v. City of New
York, 762 F.2d 243, 249 (2d Cir. 1985), cert. denied,
484 U.S. 918, 108 S.Ct. 269, 98 L.Ed.2d 226 (1987), the motion will not be
defeated by a non-movant who raises merely a "metaphysical doubt"
concerning the facts or who only offers conjecture
or surmise. Delaware & H.R. Co. v. Consolidated Rail Corp.,
902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 928, 111
S.Ct. 2041, 114 L.Ed.2d 125 (1991) (quoting Matsushita, 475
U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348); see also Western World Ins. Co. v.
Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990). Indeed, the
nonmoving party's opposition may not rest on mere allegations or
denials of the moving party's pleading, but "must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
The Court must first address the threshold issue of the
appropriate standard of review governing plaintiff's denial of
disability benefits under the Plan. Central to this determination
is the nature of discretionary authority reserved by the Plan.
B. Standard of Review
In arguing that this Court apply an arbitrary and capricious
standard in reviewing defendant's decision to deny plaintiff long
term disability benefits under the Plan, defendant relies on the
Supreme Court's decision in Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. v.
Bruch, 489 U.S. 101, 109 S.Ct. 948, 103 L.Ed.2d 80 (1989).*fn6
In Firestone, the Court held:
Consistent with established principles of trust law,
we hold that a denial of benefits challenged under
[section] 1132(a)(1)(B) is to be reviewed under a de
novo standard unless the benefit plan gives the
administrator or fiduciary discretionary authority to
determine eligibility for benefits or to construe the
489 U.S. at 115, 109 S.Ct. 948.
In cases where the language in the plan sufficiently reserves
such discretionary authority, "denials are subject to the more
deferential arbitrary and capricious standard, and may be
overturned only if the decision is `without reason, unsupported
by substantial evidence or erroneous as a matter of law.'"
Kinstler v. First Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.,
181 F.3d 243, 248-49 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Pagan v. NYNEX Pension
Plan, 52 F.3d 438, 442 (2d Cir. 1995)). The burden is on the
plan administrator to prove that the arbitrary and capricious
standard of review should be applied. See id. (citing Sharkey
v. Ultramar Energy Ltd., 70 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 1995) ("[W]e
believe that the Pension Committee bears the burden of proof on
[the issue of which standard of review should be applied] since
the party claiming deferential review should prove the predicate
that justifies it.")).
In Kinstler, the Second Circuit interpreted Firestone as
requiring courts, in the absence of an explicit reservation of
discretionary authority, to apply a de novo standard when
reviewing issues of fact (such as denial of benefits) and issues
of plan interpretation. See Kinstler, 181 F.3d at 250. In
noting that its holding was consistent with other circuit courts,
the Kinstler Court recognized "the relative ease with which
ERISA plans may be worded explicitly to reserve to plan
administrators the discretionary authority that will insulate all
aspects of their decisions from de novo review." Id. The
critical question, therefore, is whether "the policy language is
sufficient to reserve to itself the discretionary authority that
invokes the arbitrary and capricious standard of review." Id.
at 251. This necessarily requires an examination of the language
in the Plan addressing proof of disability:
TIAA must receive in writing both notice of claim and
proof of [d]isability within twelve months after the
start of the [d]isability.
Written proof of continued [d]isability is required
at reasonable intervals to be
determined by TIAA. All proof must be satisfactory
TIAA may require as part of the proof of
[d]isability: statements of treating physicians;
copies of test reports or examinations; x-rays;
hospital records; medical examinations by impartial
specialists at TIAA's expense; investigations
conducted by TIAA or outside agencies. . . .
Plan, at § 7.1 (emphasis added) (included in Def. Notice of
Motion at Ex. A).
In cases where the Second Circuit has applied the more
deferential arbitrary and capricious standard, it has required
that the policy language reserving discretion be clear and
unambiguous. See Kinstler, 181 F.3d at 251 (citing Ganton
Techs., Inc. v. National Indus. Group Pension Plan, 76 F.3d 462,
466 (2d Cir. 1996) (explicit provision in the policy which
provided that the trustees had authority to "resolve all disputes
and ambiguities relating to the interpretation of the Plan, and
the application of the terms of the Plan to any circumstances and
the decisions of the Board in all such matters will be final.");
Zuckerbrod v. Phoenix Mut. Life Ins. Co., 78 F.3d 46, 48 (2d
Cir. 1996) (policy provided that plaintiff was entitled to
benefits if the plan administrators "determined that such . . .
care was essential, in our judgment, for the treatment of
[plaintiff's] [i]njury or sickness.")); see also Pagan, 52 F.3d
at 441 (plan provided that "the . . . Committee shall determine
conclusively for all parties all questions arising in the
administration of the [Pension] Plan and any decision of such
Committee shall not be subject to further review."); cf. Masella
v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut, Inc., 936 F.2d 98,
103 (2d Cir. 1991) (applying de novo standard of review where
provision stated that the plan is "subject to the terms and
conditions of a basic medical/surgical program which is
acceptable to the Corporation, in its sole discretion."). Here,
however, defendant cites to language in the Plan which is less
explicit in the grant of discretion afforded to the plan
administrator. Specifically, defendant relies on the provision of
the Plan which states that "[a]ll proof [of claimant's
disability] must be satisfactory to TIAA." Plan, at § 7.1; see
also Def.Mem. of Law at 7.
In Kinstler, the Second Circuit addressed the issue of
whether the phrase "satisfactory proof" conveyed discretionary
authority under a plan sufficient to preclude a de novo review:
[T]he word "satisfactory," whether in the phrase
"satisfactory proof" or the phrase "proof
satisfactory to [the decision-maker]" is an
inadequate way to convey the idea that a plan
administrator has discretion. Every plan that is
administered requires submission of proof that will
"satisfy" the administrator. No plan provides
benefits when the administrator thinks that benefits
should not be paid! Thus, saying that proof must be
satisfactory "to the administrator" merely states the
obvious point that the administrator is the
decision-maker, at least in the first instance.
Though we reiterate that no one word or phrase must
always be used to confer discretionary authority, the
administrator's burden to demonstrate insulation from
de novo review requires either language stating that
the award of benefits is within the discretion of the
plan administrator or language that is plainly the
functional equivalent of such wording. Since clear
language can be readily drafted and included in
policies, even in the context of collectively
bargained benefit plans when the parties really
intend to subject claim denials to judicial review
under a deferential standard, courts should require
clear language and decline to search in semantic
swamps for arguable grants of discretion.
181 F.3d at 252.
Similar to Kinstler, the Court finds that the key language
cited by the defendant requiring "satisfactory proof" is
insufficient to reserve in TIAA the discretionary
authority necessary to invoke the arbitrary and capricious
standard of review. Accordingly, the Court will apply a de novo
standard in determining whether defendant's decision to
discontinue plaintiff's disability benefits under the Plan was
correct and reasonable. See Moriarity v. United Tech. Corp.
Represented Employees Retirement Plan, 158 F.3d 157, 158 (2d
Cir. 1998) (per curiam) ("We affirm because we conclude that even
under a de novo standard of review, the Committee's reading of
the [plan] was the only reasonable and correct one."); Ludwig v.
NYNEX Serv. Co., 838 F. Supp. 769, 785 (S.D.N.Y. 1993).
C. Scope of De Novo Review
The Court must now determine the scope of its de novo review
of defendant's denial of benefits. Specifically, the Court must
determine whether its review is limited to the administrative
record, or, whether plaintiff should be permitted to introduce
evidence beyond the administrative record with respect to factual
issues underlying defendant's decision to discontinue her
In addressing this issue, the Second Circuit has stated that
the decision whether to admit additional evidence rests within
the discretion of the district court, and that discretion should
not be exercised "in the absence of good cause." DeFelice v.
American Int'l Life Assurance Co. of New York, 112 F.3d 61, 66
(2d Cir. 1997) (finding "good cause" existed where appeals
committee which reviewed plaintiff's claim "was comprised
entirely of [defendant's] employees"). Recognizing that a
conflict of interest scenario is one example of "good cause"
permitting the district court to consider evidence outside the
administrative record, the DeFelice Court held that:
[W]here the district court reviews an administrative
decision under a plan that does not grant such
discretion, the review is de novo and is limited to
the record in front of the claims administrator
unless the district court finds good cause to
consider additional evidence. A demonstrated
conflict of interest in the administrative reviewing
body is an example of "good cause" warranting the
introduction of additional evidence.
Id. at 66-67 (emphasis added).
Plaintiff, however, fails to allege, with any specificity,
whether "good cause" exists sufficient to permit the introduction
of additional evidence; rather, plaintiff broadly requests that
she be able offer testimony from her treating physicians and
other medical personnel involved in her medical care.
Specifically, plaintiff argues that:
There are issues of fact which must be decided and
witnesses who should be allowed to explain their
opinions. Certainly, in fairness, the evidence at
trial would be limited to the time frame covered by
the administrative record, but the Court should
expand its inquiry beyond a sterile review of the
Pl. Opp'n to Motion for Summ. J., at 4.
While the Court is mindful that where a party demonstrates
"good cause" a court may exercise its discretion and consider
evidence beyond the administrative record, such discretion should
not be exercised in cases where a party fails to demonstrate,
beyond mere speculation or conjecture, that the "administrative
record is inadequate to conduct a proper review of the
administrative decision." DeFelice, 112 F.3d at 65 (citing
Donatelli v. Home Ins. Co., 992 F.2d 763, 765 (8th Cir. 1993)).
In addition to failing to demonstrate "good cause," plaintiff
overlooks the fact that some of the additional evidence that she
requests the Court consider — testimony from physicians and
medical personnel who examined her — is already well documented
in the administrative record before the Court. The Court,
therefore, declines plaintiff's invitation "that the door be
opened to whatever new evidence might be developed." Kearney v.
Standard Ins. Co., 175 F.3d 1084, 1091 (9th Cir. 1999) (en
banc); see also Conley v. Pitney Bowes, 176 F.3d 1044, 1049
(8th Cir. 1999) (holding that absent good cause, "a court must
focus on the evidence available to the plan administrators at the
time of their decision and may not admit new evidence or consider
post hoc rationales."). Accordingly, the Court will limit its de
novo review to the administrative record.
D. The Merits of Hotaling's Claim
Having determined the appropriate standard and scope of review
to be applied, the Court now turns to the merits of plaintiff's
claim that she was improperly denied disability benefits under
the Plan. Central to that claim is the definition of "disability"
under the Plan:
Disability or disabled is defined, in relevant part, as:
(1)(a) for the first thirty months of Disability,
being completely unable due to sickness, bodily
injury, or pregnancy to perform your normal
occupation and not performing any other
(b) after the first thirty months, being unable due
to sickness, bodily injury, or pregnancy to
perform any occupation for which you are
reasonably suited by education, training, or
experience. . . .
Plan, at § 8.1 (included in Def. Notice of Motion at Ex. A).
Defendant contends that the objective medical evidence
demonstrates that plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the
Plan. Defendant principally relies on plaintiff's Functional
Capacity Evaluation and reports from plaintiff's treating
physicians which determined that plaintiff could return to work,
but required periodic rest breaks to alleviate pain brought on by
sitting at her desk for extended periods of time. In addressing
Dr. Del Giacco's second opinion, which opined that plaintiff was
unable to return to work, defendant contends that Dr. Del Giacco
relied solely on plaintiff's subjective complaints regarding her
symptoms rather than objective medical evidence to challenge the
results of plaintiff's Functional Capacity Evaluation. See
Def.Mem. of Law at 9. In response, plaintiff relies on Dr. Del
Giacco's opinion and results of an MRI conducted in 1996 in
arguing that "[t]he administrative record is replete with
documentation to support Mrs. Hotaling's application for long
term disability benefits." Pl. Opp'n to Motion for Summ. J., at
Plaintiff does not challenge defendant's contention that
"disability," as defined under the Plan, requires that an
employee be "completely unable . . . to perform [her] normal
occupation." Plan, at § 8.1 (emphasis added). Thus, the Court is
not faced with an issue of plan interpretation; rather, the
Court's review is limited to factual determinations underlying
TIAA's denial of Hotaling's claim for disability benefits.
Based on a de novo review of the administrative record, the
Court finds that defendant properly denied plaintiff's claim for
disability benefits under the Plan. First, plaintiff's Functional
Capacity Evaluation determined that Hotaling was able to perform
at the "light" level, but could not sustain that level over an
eight-hour work day. As defined in the Functional Capacity
Evaluation, the "light" level classification placed plaintiff
above the "sedentary" level. Significantly, plaintiff's position
as Director of Student Loans and Internal Collections at Hartwick
College was sedentary in nature and primarily involved working at
her desk. Second, plaintiff's treating physicians, Drs. Del
Giacco and Elting, both initially agreed with the results of the
Functional Capacity Evaluation. See Administrative Record, at
139, 148, 152. Specifically, Dr. Del Giacco initially opined that
Hotaling was able to return to work part-time, and "should be
able to work an eight-hour day of desk work with the usual breaks
for stretching afforded to any employee." Id. at 148. Dr.
Elting agreed with the "light" level assessment, but noted that
"there is a gulf
between what [plaintiff] can do and what she will do." Id.
at 152 (emphasis in original). Finally, Ms. Buzzell, the physical
therapist who performed the Functional Capacity Evaluation,
reported that "Ms. Hotaling can work 4 hours a day, and after a
month, increasing each week by an additional hour until she
reaches 8 hours a day." Id. at 157. Thus, based on plaintiff's
Functional Capacity Evaluation and results of medical
examinations conducted since July 1996 — when plaintiff first
sought treatment for her condition — there was initial agreement
amongst Hotaling's treating physicians and physical therapist
that she was able to return to work on a part-time basis. Thus,
under the plain language of the Plan relied on by the parties,
Hotaling's ability to perform at the "light" level and work on a
part-time basis would not qualify her as "disabled" and,
therefore, Hotaling was not eligible to receive disability
In July 1997, approximately one month after concurring with the
findings of plaintiff's Functional Capacity Evaluation and
recommending that Hotaling was able to return to work part-time,
Dr. Del Giacco stated that Hotaling was now not able "to perform
a job which require[d] prolonged sitting." Administrative Record
at 150. Significantly, Dr. Del Giacco stated that his
disagreement with the Functional Capacity Evaluation was not
based on objective medical evidence; rather, it was based on
Hotaling's subjective complaints regarding her condition. See
id. at 161. Although the Court is sensitive to Hotaling's
condition, her subjective complaints, to the extent relevant, are
against the overwhelming weight of the objective medical evidence
contained in the administrative record. Thus, plaintiff fails to
demonstrate, with any specificity, a triable issue of fact
sufficient to preclude summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court
finds that, based on a de novo review of the record, TIAA's
decision to discontinue Hotaling's disability benefits was
For all of the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED, dismissing plaintiff's Amended
Complaint in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.