Nor do I believe that the SPD could be considered ambiguous in
this respect. Although there is authority that any ambiguities in
a plan or SPD should be construed in favor of the plan
participant, see, e.g., Rhorer v. Raytheon Engineers and
Constructors, Inc., 181 F.3d 634, 642 (5th Cir. 1999); UAW v.
Yard-Man, Inc., 716 F.2d 1476, 1480 (6th Cir. 1983), cert.
denied, 465 U.S. 1007, 104 S.Ct. 1002, 79 L.Ed.2d 234 (1984),
those cases generally involve language that could arguably be
interpreted in two different ways. See, e.g., Rhorer, 181 F.3d
at 642 (SPD was ambiguous as to whether requirement that
participant be actively at work on full-time basis to qualify for
coverage applied to optional life insurance); Yard-Man, 716
F.2d at 1480 (provision in collective bargaining agreement "could
reasonably be construed . . . as either solely a reference to the
nature of retiree benefits or as an incorporation of some
durational limitation as well").
This is consistent with cases from the Second Circuit. The
Court of Appeals has stated that "[l]anguage is ambiguous when it
is capable of more than one meaning when viewed objectively by a
reasonably intelligent person who has examined the context of the
entire integrated agreement." Aramony v. United Way Replacement
Benefit Plan, 191 F.3d 140 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting O'Neil v.
Retirement Plan for Sal. Empl. of RKO Gen., Inc., 37 F.3d 55, 59
(2d Cir. 1994)); Moriarity v. United Technologies Corp.
Represented Employees Retirement Plan, 947 F. Supp. 43 (D.Conn.
1996) (defining term "ambiguous" as "susceptible to more than one
meaning"), aff'd, 158 F.3d 157 (2d Cir. 1998).
Here, the SPD's statements about the effect of a participant's
receipt of prior benefits is not "capable of more than one
meaning." It states that one's benefits may be reduced if one has
previously received benefits. All of that is true. The mere fact
that is does not describe in detail precisely how much future
benefits will be reduced does not render it ambiguous.
The essence of plaintiff's claim, then, is not that the SPD
misrepresented the terms of the Plan or that it was genuinely
ambiguous, but that it was not sufficiently detailed. "However,
ERISA's disclosure provisions do not require that the plan
summary contain particularized criteria" for coverage or
calculation of benefits. Jones v. Kodak Med. Assistance Plan,
169 F.3d 1287, 1292 (10th Cir. 1999). "Indeed, such a requirement
would frustrate the purpose of a summary — to offer a layperson
concise information that she can read and digest." Id.; see also
Moriarity, 158 F.3d at 162 (observing that allowing employee to
rely on his own interpretation of SPD, even if plan administrator
had contrary, but equally reasonable interpretation, would
encourage administrator to attempt to erase every potential
ambiguity in SPD, with result that "the SPD would become more
complex, longer and inevitably more difficult to understand,
thereby undermining Congress's goal of having SPD's that the
average employee can understand") (Trager, J., concurring);
Martin v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Virginia, Inc.,
115 F.3d 1201, 1205 (4th Cir.) ("because the Plan gives more detail than
the SPD but does not contradict its terms, there is no conflict
between the Plan and the SPD"), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 118
S.Ct. 629, 139 L.Ed.2d 609 (1997); Stahl v. Tony's Bldg.
Materials, Inc., 875 F.2d 1404, 1407 (9th Cir. 1989) ("To
require ERISA summary plan descriptions to include accurate and
complete information about all of the different factual settings
in which a given pension plan rule might apply would lead to the
promulgation of `summaries' many pages in length, perhaps even
longer than the plan itself, that would be of no use to the
Furthermore, the relevant portions of the SPD clearly comply
with the requirements of ERISA, which sets forth in great detail
what information an SPD must contain. See
29 U.S.C. § 1022.*fn6 The SPD is
"written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average
plan participant," and is "sufficiently accurate and
comprehensive to reasonably apprise such participants and
beneficiaries of their rights and obligations under the plan." It
also describes "circumstances which may result in . . . loss of
benefits," namely, the participant's prior receipt of benefits at
the time of his prior departure from Xerox's employment. Nowhere
in § 1022, however, is a requirement that the SPD explain
precisely the extent of any such loss or reduction of benefits,
or how any possible deductions will be calculated.
I conclude, therefore, that plaintiff has not presented a basis
upon which a factfinder could reasonably conclude that the SPD
precluded the Plan Administrator from reducing plaintiffs benefit
amount based on the appreciated amount of his prior distribution
in accordance with the terms of the RIGP. Not only was the
Administrator's determination in that regard not arbitrary and
capricious, it was plainly correct.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Item 60) is granted,
and the complaint is dismissed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.