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December 1, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Jr., District Judge.


Plaintiff Paul J. Wojciechowski brings this action against defendants Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("Met Life") and his former employer IBM Corporation ("IBM"), under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., alleging that his claims made pursuant to the Long Term Disability and Separation Pay plans of IBM were wrongfully denied. Plaintiff seeks money damages and a declaratory judgment that he was and still is entitled to the benefits which he was denied. Before this Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, defendants motions are granted.


Plaintiff was hired by IBM in February of 1980. In February of 1995, he became a customer operations manager in IBM's National Service Division in White Plains, New York. His group handled support services for IBM consultants, which entailed, inter alia, inputting consultant contracts into the computer system, creating and tracking billing for each contract, creating reports relating to the contracts and otherwise assisting the financial division.

During his tenure at IBM, plaintiff was a participant in IBM's Long Term Disability Plan (the "LTD" plan) and IBM's Separation Allowance Plan (the "SAP"). IBM established and maintains both plans, which provide eligible IBM employees with certain benefits in the event of long term disability or separation, under certain circumstances, from IBM.

1. Long-Term Disability

The LTD plan is insured under a group policy issued by Met Life to IBM, wherein Met Life is the claims administrator. The Plan provides for the payment of LTD benefits in the event of a participant's total disability.

Under the plan, totally disabled,

  means that during the first 12 months after you
  complete the waiting period, you cannot perform the
  important duties of your regular occupation with IBM
  because of a sickness or injury. After expiration of
  that 12 month period, totally disabled means that,
  because of a sickness or injury, you cannot perform
  the important duties of your occupation or of any
  other gainful occupation for which you are reasonably
  fit by your education, training or experience.

LTD Summary Plan Description ("SPD") § 2.4.1.

In August of 1995, plaintiff was told that his division at IBM was relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina, effective February 1, 1996. After attending several meetings in Raleigh as part of this transition, plaintiff requested not to be transferred to Raleigh so that he could continue seeing his physician who was treating him for back and spinal injuries, among other symptoms, which he suffered as a result of a car accident that occurred on December 26, 1993. IBM complied with his request, assigning him the non-managerial position of liaison between the Financial group that remained in White Plains, and the Customer Operations group that relocated to North Carolina.

Before assuming this assignment, plaintiff's medical problems, verified in medical findings by his doctor, neurologist Kailash C. Pani, resulted in two consecutive three month leaves beginning January 16, 1996, under IBM's Sickness and Accident Plan (the "S & A Plan"). On April 16, 1996, following an examination of plaintiff, IBM's consultant Dr. Elliott Gross issued a report concluding that plaintiff could return to work. In response, on June 16, plaintiff issued a six page rebuttal to Dr. Gross' report in which he refuted and corrected alleged inaccuracies and errors in the Gross report.

Plaintiff's doctor produced several reports detailing plaintiff's medical problems and advising that plaintiff abstain from full-time work. Those problems included intense photophobia or hypersensitivity to light which caused tearing, severe back and spinal injuries, severe headaches and periodic depression and insomnia. Dr. Pani's report dated May 6, 1996, concluded that "the patient is advised to refrain and abstain from working with computer terminals of any kind. He is completely and permanently disabled to perform any substantial and material duties of his job at IBM."

Following a letter dated July 25, 1996, sent to him by his supervisor Frank J. Bon advising him that if he did not report to work by August 1 he would be terminated as an employee, plaintiff returned to work at IBM on August 5, 1996. He alleges that he experienced immediate head and eye pain caused by bright lights and 10 to 15 minute stints in front of a computer. Plaintiff met with IBM's Dr. J.M. Gonzalez the next day and a week later, plaintiff resumed his S & A leave. Following this incident, plaintiff's physician, Dr. Pani performed various diagnostic procedures, tests and examinations, concluding again that plaintiff was ...

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