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