The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Defendants First Unum Life Insurance Company ("Unum") and
Trustees of the New York Hospital Association of New York State
Group Insurance Trust ("HANYS") each moved for summary judgment,
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiffs opposed Unum's
motion.*fn1 Oral argument was heard on April 27, 2001 in Albany,
New York. Decision was reserved.
Plaintiff Robert Muller ("Muller" or "plaintiff") was employed
by Albany Medical College and Albany Medical Center (collectively
"AMC") as a nurse anesthetist. AMC provided a Group Long Term
Disability Plan ("Plan") to its employees. The Plan was issued by
Unum to HANYS. HANYS was named in the summary plan description as
the policyholder, plan administrator, and agent for service of
The Plan paid benefits for persons with a physical disability
until the individual reached age 65 (or possibly later, depending
on the age of the employee at the onset of the disability).
Benefits for individuals suffering disability due to mental,
nervous, or emotional disorders, however, were only payable for a
maximum of two years.
On January 19, 1994, Muller stopped working due to morphine
addiction and clinical depression. He applied for, and received,
long term disability benefits beginning on July 18, 1994. On May
23, 1995, Unum ceased payment of benefits, contending that he was
no longer disabled. Muller administratively appealed this
determination. His appeal was denied and Unum closed Muller's
file in October of 1996.
Muller initially commenced an action solely against Unum in the
Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Saratoga,
alleging that Unum wrongfully terminated his benefits. On October
3, 1997, Unum removed the action to federal court on the basis
that Muller essentially alleged a violation of the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), as amended,
29 U.S.C. § 1001-1461. Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended
complaint to (1) add his wife, Antoinette I. Muller ("Mrs.
Muller"), as a plaintiff; (2) add HANYS as a defendant in the
ERISA claim; and (3) assert claims against AMC pursuant to the
Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101-12213,
and the New York State Human Rights Law ("HRL"),
N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301 (McKinney 1993). See Muller v. First
Unum Life Ins. Co., 23 F. Supp.2d 231 (N.D.N.Y. 1998).
AMC moved to dismiss the ADA and HRL claims asserted against
it, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for
summary judgment. The motion to dismiss was granted on the
grounds that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he is a
"qualified individual with a disability" within the meaning of
ADA § 12111(8), and even if he could make such a showing, the ADA
does not require equal treatment between individuals with
physical and mental disabilities. Muller v. First Unum Life Ins.
Co., 90 F. Supp.2d 204 (N.D.N.Y. 2000).
Unum's motion for summary judgment contends that Muller has
failed to show that he remained disabled after May 23, 1995.
Alternatively, it argues that plaintiff's recovery, if any, must
be limited to fourteen months, as provided in the Plan. Finally,
Unum argues that the plain language of the Plan precludes Mrs.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact, and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986);
Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d Cir.
1991). The moving party carries the initial burden of
demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323,
106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Thompson v. Gjivoje,
896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990). Facts, inferences therefrom, and
ambiguities must be viewed in a light most ...