"including but not limited to refusing to represent plaintiff on
his mental illness disability claims against his employer."
See Amended Complaint at ¶¶ 21-24, 34. Plaintiff seeks five (5)
million dollars in punitive damages from Local 111 for "their
failure to protect [plaintiff's] interest, including
[plaintiffs] mental, physical, emotional and financial
interests." See Amended Complaint at ¶ 4.
Plaintiff further asserts, again in a claim identical to the
one made in Taylor I, that UNUM either: (a) improperly
deducted or forced him to pay premiums while he was disabled;
(b) overpaid benefits and then deducted the overpayment too
quickly; or (c) did not pay the monthly benefits to which he was
entitled. See Taylor Opposition to UNUM America's Brief In
Support of Motion to Dismiss Taylor Complaint dated February 28,
2002, ("Taylor Opposition") at 2-4. Plaintiff seeks four (4)
million dollars from UNUM in punitive damages for their
"intentional refusal to pay [plaintiff] appropriated benefits
that [to which he is] entitled." Taylor Opposition at 5.
Plaintiff also claims, as he did in Taylor I, that MCI
discriminated against him based on his race, age and disability.
This alleged discrimination by his employer supposedly caused
plaintiff to become mentally disabled. See Complaint at ¶¶ 2,
4, 19. Moreover, according to plaintiff, from 1984 to 1993
plaintiffs mental condition was aggravated by disparate
treatment by his coworkers. Plaintiff seeks ten (10) million
dollars from MCI in punitive damages arising out of its
"intentional willful action that was designed to cause
[plaintiff] great emotional, mental and physical stress," as
well as $1,636.00 for premiums paid to plaintiffs insurance
policy during his disability. See Amended Complaint at ¶ 4
Defendants deny all of plaintiffs contentions and argue
primarily that all of his federal claims are barred by the
doctrine of res judicata.
A court may grant summary judgment only if it determines,
based on a review of the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions on file and affidavits, that there
are no genuine issues of material fact. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
When ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must
construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable
inferences against the moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202
(1986). If no genuine issue as to any material fact exists, the
moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.
See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548.
A. Plaintiffs Federal Claims are Barred by the Doctrine of
Despite the Court's duty to "read the pleadings of a pro se
plaintiff liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest
arguments that they suggest," McPherson v. Coombe,
(quoting Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A. v. Celotex Corp.,
56 F.3d 343, 345 (2d Cir. 1995)) The doctrine takes effect when: (a)
there exists an adjudication on the merits in a prior law suit;
(b) the prior lawsuit involved the party to be precluded or a
party in privity with that party; and (c) the claims sought to
be precluded were raised, or might reasonably have been raised
in a prior lawsuit. Id.
All three (3) of these requirements are met in the instant
case. The Court's dismissal of all federal claims with prejudice
and dismissal of all state claims without prejudice constitutes
an adjudication on the merits. See Chase Manhattan v. Celotex,
56 F.3d 343, 345 (2d Cir. 1995). Taylor is the plaintiff in both
lawsuits and, with the exception of his ERISA claim, his
complaints in the two (2) cases are identical. In his first
lawsuit, plaintiff alleged violations of Title VII, ADA, and
ADEA. See Taylor I, Amended Complaint at ¶ 1. These claims
were adjudicated on the merits. Plaintiff then brought a second
case alleging violations of Title VII, ADA, ADEA, ERISA and
"applicable state law" based on the same facts described in the
Taylor I. See Amended Complaint at ¶ 1. Thus res judicata
bars the first three (3) claims as all of them have already been
dismissed on the merits against plaintiff. Res judicata also
precludes the alleged ERISA violation because that claim is
based on the same underlying facts alleged in Taylor I and
could reasonably have been raised in that proceeding. See id.
Thus, plaintiffs federal claims must be and are hereby dismissed
pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata.
B. ERISA Pre-emption
Plaintiff alleges violations of state law in the introductory
paragraph of his complaint. See Amended Complaint at ¶ 1. To
the extent plaintiff claims defendants acted in derogation of
his rights under an employee benefits plan, such claims are
pre-empted by ERISA. A state law action is preempted by ERISA if
it has a clear "connection with" a plan in the sense that it
"mandates employee benefit structures or their administration"
or "provides alternative enforcement measures." Plumbing Indus.
Bd., Plumbing Local Union No. 1 v. E.W. Howell Co.,
126 F.3d 61, 66 (2d Cir. 1997).
Plaintiff, in his complaint, claims that defendants withheld
benefits to which he was entitled. Amended Complaint at IT 8,
16, 17. However, ERISA preempts the state law statute cited
because it mandates the administration of employee benefits. Any
state statute that could conceivably be cited by plaintiff in
regard to receipt of benefits is necessarily preempted by ERISA
and it follows that since any claims based on the distribution
of benefits are federal claims they could and should have been
raised in the prior proceedings, and as such, are barred by res
C. State Law Claims
Finally, having dismissed plaintiff's federal causes of
action, the Court declines to exercise its discretion to
consider plaintiffs state law discrimination claims. See
Carnegie-Mellon v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350, 108 S.Ct. 614, 98
L.Ed.2d 720 (1988); accord In re Porges, 44 F.3d 159, 162 (2d
Cir. 1995) (court is "not required to dismiss [plaintiff's]
state claims [but] dismissal of such claims is the general
rule"). The Court therefore dismisses these claims without
prejudice to being renewed in the appropriate state court venue.
For the foregoing reasons the Court grants defendants' motion
for summary judgment and dismisses all of plaintiff's claims.
The Clerk of the Court is hereby
directed to close the above captioned action.
It is SO ORDERED.