The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM SKRETNY, District Judge
In this case, Plaintiff John Doe seeks to recover long-term disability
benefits from Defendants Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York
("Cigna") and Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston ("Liberty")
pursuant to § 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). In addition, Plaintiff claims that he is
entitled to equitable relief pursuant to ERISA § 502(a)(3) because
Liberty breached its fiduciary duty. Currently before this Court is
Liberty's Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1
The facts of this case, which are undisputed for purposes of the
instant motion, may be summarized as follows.*fn2 In July of 1998,
Plaintiff began working as an attorney at
Harris, Beach, & Wilcox ("Harris Beach"), a law firm located in
Rochester, New York. (Liberty's Rule 56 Statement, ¶ 1). Plaintiff
was eventually promoted to partner. Id.
Defendant Liberty is an insurance company licensed to do business in
the State of New York. (Amended Complaint, ¶ 3). In 1995, Liberty
issued a Group Disability Income Policy (the "Policy") to Harris Beach.
(Liberty's Rule 56 Statement, ¶ 2). The Policy, which became
effective on July 1, 1995, provided long-term disability benefits to
certain eligible classes of Harris Beach employees, including partners.
Id. at ¶¶ 2-3.
On August 14, 1997, Plaintiff was hospitalized for three weeks after
contracting encephalitis and spinal meningitis. (Plaintiff's Memorandum
of Law, p. 1). Except for a brief period in September, Plaintiff was
absent from work as a result of his illness until December of 1997.
(Liberty's Rule 56 Statement, ¶ 16).
On October 31, 1997, Susan Dearstyne, Harris Beach's administrative
manager, composed and mailed a letter to Liberty (the "Dearstyne
Letter").*fn3 Id. at 17. In her letter, Ms. Dearstyne stated
that she wanted to provide Liberty with "preliminary notice of a
disability claim which may be made on behalf of one of [Harris Beach's]
partners." (Dearstyne Letter, at LL-00048, attached as Exhibit C to
Affidavit of Paula McGee). The letter did not identify the partner or
describe the nature of his illness, but advised that Ms. Dearstyne would
provide Liberty with additional information if the situation progressed.
After returning to work in December of 1997, Plaintiff continued to
practice law at Harris Beach until July 31, 1998, when he joined the law
firm of Trevett, Lenweaver, &
Salzer, P.C. ("Trevett").*fn4 (Liberty's Rule 56 Statement, ¶
On June 22, 2000, Plaintiff submitted a Disability Claim Form to
Liberty. Id. at 15. Plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to
long-term disability benefits under the terms of the Policy because he
had suffered "encephalitis and spinal meningitis resulting in permanent
brain damage" while employed at Harris Beach. (Disability Claim Form, at
LL-00047, attached as Exhibit C to McGee Affidavit). After reviewing the
claim, Liberty determined that Plaintiff had not provided timely notice
of his claim as required under the Policy. (Liberty's Rule 56 Statement,
¶ 23). Thereafter, Liberty informed Plaintiff that his claim was
denied. (Notice of Rejection of Claim, at LL-00044, attached as Exhibit E
to McGee Affidavit).
Plaintiff commenced this action on October 24, 2000, by filing a
Summons and Complaint in the New York State Supreme Court, Monroe County.
Defendant Liberty removed the case to the United States District Court
for the Western District of New York on November 27, 2000.*fn5
On April 26, 2002, Defendant Libertyfiled a Motion for Summary Judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn6
Thereafter, this Court referred this
matter to the Honorable Leslie G. Foschio, United States Magistrate
Judge, to hear Liberty's summary judgment motion and issue a Report and
Judge Foschio filed a Report and Recommendation on September 11, 2003,
recommending that Liberty's motion be granted in all respects. On October
8, 2003, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report and
Recommendation.*fn7 This Court heard oral ...