United States District Court, S.D. New York
August 24, 2004.
MARK WINKLER, Plaintiff,
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") moved for a
declaration that its decision denying disability benefits to Mark
Winkler, formerly employed by the Jack Morton Company, should be
reviewed under an arbitrary and capricious standard. MetLife
prevailed on its motion. See Winkler v. Metropolitan Life Ins.
Co., No. 03 Civ. 9656, 2004 WL 1687202, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 27,
2004). Plaintiff now moves for reconsideration of that decision
on the ground that the Court overlooked controlling legal
authority. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion is
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule
6.3 and are committed to the sound discretion of the district
court. See AT&T Corp. v. Microsoft Corp., No. 01 Civ. 4872,
2004 WL 309150, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 19, 2004). Under Local Civil Rule 6.3, "the moving party must
demonstrate controlling law or factual matters put before the
court on the underlying motion that the movant believes the court
overlooked and that might reasonably be expected to alter the
court's decision." Montanile v. National Broad. Co.,
216 F. Supp. 2d 341, 342 (S.D.N.Y. 2002), aff'd, 2003 WL 328825 (2d
Cir. Feb. 13, 2003) (summary order). See also Shrader v. CSX
Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). Reconsideration
is an "extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the
interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial
resources." In re Health Mgmt. Sys., Inc. Sec. Litig.,
113 F. Supp. 2d 613, 614 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (internal quotation marks and
Local Civil Rule 6.3 is narrowly construed and strictly applied
in order to avoid repetitive arguments already considered by the
Court. See Greenes v. Vijax Fuel Corp., No. 02 Civ. 450, 2004
WL 1516804, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 7, 2004). A motion for
reconsideration is not a substitute for appeal. See RMED Int'l,
Inc. v. Sloan's Supermarkets, Inc., 207 F. Supp. 2d 292, 296
(S.D.N.Y. 2002). Nor is it "a `second bite at the apple' for a
party dissatisfied with a court's ruling." Pannonia Farms, Inc.
v. USA Cable, No. 03 Civ. 7841, 2004 WL 1794504, at *2 (S.D.N.Y.
Aug. 10, 2004). Accordingly, the moving party may not "advance
new facts, issues or arguments not previously presented to the
Court." Morse/Diesel, Inc. v. Fidelity and Deposit Co. of Maryland,
768 F. Supp. 115, 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).
In his motion for reconsideration, plaintiff argues that this
Court overlooked "controlling legal authority" including certain
provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
("ERISA")*fn1 and the Second Circuit's decision in
Birminghan v. Sogen-Swiss Int'l Corp. Ret. Plan, 718 F.2d 515,
522 (2d Cir. 1983).*fn2 Plaintiff argues that the Court's
holding granting MetLife an arbitrary and capricious standard of
review ignores the express requirements of ERISA because: (1)
MetLife was not named in the Jack Morton Company Employee Welfare
Plan (the "Plan") as a "named fiduciary" pursuant to section
402(a)(1); (2) the Plan did not specify a procedure under which
the Jack Morton Company, in its role as employer, could designate
a "named fiduciary" pursuant to section 402(a)(2) and (b)(2); and (3) the Plan did
not expressly provide for a procedure under which the Jack Morton
Company, in its role as sole named fiduciary, could delegate
fiduciary duties pursuant to section 405(c)(1) to a non-named
fiduciary such as MetLife. See Pl. Mem. at 5. These arguments
need not be considered given the Court's holding that MetLife was
clearly a Plan fiduciary, given the description of its duties,
although not identified by name. See Winkler, 2004 WL 1687202,
at *2 n. 20.
This Court expressly considered plaintiff's argument that
"because MetLife is not explicitly labeled a `fiduciary' in the
Summary Plan Document ("SPD"), it does not fall within the
meaning of `other Plan fiduciaries.'"*fn3 Winkler, 2004 WL
1687202, at *2. This Court also considered plaintiff's argument
that "only parties that are `named fiduciaries' under section
402(a)(2) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1102(a)(2), can be given
discretionary authority in a plan document." Id. & n. 15. In
rejecting these arguments, this Court explained that because
"[t]he SPD invests MetLife with authority to evaluate claims and
to review participants' appeals," MetLife is a fiduciary for
purposes of ERISA and the SPD's reservation of discretionary
authority applies to MetLife. Id. & n. 20. This Court's
reliance on Butts v. Continental Cas. Co., 357 F.3d 835, 838
(8th Cir. 2004), does not indicate a disregard for ERISA's
statutory requirements, it merely indicates an interpretation of
ERISA's statutory language which is at odds with plaintiff's
While the Court's opinion fully explained the basis for its
holding, further explanation may be warranted. MetLife issued a
group disability policy to the Jack Morton Company and, in doing
so, became the "insurer" of that Plan. Indeed, the SPD is issued
by MetLife. The Plan states that "notice of a claim must be given
to us during the Elimination Period. . . . When we receive
written notice of a claim, we may. . . . While a claim is
pending, we, at our expense, have the right to have you
examined by Doctors of our choice when and as often as we
reasonably choose." SPD at 18 (emphasis added). In a later
section, titled "Procedures for Presenting Claims for Benefits,"
the Plan states: "The completed claim form should be returned to your employer who will certify
that you are insured under the Plan and will then forward the
claim form to Metropolitan." Id. at 25 (emphasis added). "If
there is any question about a claim payment, an explanation may
be requested from Metropolitan through your Employer or by
direct contact with your Metropolitan Group Disability Claim
Office." Id. (emphasis added). Finally, in the section titled
"Statement of ERISA Rights," the Plan states: "In addition to
creating rights for Plan participants, ERISA imposes duties upon
the people who are responsible for the operation of the
employee benefit plan. The people who operate your Plan, called
`fiduciaries' of the Plan, have a duty to do so prudently. . . ."
Id. at 26 (emphasis added).
These various sections make it crystal clear that MetLife is a
fiduciary, as there is no question that it "operates" the Plan.
As noted in the original decision, the Plan also states: "In
carrying out their respective responsibilities under the Plan,
the Plan administrator and other Plan fiduciaries shall have
discretionary authority to interpret the terms of the Plan and to
determine eligibility for and entitlement to Plan benefits. . . .
Any interpretation or determination made pursuant to such
discretionary authority shall be given full force and effect,
unless . . . [that] determination was arbitrary and capricious."
Id. (emphasis added). MetLife clearly falls within the term
"other Plan fiduciaries" as used in this discretion delegating provision.
Finally, plaintiff cites Birmingham, 718 F.2d at 522, for the
proposition that "[a] valid plan under ERISA must designate a
`named fiduciary' so that responsibility for managing and
operating the Plan and liability for mismanagement are
focused with a degree of certainty."*fn4 Pl. Mem. at 4
(emphasis in original). But Birmingham never addressed this
issue. The question addressed in Birmingham was whether the
authority of a named fiduciary (the Retirement Committee) to
interpret a plan could be overruled by a provision stating that
the "Committee . . . shall, subject to the Board of Directors,
have control of the detailed operation and administration of the
Plan. . . ." 718 F.2d at 521 (emphasis in original). The court
held that this "subject to" language could not, by itself, alter
the statutory grant of authority to the Retirement Committee.
See id. at 522 ("We hold only that such a reservation in
derogation of a statutory grant of power must be done explicitly
and with precision and that the `subject to' language fails to
accomplish that end."). Accordingly, the "controlling authority"
cited by plaintiff is not controlling at all. Plaintiff has cited
no controlling authority that would change this Court's ruling.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion for
reconsideration is denied. Plaintiff's remaining recourse,
therefore, is to the Court of Appeals. The Clerk of the Court is
directed to close plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.