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ZARYCKI v. MOUNT SINAI/NYU HEALTH

November 4, 2005.

CAROL ZARYCKI, Plaintiff,
v.
MOUNT SINAI/NYU HEALTH, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HENRY PITMAN, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff moves, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), to amend her complaint to add claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"),*fn1 as amended 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq., the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-102 et seq., and to recover attorney's fees and costs. Plaintiff also seeks to add as defendants UnumProvident Corporation ("Unum") and the Mount Sinai Medical Center Long Term Disability Plan (the "Plan") and to substitute defendant Mount Sinai/NYU Health with its member organizations, The Mount Sinai Medical Center and The Mount Sinai Hospital.*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

  II. Facts

  The Proposed Amended Complaint alleges the following facts; I assume the allegations to be true for purposes of this motion. Jackson Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 32 F.3d 697, 699-700 (2d Cir. 1994); Da Cruz v. Towmasters of N.J., Inc., 217 F.R.D. 126, 128 n. 1 (E.D.N.Y. 2003); Binder v. Nat'l Life of Vt., 02 Civ. 6411 (GEL), 2003 WL 21180417 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 20, 2003).

  Plaintiff was employed by Mount Sinai and was a participant in the Plan (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 10). Unum is an insurance company that "exercised discretionary authority and responsibility in the administration and management of the Plan" and is also a fiduciary with respect to the Plan (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 13, 14). In 1997, plaintiff was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 20). In July 1999, plaintiff took a short term leave of absence because she was experiencing "chronic and disabling symptoms due to medical complications from breast cancer" (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 21, 22). Plaintiff returned to work September 20, 1999 but her "breast cancer impairments worsened" (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 23).

  In September 1999 and from June through September 2000, plaintiff requested that defendants grant her an accommodation such as working part-time, working from home or taking FMLA leave (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 24-26, 30, 32, 35-39). Specifically, plaintiff made such a request during a July 2000 meeting with Caryn Tiger from the defendants' Labor Relations department and Michael Pastier, plaintiff's supervisor (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 19, 32-33, 36). At that meeting, plaintiff noted to Pastier that two younger employees had been granted similar accommodations (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 34). However, she was not granted any accommodation, and Pastier suggested she apply for disability (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 26, 34).

  In September 2000, while waiting for defendants' approval for FMLA leave, plaintiff's condition further worsened and she was unable to work (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 37). On September 19, 2000 plaintiff submitted a "FMLA health certification" and a claim for Short Term Disability ("STD") benefits (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 38, 39). On September 20, 2000, plaintiff received a letter stating that her position was being eliminated and that plaintiff's employment was being terminated (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 41). Accordingly, September 20, 2000 was plaintiff's last date of "active employment" under the Plan (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 42).

  After the September 20, 2000 termination, Tiger told plaintiff that her termination had been a "mistake" and that she would look into plaintiff's employment status and eligibility for STD and Long Term Disability ("LTD") benefits (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 43). Defendants did not respond to plaintiff's inquiries regarding these matters (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 45).

  On May, 21, 2001, plaintiff submitted an application for LTD benefits to defendants (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 46). Defendants refused to process the LTD claim throughout the period from May 2001 through May 2003 (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 47). During this two year span, defendants were uncooperative and provided conflicting information to plaintiff and Unum including the following: (1) on November 13, 2001, defendants sent a fax to plaintiff representing that defendants still employed plaintiff; (2) in November 2001 defendants stated they were not processing plaintiff's LTD claim because defendants had decided that plaintiff had been terminated as of July 24, 2001, retroactively and, therefore, they no longer had any obligation to process the LTD claim; (3) on December 24, 2001, defendants sent a fax to plaintiff stating that plaintiff's retroactive date of termination was July 24, 2001 (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 49-50, 53). As a result of these inconsistent actions by defendants, plaintiff submitted her LTD claim directly to Unum on December 18, 2001 (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 52).

  In May 2003, defendants finally agreed to process plaintiff's LTD claims because they "believed [they] had successfully coerced [p]laintiff into agreeing to a small settlement for her pending employment claims" (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 56). However, defendants then provided Unum with an incorrect date — July 25, 1999 instead of September 20, 2000 — for plaintiff's last date of active employment (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 57). On August 19, 2003, plaintiff received Unum's denial of her LTD claim; the denial incorrectly noted that July 25, 1999 was the date of last active employment instead of September 20, 2000, and that plaintiff had submitted her LTD claim on December 18, 2001 instead of May 21, 2001 (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 58, 59). Despite plaintiff's requests, defendants did not provide the correct last date of plaintiff's employment to Unum until October 2003, and this issue was not completely corrected until January 2004 (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 63, 64, 70, 72-73). On November 11, 2003, plaintiff appealed the August 19, 2003 denial of her claim (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 66). On February 13, 2004, Unum notified plaintiff that her LTD claim was again denied (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 75).

  Plaintiff also alleges that defendants wronged her in other ways. First, plaintiff claims that defendants failed to inform her about her rights to continued health insurance coverage after she was terminated (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 54). Second, plaintiff claims that on September 24, 2003, plaintiff requested a copy of the Plan document and Summary Plan Description ("SPD") from Mount Sinai, the "named Plan Fiduciary and Plan Administrator" (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 62). Defendants produced the SPD, but, according to the plaintiff, have not, to date, produced the Plan document (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 62).

  Plaintiff filed her EEOC Charge on or about March 19, 2002 (Prop. Amend. Compl. ¶ 15). This EEOC Charge, which included an attached narrative, was later attached to the original complaint (see EEOC Charge annexed to Complaint, Docket Item 2). III. Motion to Amend Complaint

  A. Applicable Standards

  The standards applicable to a motion to amend a pleading are well settled and require only brief review. Leave to amend a pleading should be freely granted when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 (a); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Dluhos v. Floating & Abandoned Vessel, Known as "New York", 162 F.3d 63, 69 (2d Cir. 1998); Gumer v. Shearson, Hamill & Co., 516 F.2d 283, 287 (2d Cir. 1974); Aniero Concrete Co. v. New York City Constr. Auth., 94 Civ. 9111 (CSH), 1998 WL 148324 at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 1998), aff'd sub nom., Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Aniero Concrete Co., 404 F.3d 566 (2d Cir. 2005). "Nonetheless, the Court may deny leave if the amendment (1) has been delayed unduly, (2) is sought for dilatory purposes or is made in bad faith, (3) the opposing party would be prejudiced, or (4) would be futile." Lee v. Regal Cruises, Ltd., 916 F. Supp. 300, 303 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), aff'd, 116 F.3d 465 (2d Cir. 1997); see Ellis v. Chao, 336 F.3d 114, 126-27 (2d Cir. 2003); Montefiore Med. Ctr. v. Am. Prot. Ins. Co., 00 Civ. 3235 (LTS), 2003 WL 21108261 at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 14, 2003); Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Jacky Maeder (Hong Kong) Ltd., 969 F. Supp. 184, 187-88 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). A proposed amended complaint is futile when it fails to state a claim. See Health-Chem Corp. v. Baker, 915 F.2d 805, 810 (2d Cir. 1990) ("Although Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) provides that leave to amend should be given freely when justice so requires, where, as here, there is no merit in the proposed amendments, leave to amend should be denied."); Mina Inv. Holdings Ltd. v. Lefkowitz, 184 F.R.D. 245, 257 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Parker v. Sony Pictures Entm't, Inc., 19 F. Supp.2d 141, 156 (S.D.N.Y. 1998), aff'd in pertinent part, vacated in part on other grounds sub nom., Parker v. Columbia Pictures Indus., 204 F.3d 326 (2d Cir. 2000); Yaba v. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, 931 F. Supp. 271, 274 (S.D.N.Y 1996); Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. BMC Indus., Inc., 655 F. Supp. 710, 711 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) ("[A]lthough leave to amend should be freely given, it is inappropriate to grant leave when the amendment would not survive a motion to dismiss.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "The Proposed Amended Complaint may therefore be scrutinized as if defendant's objections to the amendments constituted a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P 12 (b) (6)." Journal Publ'g Co. v. Am. Home Assurance Co., 771 F. Supp. 632, 635 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).

  The Court of Appeals has repeatedly noted that the trial court has "broad" discretion in ruling on a motion to amend. Local 802, Associated Musicians v. Parker Meridien Hotel, 145 F.3d 85, 89 (2d Cir. 1998); Krumme ...


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