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Melvin v. UA Local 13 Pension Plan

May 18, 2006

LOUANNE*FN1 G. MELVIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ALAN R. MELVIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UA LOCAL 13 PENSION PLAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Siragusa, J.

This case is back before the Court on an Order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit entered on September 30, 2005, remanding the case "for further proceedings to consider plaintiff's outstanding motion." Order, Melvin v. U.A. Local 13, No. 04-0690cv (Sep. 30, 2005). For the reasons stated below, as to equitable relief, the Court denies plaintiff's motions to deem the amended complaint amended, to enter final judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, and to grant leave to file a second amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

On March 7, 2002, this Court granted partial summary judgment to plaintiff in Melvin v. U.A. Local 13 Pension Plan, 204 F. Supp. 2d 564 (W.D.N.Y. 2002) ("Melvin I"). In Melvin I, the Court found that the U.A. Local 13 Pension Plan's ("the Plan") "freeze" provision violated the Employee Retirement Security Act's ("ERISA's") prohibition against "backloading." Plaintiff Alan Melvin died before judgment was entered. By Order of this Court entered on July 1, 2002, his former wife, Louanne G. Melvin, was substituted as plaintiff, both individually and as executor of his estate. Subsequently, on April 16, 2003, she moved to enter final judgment by dismissing the claims on which her former husband had not been granted summary judgment. However, before entry of a final and appealable judgment, the Court of Appeals decided Langman v. Laub, 328 F.3d 68 (2d Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1107 (2004). In light of Langman, this Court reconsidered its prior grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiff, and reversed the same, granting partial summary judgment to defendants, and, pursuant to plaintiff's request, dismissing the remaining claims. Melvin v. U.A. Local 13 Pension Plan, No. 98-CV-6347, 2003 WL 22384789, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18523 (W.D.N.Y. Sep. 26, 2003) ("Melvin II").

On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the Court's grant of partial summary judgment to defendants based on Langman, but remanded for clarification with regard to the Court's finding that plaintiff's claim for equitable relief was moot. Melvin v. U.A. Local 13 Pension Plan, No. 04-0690, 131 Fed. Appx. 737, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 3118 (2d Cir. Feb. 22, 2005). Specifically the circuit court stated:

III. Equitable Relief

Melvin also argues that he is entitled to (1) disgorgement of profits for the years during which Melvin was unwilling to sign the Plan's benefits form and (2) nullification of the Plan's determination that Melvin had not applied for benefits until 2000 because he was unwilling to sign the form. The Plan argues that Melvin's claim was not properly asserted below, and that therefore we should not consider it. However, in his motion for final judgment, Melvin asked that the district court award equitable relief in the form of disgorgement of income and pre-judgment interest. In his earlier motion for summary judgment in Melvin I, Melvin also asked for "interest or other appropriate relief on account of delay by the Plan in paying plaintiff the amount of his benefit which has never been subject to dispute" and at the same time asked that his complaint "be deemed amended to conform with" the claims he asserted. Although Melvin did not formally amend his complaint, the district court in Melvin II, in granting the Plan's motion for summary judgment, appears to have considered Melvin's claim for relief but dismissed it as moot in light of its other conclusions. Melvin II, 2003 WL 22384789, at *9, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18523, at *26.

We are unclear as to why entering summary judgment on the validity and application of the "freeze" provision renders Melvin's claim for equitable relief moot and remand this limited question to the district court for further clarification as to its disposition of Melvin's claim, while retaining jurisdiction. See United States v. Jacobson, 15 F.3d 19, 22 (2d Cir. 1994).

Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the district court's judgment with respect to the Plan's interpretation and application of the "freeze" provision, and its permissibility under ERISA, is hereby AFFIRMED, and the district court's determination that Melvin's claim for equitable relief is moot is REMANDED. On remand, the district court should clarify its disposition of Melvin's request for equitable relief.

Melvin v. U.A. Local 13, No. 04-6090, slip. opn. at 4-5 (2d Cir. Feb. 22, 2005).

In response and following oral argument on April 21, 2005, this Court petitioned the Second Circuit to "to remand the case for further proceedings on plaintiff's outstanding motion to amend to add a claim for equitable relief." Memorandum and Order, Melvin v. U.A. Local 13 Pension Plan, No. 98-CV-6347 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 5, 2005). On September 30, 2005, the Court of Appeals remanded the case "for further proceedings to consider plaintiff's outstanding motion." Order, Melvin v. U.A. Local 13, No. 04-0690cv (2d Cir. Sep. 30, 2005). Therefore, the Court now considers plaintiff's request for "interest or other appropriate relief on account of delay by the Plan in paying plaintiff the amount of his benefit which has never been subject to dispute."

ANALYSIS

Although plaintiff's papers and arguments are confusing, she appears to suggest two distinct theories in support of her contention that, on the current state of the record, she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on her equitable claims. First she maintains that her amended complaint should be deemed amended to include the equitable "claims" raised in her motion papers, thereby entitling her to judgment as a matter of law. Second, she asserts that even without amendment, the Court should grant her judgment as to the equitable relief she seeks, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, based on the allegations and arguments in the papers supporting the original motion for summary judgment. As an alternative to her contention that on the current state of the record she is entitled to judgment, she seeks leave to formally amend her amended complaint to specifically add her equitable claims relating to disgorgement.

As a preliminary matter, the parties agreed at oral argument on March 23, 2006, that the Court should review plaintiff's pending request for ...


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