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Mugno v. Societe Internationale De Telecommunications Aeronautiques

January 30, 2007

ANTHONY MUGNO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SOCIETE INTERNATIONALE DE TELECOMMUNICATIONS AERONAUTIQUES, LTD., SOCIETE INTERNATIONALE DE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SC, SOCIETY INTERNATIONALE DE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INC., SITA, SC; SITA INC.; SITA, SITA INFORMATION NETWORKING COMPANY USA, INC.; SITA INC NV; A/K/A THE SITA GROUP; ENGINEERING AIRPORT AND DESKTOP SERVICES; AND THE HARTFORD INSURANCE GROUP, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On Motion to Dismiss (doc. #32)

Plaintiff alleges that as the result of stress fractures to his right foot and soft tissue damage to his right ankle, together with osteoporosis, Plaintiff's doctor advised him to take a disability leave. The instant case arises from the alleged denial of Plaintiff's request for short-term disability benefits from his then-employer, Defendant Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques, Ltd. ("Societe" or "the Company"),*fn1 and from the employer's benefits provider, Defendant The Hartford Insurance Group ("Hartford").*fn2

Plaintiff is Anthony Mugno ("Plaintiff" or "Mugno"), a senior integration engineer, who brings the present suit against Societe for violations of (1) the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"); (2) the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"); (3) the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); and (4) New York State Human Rights Law. Mugno's cause of action against Hartford (Mugno's "Fifth Cause of Action," see Pl.'s Amended Compl. at 12 ("Complaint")) is for negligence in its handling and denial of Mugno's disability claim, as well as violating Societe's health benefit plan ("the Plan"), ERISA, ADA, and New York State law.

Defendant Hartford moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Fifth Cause of Action, the only cause of action that pertains to it. (See Hartford's Mem. of Law in Support of Mot. Dismiss at 10 ("Hartford Dismissal Mem.").) In support of its dismissal motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Hartford makes four arguments. First, Mugno has no cause of action against Hartford for violation of the ADA. (See id. at 3-5.) Second, Mugno has no cause of action under the Plan or under New York State law. (See id. at 5-6.) Third, Mugno has failed to state a cause of action under ERISA as against Hartford. (See id. at 7-8.) Finally, there is no basis upon which to grant Mugno's demands for punitive damages and/or damages pursuant to the FMLA (See id. at 8-9.)

In his Joint Memorandum of Law in Opposition ("Pl.'s Opp'n Mem.") to both Societe's and Hartford's motions for dismissal, Mugno says little that addresses Hartford's arguments. In essence, all Mugno does is refute Hartford's reliance on the case of Pallozzi v. Allstate Life Ins. Co., 204 F.3d 392, (2d Cir. 2000), arguing the case supports Plaintiff's assertion of conspiracy and subterfuge. (See Pl.'s Opp'n Mem. at 10.)

For the reasons stated, infra, the Court GRANTS Hartford's Motion to Dismiss; thus, all claims against Hartford are dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

On a motion for dismissal, a court must accept as true all facts alleged in a plaintiff's complaint and must draw all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Twombly v. Bell Atlantic Corp., 425 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2005) (citing Todd v. Exxon Corp., 275 F.3d 191, 197 (2d Cir. 2001)). Thus, this summary of facts is based on the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (the "Complaint").

Prior to August 2003, Mugno had worked for Societe for five years in its Engineering and Desktop Services department. At some time, Mugno suffered stress fractures in his right foot and soft tissue damage to his right ankle, coupled with osteoporosis.*fn3 As a result of this condition, Mugno's doctors advised Mugno to take leave from work.

Mugno alleges that the Company's Human Resources representative, Susan Farrell, was not available to him to report his leave, nor did Farrell advise Mugno of his "rights and obligations under the Plan, under the leave policy or that the FMLA and short term disability ran concurrently, among other omissions . . . ." (Complaint at ¶ 38.) Mugno also states that his boss, Frank Sullivan, was not available so that he (Mugno) could report his leave. Therefore, on or about August 23, 2003, after notifying Mike De Iulio, Sullivan's supervisor, Mugno began his leave of absence. According to Mugno's Complaint, De Iulio approved the leave, as well as Mugno's offer to continue working on his project from home. And, despite De Iulio stating he did not need one, Mugno provided De Iulio with a physician's note to justify his need for leave. Several days later, Sullivan contacted Mugno to offer to drive him to work. Although not stated in the Complaint, the reasonable inference that can be drawn from the Complaint is that Mugno did not accept this offer. Mugno continued to work from home for the Company for three to four weeks.

On September 5, 2003, while Mugno was working from home, Farrell sent Mugno the Company's disability claim paperwork. Thereafter, Mugno contacted Hartford, the Company's disability benefits provider, and established a claim. He also timely completed the other required paperwork for the Company and returned it to Farrell. To ensure all paperwork was received, Mugno followed up with Farrell and was informed that all necessary paperwork and information had been received.

Later, in the third week of September, Farrell called Mugno to inform him that if he was on short-term disability leave, he could not be doing work for the Company, nor could he use the Company's e-mail. This prompted Mugno's repeated attempts to contact various Company personnel to seek guidance on how to handle his leave since he was providing coaching and instruction--from his home, via telephone--to another engineer about his duties on an on-going project. Mugno's attempts were to no avail.

On November 20, 2003, Mugno left a voice mail for Farrell "informing her that he was ready, willing and able to return to work[.]" (Complaint at ¶ 58.) The next day, Mugno received a phone call from Societe's Human Resources Director, Dorothy Lago, who "informed plaintiff he had been away from the office for too long, had not kept them [the Company] abreast of his status and was therefore no longer employed by SITA." (Id. at ¶ 59.) Mugno's termination was not memorialized in writing.

Mugno contends that Societe wrongfully terminated him "on account of his disability, actual and/or perceived." (Complaint at ¶ 62.) Mugno further asserts that "Societe . . . clearly 'diddled' Mr. Mugno in contravention of all applicable law to avoid paying his disability insurance and for other discriminatory reasons." (Id. at ¶ 65.) Among other allegations of wrongdoing by Societe, Mugno claims that Societe failed "to abide by the terms of the [Societe] policy with The Hartford after a claim had been established." (Id. at 76.) Concomitantly, Mugno alleges that "Hartford ...


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