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Aken v. Xerox Corp.

July 18, 2007

VICKI M. AKEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Vicki M. Aken ("Aken") brings this action against Defendant Xerox Corporation ("Xerox"), its former employer, seeking recovery of disputed pension benefits. Specifically, Aken alleges that she sustained losses with respect to retirement benefits allegedly due to her under Xerox's Retirement Income Guarantee Plan. Aken states that she relied upon the alleged misrepresentation by Xerox of benefits available to her because of her participation in Xerox's Voluntary Reduction in Force.

On April 16, 2007, Aken filed her complaint in the Supreme Court of New York, County of Monroe under a state law theory of negligent misrepresentation. On May 16, 2007, Xerox filed a notice of removal stating that Aken's complaint related to an employee benefit plan which was within the scope of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), and was therefore, a federal question to be decided in the Federal Court system.*fn1 In response to Xerox's notice of removal, Aken brought a motion to remand on June 6, 2007, arguing that her claim is founded solely on New York state law, and therefore, deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons set forth below, I hereby deny Aken's motion to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

Aken was a salaried employee at Xerox for a total of 32 years and was eligible for Xerox's Retirement Income Guarantee Plan ("RIGP"). On October 24, 2005, Xerox announced a Voluntary Reduction in Force for eligible, active salaried employees. After visiting a Hewitt Resources website on November 14, 2005, Aken claims that she determined that she would be entitled to a projected pension benefit under the RIGP of $296,536.21. Further, on or about November 17, 2005, Aken received a Pension Calculated Statement which provided an estimate of $300,044.49 as Aken's pension benefits should she wish to participate in the Voluntary Reduction in Force.

On November 30, 2005, Aken requested to participate in the Voluntary Reduction in Force and the request was approved two weeks later. Aken allegedly stopped working for Xerox around January 27, 2006. On September 9, 2006, Xerox sent Aken a Pension Disclosure Notice estimating her pension benefit to be $242,401.05.

On October 18, 2006, Aken filed a written claim with Arlyn B. Kaster ("Kaster"), Xerox's Pension and Life Insurance Programs' manager, regarding the amount of the pension benefit from the RIGP. Kaster affirmed that Aken was receiving the correct amount and denied Aken any additional benefits. Kaster notified Aken of her right to appeal the denial of additional benefits, and her right to bring a civil action under ERISA. Aken appealed the denial of her claim to Lawrence Becker ("Becker"), Xerox's Pension and Life Insurance Programs' plan administrator, and Becker affirmed Kaster's decision on January 29, 2006. Becker also notified Aken of her right to bring a civil action under ERISA.

DISCUSSION

I. Aken's Motion to Remand

"[F]ederal Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction" Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 692 (1986), and under the realm of subject matter jurisdiction, the Federal Courts have two types of jurisdictions authorized by Congress and the Constitution: federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. Under federal question jurisdiction, Federal Courts are authorized to hear disputes that arise pursuant to a federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under diversity jurisdiction, Federal Courts are authorized to hear disputes between citizens of different states, provided the amount in controversy is greater than $75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

A defendant can remove a civil action brought in State Court to a Federal District Court if the District Court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Once a case is removed to Federal Court, a plaintiff can seek to remand the case back to state court arguing lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II. Removal to Federal Court is Proper and Aken's State Law Claim is Pre-Empted by ERISA

Congress enacted ERISA to protect the interests of participants in employee benefit plans and their beneficiaries by setting out substantive regulatory requirements for employee benefit plans and to provide for appropriate remedies, sanctions, and ready access to the Federal Courts. Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200, 208 (2004). "Because its purpose is to provide a uniform regulatory regime, ERISA includes expansive pre-emption provisions . . . which are intended to ensure that employee benefit plan regulation is exclusively a federal concern." Id. Further, "any state-law cause of action that duplicates, supplements, or ...


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