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Florczyk v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

July 11, 2008

KATHRYN FLORCZYK, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF STANLEY J. FLORCZYK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: George H. Lowe, United States Magistrate Judge

DECISION AND ORDER*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Katherine Florczyk ("Plaintiff"), individually and on behalf of the Estate of her deceased husband, Stanley Florczyk ("decedent"), seeks to recover supplemental life insurance benefits that were part of the Verizon Employee Group Benefits Plan ("the Plan") issued by the decedent's employer. Defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") is the claim administrator for the Plan, and it denied Plaintiff's administrative claim*fn2. She subsequently brought this action. The case is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. ("ERISA").

Presently before the Court is MetLife's motion for summary judgment dismissing the amended complaint and seeking an award of attorneys' fees and costs. (Dkt. No. 32.) Plaintiff has opposed the motion (Dkt. No. 34), and MetLife filed a reply memorandum. (Dkt. No. 35.) At the Court's request (Dkt. No. 36), the parties submitted letter-briefs addressing the Supreme Court's recent decision in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 128 S.Ct. 2343 (2008). (Dkt. Nos. 37 and 38.)

II. FACTS

Decedent had been an employee of NYNEX, which became a part of Verizon. He was a participant in the Plan. He died on February 1, 2002. For a number of years prior to his death decedent had supplemental group life insurance coverage for which he paid premiums.

MetLife asserts that on November 22, 2000, decedent placed a telephone call to the Verizon Benefits Center and in that call he elected to cancel his supplemental life insurance coverage. Plaintiff disputes this assertion. The telephone call was purportedly tape recorded but for the most part the tape is inaudible.

On November 24, 2000, a Confirmation Statement was sent to decedent that listed his 2001 benefit elections. The Confirmation Statement did not list supplemental life insurance among decedent's elected benefits. The Statement advised decedent: "[I]f you find an administrative error in your confirmation enrollment, call the In Touch Center to speak with an In Touch Representative. You must call within two weeks from the date of this confirmation statement, but no later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on December 29, 2000."

In her response to MetLife's Statement of Material Facts ("Response"), Plaintiff has denied these facts concerning the Confirmation Statement but her basis for doing so apparently is that she "has no personal knowledge." (Dkt. No. 34-6 at 2, ¶ 16. She cites to no record evidence supporting her denial.

There is nothing in the administrative record that was considered by MetLife in denying Plaintiff's claim that would suggest that decedent ever called the In Touch Center to report an error in the Confirmation Statement. Plaintiff admits this fact. (Dkt. No. 34-6 at 2, ¶ 17.) In addition, decedent ceased making premium payments for the supplemental life insurance early in 2001. In her Response, with respect to this assertion by MetLife, Plaintiff stated "unknown." (Dkt. No. 34-6 at 2, ¶ 18.) She cites to no record evidence that would support a denial of this assertion.

In her opposition to MetLife's motion Plaintiff points to entries from the administrative record in which questions are raised about the tape of the decedent's telephone call of November 22, 2000. She also asserts that her "claim was passed from company to company, from claims handler to claims handler, and back over many months, with a number of questions raised and left unanswered." (Dkt. No. 34-7, at 4-5.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard Governing Motions for Summary Judgment

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, summary judgment is warranted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In determining whether a genuine issue of material*fn3 fact exists, ...


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