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White v. Verizon Communications

December 17, 2008

CYNTHIA WHITE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS, INC.; AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE VEBC, AS PLAN ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE VERIZON LONG-TERM DISABILITY PLAN FOR NEW YORK AND NEW ENGLAND ASSOCIATES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

This action, filed pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), has been removed to this Court from the Supreme Court of New York, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, 1446. Generally, in her Complaint, Cynthia White ("Plaintiff") alleges that Defendant Verizon Communications Inc., and the Chairperson of the VEBC ("Defendants"), as plan administrator for the Verizon Long-Term Disability ("LTD") Benefits Plan, arbitrarily, capriciously and unsubstantiated by fact or medical evidence denied Plaintiff LTD benefits to which she was entitled. (See generally Dkt. No. 1 [Plf.'s Compl.].) Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. (Dkt. No. 24.) Plaintiff has not opposed the motion, despite having asked for and been granted an extension of the deadline by which to do so. (Dkt. No. 25.) For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges as follows:

1. On or about July 29, 2001, Plaintiff became unable to continue her full-time employment as a call-center operator with Defendant Verizon because of her numerous physical, emotional and psychological disabilities, and began receiving short-term benefits;

2. On or about April 8, 2002, Plaintiff returned to work on a part-time basis, after Defendant Verizon insisted that she do so. Despite her best efforts, Plaintiff was unable to perform the work tasks assigned to her as a result of her impairments, and, consequentially, Plaintiff discontinued working for Defendant Verizon on April 10, 2002. Plaintiff has not worked for Defendant Verizon or any other employer since April 10, 2002;

3. Plaintiff began receiving LTD benefits on August 1, 2002, and was also awarded disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, based on a determination that she was "totally disabled" as of July 29, 2001. During the time Plaintiff was receiving both Short-Term and LTD benefits, she complied with all of Defendants' requests and attended every medical and psychological examination arranged for and demanded by Defendant, all of which confirmed Plaintiff's disability;

4. Defendants terminated Plaintiff's LTD benefits effective November 8, 2003, for failure to provide requested medical documentation and proof of disability, and Plaintiff subsequently appealed;

5. MetLife, claims administrator for the plan, conducted additional reviews of the decision denying LTD benefits, each time concluding that the denial of benefits was proper;

6. Plaintiff appealed to the Verizon Claims Review Committee, exhausting all of her administrative remedies. The Verizon Claims Review Committee found that the decision to terminate Plaintiff's benefits was proper;

7. Defendants' failure to reinstate Plaintiff's LTD benefits is against the weight of the competent medical and documentary information, is unsupportable in fact, and constitutes an arbitrary and capricious action on the part of Defendants;

8. Defendants acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, breaching their fiduciary duty to the plan and to the Plaintiff; and

9. The LTD Benefits Plan ("Plan") constituted a contract between Verizon and the beneficiaries that Defendants breached by failing to provide Plaintiff with the LTD benefits available under the Plan, which she ...


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