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Ivanovic v. IBM Personal Pension Plan

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 22, 2014

MIROSLAV IVANOVIC, Plaintiff, -
v.
- IBM PERSONAL PENSION PLAN, previously known as IBM RETIREMENT PLAN, Defendant

Page 164

For Miroslav Ivanovic, Plaintiff: Lloyd Somer, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of LLoyd Somer, New York, NY.

For IBM Personal Pension Plan, previously known as the IBM Retirement Plan, Defendant: Kevin G. Lauri, LEAD ATTORNEY, Dana Loryn Glick Weisbrod, Jackson Lewis, LLP, New York, NY.

Page 165

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States District Judge.

On December 6, 2012, plaintiff Miroslav Ivanovic (" Ivanovic" ) sued defendant IBM Personal Pension Plan (" IBM" ) to recover benefits pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § § 1001, et seq. (" ERISA" ), and to clarify his rights to future pension benefits under the Plan. IBM moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (" Fed. R. Civ. P." ) on the ground that the action is time-barred. For the reasons set forth below, IBM's motion is GRANTED and the complaint is dismissed.

BACKGROUND[1]

IBM employed Ivanovic as an engineer beginning in late 1989 or early 1990, and lasting until November 30, 1994.[2] (Pl.'s Comp. (Doc. No. 1) ¶ ¶ 8, 16.) Ivanovic participated in the IBM Personal Pension Plan (" the Plan" ), and, upon leaving IBM, he received a lump-sum pension payment of $2,121.32. ( Id. ¶ 18.) IBM calculated this benefit based on its recorded hire date for Ivanovic of January 8, 1990. (Lauri Decl. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. B.) Based on that date, Ivanovic lacked the requisite five years of employment necessary to trigger vesting in the Plan and thus to receive more extensive benefits.

On July 1, 2004, Ivanovic filed a claim with IBM seeking to have his hire date modified to December 8, 1989, and, on that basis, to have the prior lump-sum pension payment voided and his pension benefits reinstated. (Lauri Decl. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. B.) In a letter dated July 30, 2004, IBM denied Ivanovic's claim. IBM noted that Ivanovic had not supplied documentation

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that he began working at IBM prior to January 8, 1990, and that, if he could provide such evidence, IBM would " reconsider [his] request." ( Id.) IBM underscored, however, that even if Ivanovic could prove that he was hired on December 8, 1989, that new hire date would still not satisfy the five-year vesting requirement. ( Id.)

On September 21, 2004, Ivanovic administratively appealed IBM's denial of his claim, submitting time cards dating back to December 11, 1989. (Lauri Decl. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. C; Pl.'s Comp. (Doc. No. 1) ¶ 15.) In a letter dated November 24, 2004, IBM granted Ivanovic's request to receive additional service credit going back to December 11, 1989. ( Id.) However, IBM again rejected Ivanovic's claim that he should be entitled to vesting under the Plan on the same ground as its underlying denial -- namely, that even with such service credit, Ivanovic's employment at IBM was less than five years and therefore insufficient to trigger vesting. (Lauri Dec. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. C.) IBM acknowledged that this was " not the response [Ivanovic] was hoping for," but that it was " unable to make an exception to the terms of the Plan and grant [his] appeal." ( Id.) IBM advised Ivanovic that " [u]nder Section 502(a) of [ERISA], you may have a right to file suit in state or federal court since your appeal has been denied." ( Id.)

Nearly eight years later, by letter dated February 15, 2012, Ivanovic, through counsel, submitted new documentation to IBM. Those new materials included time sheets and an employment form appearing to reflect that IBM hired Ivanovic on November 6, 1989, which would extend the length of his employment beyond five years. (Pl.'s Comp. (Doc. No. 1) ¶ ¶ 13-15; Lauri Decl. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. D.) In an April 3, 2012 letter, IBM refused to reconsider its denial of Ivanovic's claim.[3] (Pl.'s Comp. (Doc. No. 1) ¶ 21; Lauri Decl. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. E.) IBM noted that, because Ivanovic had " completed all steps in the IBM Plan's appeal process, this [wa]s the final communication he will receive on this matter." (Lauri Decl. (Doc. No. 16-1) Exh. E.)

On December 6, 2012, Ivanovic filed the instant lawsuit to recover benefits purportedly ...


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