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Graffino v. Trustees of The Nysa-Ila Pension Trust Fund and Plan

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 13, 2015

ANTHONY GRAFFINO, Plaintiff,
v.
TRUSTEES OF THE NYSA-ILA PENSION TRUST FUND AND PLAN and TRUSTEES OF THE NYSA-ILA CONTAINER ROYALTY FUND, Defendants.

LAW OFFICES OF LLOYD SOMER, Lloyd Somer, Esq., New York, NY, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

THE LAMBOS FIRM, LLP, Donato Caruso, Esq., Ian A. Weinberger, Esq., Tarrytown, NY, MARRINAN & MAZZOLA MAROON, P.C., Kevin J. Marrinan, Esq., New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT W. SWEET, District Judge.

Defendants NYSA-ILA Pension Trust Fund ("PTF") and NYSA-ILA Container Royalty Fund ("CRF") (collectively, "Defendants") have moved pursuant to Rule 12(b) (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the Complaint of plaintiff Anthony Graffino ("Graffino" or the "Plaintiff"). Based on the conclusions set forth below, the motion is granted and the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

Prior Proceedings

On October 28, 2014, the Plaintiff filed the Complaint seeking the payment of a severance payment of $150, 000.

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was a member of the International Longshoreman's Association, AFL-CIO ("ILA"). Compl. ¶ 7. Plaintiff further alleges that a Memorandum of Settlement ("MOS") between the ILA and the New York Shipping Association ("NYSA") granted a "special window pension received by the Plaintiff." Compl. ¶ 8. The MOS allegedly entitled recipients of the special window pension to a $150, 000 severance benefit ("Severance Benefit"). Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff claims Defendants denied him the Severance Benefit in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. Compl. ¶ 12.

Defendants' instant motion to dismiss the Complaint was marked fully submitted on March 25, 2015.

The 12(b)6 Standard

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b) (6), all factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all inferences are drawn in favor of the pleader. Mills v. Polar Molecular Corp., 12 F.3d 1170, 1174 (2d Cir. 1993). However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

A claim is facially plausible when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In other words, the factual allegations must "possess enough heft to show that the pleader is entitled to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff Failed to Allege an ERISA Claim

The Complaint fails to include allegations that establish a basis for relief. Plaintiff does not allege that the Severance Benefit is created by the PTF's Agreement. Nor can he, because the Severance Benefit is provided pursuant to the MOS. See Affidavit of Ian A. Weinberger dated January 16, 2015 (hereinafter "IW Aff."), ¶¶ 3 & 4, Exs. A & B.

Plaintiff contends that he is eligible for the Severance Benefit because he "has met the criteria" for, and is receiving, the enhanced pension benefit of $160 per year of credited service. See Compl. ¶¶ 8, 10-12. However, the Severance Benefit is made pursuant to a July 25, 2013 amendment to the PFT Agreement and Declaration of Trust and Plan. See IW Aff. Ex. A. By that amendment, PFT agreed to provide the enhanced pension benefit to NYSA-ILA employee-benefit plan employees, like Plaintiff, as well as to ILA officials and employees. See IW Aff., ¶¶ 4 & 5, Exs. B & C. The July 25, 2013 amendment did not authorize payment of any severance benefit to those categories of participants (plan employees or union employees) who were receiving the enhanced pension benefit like Plaintiff. See IW Aff., ¶ 4, ...


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