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HENNING v. METROPOLITAN LIFE INS. CO.
August 31, 1982
Bruce HENNING, Plaintiff,
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONABOY
Plaintiff, a resident of Pennsylvania, originally filed a Complaint against the Defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (Metropolitan or Defendant) in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Pennsylvania. Metropolitan, a New York corporation with its principal place of business in New York City, then removed the action to this Court on October 16, 1981 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) on the basis of diversity of citizenship between the parties, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). By this action, Plaintiff seeks to enjoin Metropolitan from setting-off the amount of Social Security benefits he receives from the monetary sum he is entitled to under a disability insurance plan provided by Metropolitan. Presently before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by each party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The litigants agree that no genuine issues of material fact exist in this case and have fully briefed the legal questions involved; thus, the matter is currently ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted and the Plaintiff's motion will be denied.
Our review of the materials submitted herein reveals the following facts to be undisputed. In August of 1976 Bruce Henning was a non-union hourly employee of General Electric Company at its Carbon Products Operation plant in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. On August 5, 1976, Plaintiff elected insurance coverage under the "General Electric Long Term Disability Plan" (Plan) and executed a payroll deduction authorization form. The form signed by Plaintiff stated:
"I elect to be insured for the General Electric Long Term Disability Insurance Plan for hourly employees as set forth in the current announcement, copy of which I have received, and I hereby authorize my employer to make the necessary deductions from my pay to cover the cost of my insurance under such plan.
Henning was accepted into the Plan effective August 9, 1976 and premiums for participation were thereafter deducted from his salary.
The group disability policy in question, No. 23126-G, was originally issued by Metropolitan to General Electric on January 1, 1970. Several amendments have been made to the policy since its inception date. General Electric had sought such a policy as a result of negotiations with the International Union of Electric, Radio & Machine Workers and other unions representing General Electric employees, as part of the collective bargaining process. A provision in the group policy provides for a reduction in benefits to a participant by the amount received from Social Security for disability compensation. Specifically, it is stated therein that:
"Benefits will be paid monthly and will be one twenty-fourth of your normal straight-time annual earnings reduced by . . . (2) any primary Social Security benefits. . . ."
Plaintiff became totally disabled on April 28, 1978 and was thereby entitled to and received compensation under the Plan. Shortly thereafter, he also filed a claim for Social Security disability benefits but was initially denied by notice dated October 30, 1978. Concurrent with his Social Security claim, Henning signed an agreement with Metropolitan on October 3, 1978, which provided in part:
"In connection with my claim for Long Term Disability benefits provided under the General Electric Long Term Disability Insurance Plan, I certify that I have filed with the Social Security Administration timely application and submitted any required medical evidence for whatever primary benefits, which may be due me under the Federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Benefits Program.
I understand that Disability Benefits under the General Electric Long Term Disability Insurance Plan are to be reduced by the amount payable for any period of time for which I am eligible for or receive primary Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act on my own account.
Pending adjudication of my claim for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, I hereby request Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to postpone deducting from my Long Term Disability Monthly Benefits the monthly amount of such primary Social Security ...
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