The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES
A bench trial was held in the above-captioned matter on September 24 and 25, 1981.
The following constitutes the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a),
based upon this trial.
1. Plaintiff, Raymond Grossmuller, had been employed by the Budd Company since June 11, 1951 but retired due to physical disability. Plaintiff was and is a member of Local 813 of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, UAW ("Local 813").
2. Since approximately July 1, 1973, he had received disability benefits through the defendant, Budd Company Consolidated Retirement Plan for Employees ("Retirement Plan").
3. The Retirement Plan is a plan established and maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
4. On August 10, 1977, the Local Board of Administration of the Retirement Plan, ("Local Board"), consisting of an equal number of appointees of the Budd Company and Local 813, terminated plaintiff's disability benefits. It concluded that he had become disqualified for benefits because he was engaged in a "regular employment or occupation for remuneration or profit."
5. Prior to the termination of his benefits, plaintiff was not apprised by the Retirement Plan nor by the Local Board of the accusations of alleged gainful employment.
6. On August 15, 1977, the Local Board notified plaintiff by letter that his disability benefits had been terminated, effective immediately, on the basis of available evidence which led it to believe that he was gainfully employed. The provision of the Retirement Plan on which the action was based was cited in the letter. However, the letter did not specify the evidence upon which the conclusion of gainful employment had been reached.
7. Only by speaking with the President of Local 813, also a member of the Local Board, did plaintiff learn that he could appeal the termination decision to the Local Board. However, plaintiff was not informed of the allegations of fact he had to deny or rebut.
8. By letter dated August 30, 1977, plaintiff protested the termination of benefits and requested an appearance before the Local Board to state and prove that he was not gainfully employed then, or at any time since the commencement of his disability. He was not given an opportunity to appear as requested.
10. The Penn 111 appeal form neither apprised plaintiff of the factual basis of the Local Board's termination action nor of the manner or procedure by which he could challenge the Board's decision.
11. On September 22, 1977, plaintiff completed and returned the appeal form requesting an appeal to challenge the Local Board's action.
12. On October 12, 1977, the Local Board denied plaintiff's appeal without giving him an opportunity to appear, present evidence, or confront the allegations considered against him. The denial of benefits was reaffirmed by the Local Board based upon a review of the evidence which had been presented at its earlier meeting on August 10, 1977.
13. On or about October 12, 1977, the Local Board notified plaintiff of his right to appeal its decision to the National Board of Administration ("National Board") by signing and dating another Penn 111 form. Again, that form did not apprise plaintiff of any right or opportunity to present or refute evidence before the National Board.
14. On or about October 21, 1977, the plaintiff filed a formal appeal of the decision of The Local Board to the National Board in which he denied that he was or had ...