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Cox v. Keystone Carbon Co.

argued: July 27, 1988.

JOHN H. COX, APPELLANT,
v.
KEYSTONE CARBON COMPANY, RICHARD REUSCHER AND WILLIAM REUSCHER



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil No. 85-160.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, Seitz and Hutchinson, Circuit Judges.

Author: Seitz

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

John H. Cox ("Cox" or "plaintiff") appeals from a final judgment of the district court dismissing his ERISA and state law claims. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 5, 1979, Cox was hired by Keystone Carbon Company ("Keystone") to serve as its corporate controller at a starting salary of $40,000 per year. On March 28, 1983, after experiencing chest pains and undergoing a stress test, Cox was diagnosed as suffering from severe coronary artery disease. He thereafter commenced a leave of absence to have triple bypass surgery.

On June 28, 1983, Cox returned to work on a part-time trial basis. On that day, Cox was discharged by Richard Reuscher, Keystone's President.*fn1 After his termination, Cox applied for long term disability and medical insurance benefits.*fn2 Keystone opposed Cox's application for these benefits. Ultimately, Cox was denied medical insurance but was granted disability benefits.

On June 21, 1985, Cox filed a five count complaint against Keystone, Richard Reuscher and William Reuscher.*fn3 Thereafter, the district court dismissed three counts, leaving Keystone as the only defendant and leaving only Counts I and III for trial. Those are the only counts involved in the appeal. Count I alleged that Keystone, in violation of § 510 of ERISA, discharged Cox for the purpose of interfering with Cox's attainment of certain employee benefits. Count Ill alleged that the reason for and the manner of discharging Cox was intentional, malicious, wanton, extreme and so outrageous as to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law.

Prior to the trial on the merits, Keystone moved to strike Cox's demand for a jury trial as to the ERISA claim. The district court permitted the ERISA claim to be tried to a jury but limited the jury determination to liability and special damages. Special damages were defined as lost pay from the date of discharge to the date of judgment and out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred to the date of judgment. The district court reserved to itself the prerogative to assess general damages defined, as diminished earning capacity and pain and suffering, and to reinstate pension, medical and life insurance benefits.

At the close of plaintiff's evidence in the jury trial, the court granted Keystone's motion for a directed verdict on plaintiff's claim based on intentional infliction of emotional distress. Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict of $250,000 in favor of Cox on his ERISA claim. The court, however, denied Cox general damages and refused to reinstate his pension, medical or life insurance benefits.

Both parties filed post-trial motions. Cox filed a motion under Rule 52(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking additional findings and an amendment to the judgment. Keystone filed a motion for a new trial and in the alternative for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The district court ruled that it erred in granting Cox a jury trial on the ERISA claim. It therefore vacated the jury verdict and granted Keystone's motion for a new trial. All other post-trial motions were declared moot.

The parties subsequently filed a stipulation waiving their right to further evidentiary proceedings and submitted the evidence from the jury trial as the record for the determination of the ERISA claim by the district court. Thereafter the district court entered judgment in favor of Keystone on the ...


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