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Cox v. Keystone Carbon Co.

filed: January 31, 1990.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, (ERIE), D.C. Civil No. 85-00160 E.

Sloviter, Hutchinson, and Cowen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter


SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

This is the second time plaintiff's ERISA claim is before us on appeal. On the first appeal, we affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiff a jury trial on his claim under section 502(a)(3) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), and directing a verdict in favor of defendant on plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. We remanded so that the district court could consider further plaintiff's entitlement to relief and to a jury trial under ERISA section 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). The district court, relying on subsequent authority of this court, determined that plaintiff's claim seeking benefits under that section did not give rise to a right to a jury, and reaffirmed its earlier order granting summary judgment to defendant. Plaintiff appeals.


Facts and Procedural History

Plaintiff John Cox began working for defendant Keystone Carbon Company in 1979, and continued as its comptroller until his termination on June 28, 1983. On March 28, 1983, plaintiff took a leave of absence to undergo triple bypass surgery.

He returned to work on a trial, temporary, part-time basis on June 28, 1983 and was discharged upon his return. After his termination, Cox applied for long-term disability and medical insurance benefits from the third party insurance carrier with whom Keystone carried insurance. Ultimately, although Keystone opposed Cox's application, Cox was granted disability benefits but was denied medical insurance. At the time of trial, he had been unsuccessful in his attempt to procure medical and life insurance and to find alternative employment.

Cox filed a five count complaint against Keystone and its president and vice president, Richard Reuscher and William Reuscher respectively. On this appeal, the only count remaining is Count I, alleging that Keystone violated section 510 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1140, by discharging him in order to interfere with his attainment of employee benefits. The matter was originally tried before a jury because the district court had denied Keystone's motion to strike Cox's demand for a jury trial on his ERISA claim. Following the jury's return of a verdict in favor of Cox for $250,000, the court granted Keystone's motion for a new trial, ruling that Cox was not entitled to a jury trial on the ERISA claim. By stipulation of the parties, the prior record was submitted to the court for determination of the ERISA claim. The district court entered judgment in favor of Keystone.

On appeal, this court in Cox v. Keystone Carbon Co. (Cox I), 861 F.2d 390 (3d Cir. 1988), rejected Cox's argument that section 510 of ERISA itself created a legal right to recovery for which the Seventh Amendment commands a jury trial. We stated that the procedural and remedial sections of a statute, in this case section 502 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132, must be examined to determine if a jury trial must be afforded. We also rejected the contention advanced by Cox that courts are free to create remedies outside the six provisions contained in section 502(a).

In Cox I, we held that subsection 502(a)(3), which provides that a civil action may be brought by, inter alia, a beneficiary to enjoin any act or practice which violates the Act or a plan "or to obtain other equitable relief," was meant to provide only equitable relief. Thus, the district court had not erred in denying Cox a jury trial based on that section. We remanded the case to the district court to allow it to determine in the first instance whether Cox stated a claim for relief under section 502(a)(1)(B), whether that claim was legal or equitable in nature, and whether Cox had a right to a jury trial thereon.

On remand, the district court rejected Keystone's contention that Cox had not presented a claim under section 502(a)(1)(B), construing Cox's complaint as one seeking benefits due him under Keystone's various employee benefit plans. Nonetheless, it held that when analyzed under Third Circuit law, the claim for benefits was equitable in nature and that therefore Cox had no ...

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