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ANDERSON v. PITTSBURGH PRESS CO.

March 21, 1995

MICHAEL G. ANDERSON, ROBERT BIANCO, MARY PAT FLAHERTY, LAMONT JONES, JR., LOUIS J. LAURENZI, STEVE MELLON, and ALL PLAINTIFFS, Plaintiffs, -vs- PITTSBURGH PRESS COMPANY, PITTSBURGH PRESS DISMISSAL AND DEATH BENEFITS PLAN, and SCRIPPS HOWARD, INC., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DONETTA W. AMBROSE

 and

 ORDER OF COURT

 Pending before the Court is the Motion of Plaintiffs, Robert Bianco, Mary Pat Flaherty, Lamont Jones, Louis Laurenzi, Steve Mellon and Michael Anderson, for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Plaintiffs initiated this civil action against the Pittsburgh Press Company, the Pittsburgh Press Dismissal and Death Benefits Plan, and Scripps Howard, Inc., on June 14, 1993. Plaintiffs are seeking certain dismissal and severance benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., and vacation pay and bonuses under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, Pa.Stat.Ann. tit. 43 § 260.1 et seq. because their employment with the Pittsburgh Press Company [hereinafter the Press] was terminated on December 31, 1992. *fn1" (Complaint, P 8) Jurisdiction is pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367 and 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (e). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

 Plaintiffs raise the following issues in their motion. As to Count I of the Complaint, Plaintiffs Robert Bianco, Mary Pat Flaherty, Lamont Jones, Louis Laurenzi and Steve Mellon seek a ruling that they are "entitled to benefits under the Dismissal and Death Benefits Plan." (Plaintiffs' Brief, p. 2) All Plaintiffs seek a determination of the amount of the benefits they are due under the Dismissal and Death Benefits Plan. *fn2" Plaintiffs Anderson, Bianco, Jones, and Laurenzi also seek summary judgment with respect to vacation pay and bonuses. (Count III of the Complaint) The motion has been fully briefed by the parties. *fn3"

 Defendants deny that they are obligated to pay any of the benefits sought by Plaintiffs. Specifically, Defendants argue that under the terms of the Death and Dismissal Benefits Plan, none of the Plaintiffs qualify for benefits. Defendants also argue that with respect to vacation pay and bonuses, the four Plaintiffs have not established that they have satisfied the terms of the written vacation pay policy and further that the four Plaintiffs are not entitled to vacation pay and bonuses because the Post Gazette, the subsequent employer of the four Plaintiffs, paid the vacation benefits, "in part if not in whole." (Defendants' Brief, p. 18) Defendants also argue that to the extent that Plaintiffs seek entry of judgment against Scripps Howard, Inc., summary judgment must be denied because Scripps Howard, Inc. is not an employer within the meaning of either ERISA or the Wage Payment and Collection Law. *fn4"

 Summary judgment may only be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against the party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact. Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir. 1987). The dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

 We first address Plaintiffs arguments concerning the Death and Dismissal Benefits Program. Defendants contend that according to the benefits booklets, an employee could not receive benefits from both the Death and Dismissal Benefits Program and a pension. Interestingly, Defendants rely not on the most recent booklet which contains a description of the benefit--the 1970 booklet--to support their argument, but rather Defendants rely upon the language contained in the 1967 booklet.

 The 1970 booklet provides, in relevant part:

 DISMISSAL AND DEATH BENEFITS

 
The following schedule of dismissal and death benefits is entirely separate and unrelated to the pension plan described on previous pages. (Except in the case of an employe who elects a "years certain" or the joint and survivor option before retirement. In no case would both pension and "dismissal and death benefits" be paid.)
 
* * *
 
1. Dismissal benefits. Will be paid because of dismissal for any reason other than self-provoked discharge or dishonesty.
 
2. Death benefits. In the event of the death of an employe, The Press will continue, as in the past, to make death payments to the person designated by the employe as his legal representative, with the exception noted above.

 Exhibits to Defendants' Brief in Opp., Exhibit 3, PP 00144. The 1967 booklet provides:

 DISMISSAL AND DEATH BENEFITS

 
The following schedule of dismissal and death benefits is entirely separate and unrelated to the pension plan described on previous pages. (Except in the case of an employe who elects the joint and survivor option before retirement.) In no case would both pension and "dismissal and death benefits" be paid.
 
* * *
 
1. Dismissal benefits. Will be paid because of dismissal for any reason other than self-provoked discharge or dishonesty.
 
2. Death benefits. In the event of the death of an employe, the Press will continue, as in the past to pay the death benefits to the person designated by the employe as his legal ...

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