the contract governing the relationship between U.S. Healthcare and Abington Healthcare Plan, did not designate such a person. Therefore, U.S. Healthcare argues, the "administrator" is the "plan sponsor," that is, Abington Memorial Hospital. In response, Russo asserts that it is not clear who is designated as the "administrator" in the instrument under which Abington Healthcare Plan is operated, so that there remains an issue of fact as to whether U.S. Healthcare is an "administrator".
Russo is correct. Just as the precise nature of Abington Healthcare Plan's appeals process is unclear, it is not clear at present who, if anyone, is designated as an administrator in the instrument under which the Plan operates. Russo's amended complaint asserts that U.S. Healthcare is an "administrator" of the Abington Healthcare Plan. Amended Complaint, P 30.
At a future stage of the litigation, Russo will have an obligation to come forward with facts to support this assertion. At present, however, Russo has alleged that U.S. Healthcare is an "administrator," and that is enough to preclude the dismissal of this count of the complaint.
The court will now turn to Abington Healthcare Plan's motion to dismiss Russo's claims against it. One aspect of this motion asserts that, if Russo's claim of denial of benefits against U.S. Healthcare is dismissed, then Russo's similar claim against the Plan should also be dismissed. Because this court has denied U.S. Healthcare's motion to dismiss, this element of the Plan's motion is moot.
Abington Healthcare Plan's motion to dismiss also argues that Russo's claim against it under section 1132(c)(1) for failure to provide Russo with plan information should be dismissed as a "transparent attempt . . . to convert his discovery request under Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure into an independent cause of action." Defendant Abington Healthcare Plan's Motion to Dismiss at 3-4. This argument is entirely without merit. Penalties under section 1132(c)(1) and discovery sanctions serve markedly different purposes, and very different facts are relevant to establishing the appropriateness of each. Discovery sanctions are intended to deter misconduct during discovery; a court deciding whether to impose such sanctions will consider the conduct of the parties during the discovery process. Sanctions under section 1132(c)(1), by contrast, are intended to ensure that beneficiaries or participants in employee benefit plans can obtain the information necessary to vindicate their rights under those plans, and a court deciding whether to impose them will consider evidence about efforts made by (1) a participant or beneficiary to receive plan information, and (2) a plan to respond to requests for information.
In this case, Russo's efforts to obtain plan information began well before the present litigation. Russo requested plan information from Abington Memorial Hospital in letters sent in September and October 1993. The information apparently was not forthcoming; indeed, Russo asserts that he received no information concerning the Plan until the Plan belatedly complied with a discovery request on May 22, 1995, over eighteen months later. In light of these allegations, it would not be appropriate for this court to grant Abington Healthcare Plan's motion to dismiss Russo's 1132(c)(1) claim.
In summary, the defendants' motions to dismiss will be denied. An appropriate order accompanies this memorandum.
For the reasons set forth in the memorandum filed herewith, it is hereby ORDERED that the motions to dismiss of defendant Abington Memorial Hospital Healthcare Plan (doc. no. 30) and defendant United States Healthcare Systems of Pennsylvania, Inc. (doc. no. 25) are DENIED.
October 4, 1995
Louis H. Pollak, J.