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ESFAHANI v. MEDICAL COLLEGE OF PENNSYLVANIA

March 18, 1996

MOJTABA ESFAHANI, Ph.D.
v.
THE MEDICAL COLLEGE OF PENNSYLVANIA, HAHNEMANN UNIVERSITY, INC., HAHNEMANN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL and ALLEGHENY HEALTH, EDUCATION AND RESEARCH SYSTEMS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 MARCH 18, 1996

 All Defendants, the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Hahnemann University, Inc., Hahnemann University Hospital and Allegheny Health, Education and Research Systems, move this Court to dismiss the first five Counts of Plaintiff, Mojtaba Esfahani's, six Count Complaint.

 According to the Complaint, Plaintiff has been employed by Defendants as a Professor of Biochemistry since 1978. In November, 1993, Defendants distributed to Plaintiff a booklet entitled Personal Enrollment Profile 1994, which purports to describe Plaintiff's employment benefits and fringe benefits. This booklet is the Summary Plan Description as defined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Program (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461 (1985 & Supp. 1995). The Summary Plan Description refers to a Benefits Handbook, which Plaintiff repeatedly requested but never received. The Complaint alleges that no such Handbook actually exists.

 According to the Summary Plan Description, Plaintiff was entitled to a Long-Term Disability (LTD) Plan, which Plaintiff elected in the 70% option and for which he paid extra money. Plaintiff's LTD Plan is described as providing benefits after 26 weeks of disability "up to at least age 65" and states that Defendants will continue their contributions to Plaintiff's retirement plan for as long as Plaintiff receives LTD benefits.

 Plaintiff suffers from bi-polar affective disorder (formerly known as manic depression) for which he has been under medical care for more than five years. Defendants have been aware of this disability since at least 1981. This disorder is of biochemical etiology or cause. In December, 1993, Plaintiff's condition worsened to the point where he became completely disabled from performing his duties and functions as Professor of Biochemistry.

 Under the LTD Plan, therefore, Plaintiff became eligible for benefits in May, 1994. In June, 1994, however, Plaintiff was notified that because his disability was a mental/nervous condition, his LTD benefits were only payable for 24 months, not until retirement. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knew the Summary Plan Description was incomplete, misleading and incorrect in this respect, but that he did not, and should not, have known this. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that he relied on Defendants' representations to him regarding LTD benefits.

 Plaintiff's claims are brought under ERISA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 (1995) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 951-63 (1991 & Supp. 1994). Defendants seek to dismiss all but Count Six, which alleges that Defendants violated their fiduciary duties under ERISA by failing to give Plaintiff an adequate Summary Plan Description.

 In considering this Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we must primarily consider the allegations contained in the complaint, although matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to the complaint may also be taken into account. Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990).

 We must accept as true all of the allegations in the pleadings and must give the plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference that can be drawn from those allegations. Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1405 (3d Cir. 1991); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). A complaint is properly dismissed only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of its claim which would entitle it to relief. Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988).

 DISCUSSION

 1. Qualified Individual With a Disability

 Count One purports to state a cause of action under the ADA. It alleges that Defendants violated that law by maintaining an employee benefit plan that distinguishes between classifications of illness. Defendants contend that this Count must be dismissed because Plaintiff admits that he is totally disabled from performing his duties as a Professor of Biochemistry. This means, Defendants maintain, that ...


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