The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER
Defendants, Kemper National Insurance Companies and Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company have filed a motion for summary judgment in this ERISA action. For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be granted.
On or about November 13, 1991, plaintiff applied for long term disability benefits through Lumbermens' Long Term Disability Plan. (Exhibit 1, 133-135). Under this plan, plaintiff had a continuing obligation to keep defendants informed of her continuing disability by having her treating doctor(s) provide certifications that she continued to be disabled. (Exhibit 1, 135-136). As Lumbermens received no such physician certification from any of plaintiff's physicians after February, 1992, it terminated plaintiff's long term disability benefits as of August 29, 1992. (Defendants' Answer to Amended Complaint, P10; Exhibit 1, 166, 174-176, 188-189, 228-235, 253-254, 261-262; Exhibits 2, 3A-M). Plaintiff did not make any request for review of the termination of her long term disability benefits, but instead commenced this lawsuit to recover these benefits pursuant to § 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132.
Standards Applicable to Motions for Summary Judgment
The legal standards to be followed by the district courts in resolving motions for summary judgment are outlined in Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Subsection (c) of that rule states, in pertinent part,
... The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith 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 a judgment as a matter of law. A summary judgment, interlocutory in character, may be rendered on the issue of liability alone although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of damages.
Under this Rule, the court is required to look beyond the bare allegations of the pleadings to determine if they have sufficient factual support to warrant their consideration at trial. Liberty Lobby, Inc. v. Dow Jones & Co., 267 U.S. App. D.C. 337, 838 F.2d 1287 (D.C. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 825, 109 S. Ct. 75, 102 L. Ed. 2d 51 (1988). See Also : Aries Realty, Inc. v. AGS Columbia Associates, 751 F. Supp. 444 (S.D. N.Y. 1990). The party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and ad- missions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986).
In considering a summary judgment motion, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be drawn in favor of that party as well. U.S. v. Kensington Hospital, 760 F. Supp. 1120 (E.D. Pa. 1991); Schillachi v. Flying Dutchman Motorcycle Club, 751 F. Supp. 1169 (E.D. Pa. 1990). When, however, "a motion for summary judgment is made and supported [by affidavits or otherwise], an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response...must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, may be entered against [it]." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
By way of the instant motion, defendants contend that summary judgment is now appropriately entered in their favor because (1) plaintiff failed to exhaust her available administrative remedies and (2) even if her available remedies had been exhausted, the decision to terminate her benefits was neither arbitrary nor capricious. In response, plaintiff contends that because defendants' notice denying her continued disability benefits did not mention an appeals process or further administrative remedies with the clarity required by 29 CFR § 2560.503-1(f), she was unaware that she was required to exhaust her administrative remedies. Ms. Thomas additionally argues that her disability claim was not predicated upon only one of her treating physicians certifying that she was disabled. Rather, plaintiff claims her disability ...