The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. JONES, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER September 8, 2005
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:
Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment ("the
Motion") (doc. 220) filed by Defendant Blue Cross of Northeastern
Pennsylvania ("Defendant" or "Blue Cross") on May 4, 2005. For
the reasons that follow, the Motion shall be denied in all
FACTUAL BACKGROUND/PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
The factual background and procedural history of this case has
been thoroughly set forth in prior orders and is well known to
the parties. The following brief recitation of that history is
sufficient for the purpose of reviewing the pending Motion.
The plaintiffs Frank W. Leuthner ("Leuthner") and William
Reasner ("Reasner") (collectively "Plaintiffs") initiated this
action on September 26, 2002, pursuant to the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et
seq. and Pennsylvania state law. This suit was brought by
Plaintiffs in their capacity as retired salaried employees of
Blue Cross and as participants in the Blue Cross of Northeastern
Pennsylvania Retiree Health Insurance Plan ("the Plan"), an
employee welfare plan sponsored and administered by Blue Cross
which is subject to ERISA.
On May 4, 2005 Defendant filed the instant Motion, which has
been briefed by the parties. The Motion is therefore ripe for
Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." FED .R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also
Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir.
1990). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of
showing "there is no genuine issue for trial." Young v.
Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 357 (3d Cir. 1992). Summary judgment
should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the
facts or the proper inferences which a fact finder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council,
676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Initially, the moving party has a
burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986). This may be met by the moving party pointing out to
the court that there is an absence of evidence to support an
essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that, where such a
motion is made and properly supported, the non-moving party must
then show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine
issue for trial. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e). The United States Supreme
Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the
non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential
elements of their case that a reasonable jury could find in its
favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.
It is important to note that "the non-moving party cannot rely
upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and
briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore
v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994)
(citation omitted). However, all inferences "should be drawn in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the
non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the
non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363
(3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993) (citations
Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that
there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in
original). "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify
which facts are material." Id. at 248. A dispute is considered
to be genuine only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.
Blue Cross contends that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
(doc. 81) should be dismissed because Plaintiffs have failed to
establish reasonable detrimental reliance on Blue Cross's alleged
promises of lifetime retirement funding, and because Plaintiffs
have not stated a claim for relief permissible under ERISA.
(See Rec. Doc. 222 at 7-36). Defendants further argue that
Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations and
that Plaintiff Reasner's claims are barred by the release from
liability that he signed on May 24, ...