Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Weichand v. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

July 31, 2007

GLORIA WEICHAND AND RALPH WEICHAND, HER HUSBAND, PLAINTIFFS
v.
THE GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA AND BERKSHIRE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs Gloria and Ralph Weichand have filed suit regarding benefits that they allege are due under Plaintiff Gloria Weichand's long term disability insurance. The complaint raises solely Pennsylvania state law causes of action. Before the court for disposition is the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' compliant for failure to state a claim due to federal preemption under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. ("ERISA"). The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Background

Plaintiff Gloria Weichand (hereinafter "plaintiff")*fn1 was employed by Somerset Pharmaceutical Corporation as a full-time administrative assistant when on January 21, 1991, she became totally disabled from her occupation due to severe depression, anxiety, colitis, hypertension and migraine headaches. (Complaint, Ex. A, to Notice of Removal, Doc. 1, hereinafter "Compl." ¶ ¶ 15, 18).Defendant Guardian Life Insurance Company of America*fn2 had issued a Professional Disability Income Insurance Policy to plaintiff on August 2, 1990.*fn3 (Compl. ¶ 10). In exchange for the premium payments, which were originally paid for by plaintiff's employer, the insurance policy provided disability income coverage in the amount of $2,040.00 per month. (Compl. ¶ 11).

Plaintiff submitted a statement of claim to the defendants for disability benefits on April 18, 1991. (Compl. ¶ 19). Somerset terminated plaintiff's employment in April 1991 due to her inability to perform her job functions. In May of 1991, Somerset severed all administrative and financial ties with the policy, and plaintiff became liable for premium payments. The defendants removed the discounted group premium from the policy. After review of the claim, the defendants informed plaintiff on July 26, 1991 that they would provide the benefits. (Compl. ¶ 26). Plaintiff's employer, Somerset, ceased to exist in 1992.

Defendants paid the benefits until they determined in February 2004 that Plaintiff Gloria Weichand was no longer totally disabled. (Compl. ¶ 100). Plaintiff requested reconsideration of this determination, and on September 7, 2005, after an investigation, the defendants denied the claim. (Compl. ¶ 122).

On January 25, 2006, plaintiff instituted the instant action in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and the defendants removed the action to this court on February 28, 2006. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal). Plaintiff's complaint raises the following claims: Count I, breach of contract; Count II, bad faith; Count III, violation of the duty of good faith and fair dealing; Count IV, breach of fiduciary duty; Count V, negligence; Count VI, negligent infliction of emotional distress; Count VII, waiver and estoppel; Count VIII, violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law; Count IX, loss of consortium (Plaintiff Ralph Weichand). Defendants move to dismiss all of these claims as preempted by ERISA bringing the case to its present posture. We notified the parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) that we would treat defendant's motion as a motion for summary judgment on the issue of preemption.*fn4 (Doc. 22). In our notice, we provided the parties an opportunity to supplement the record with any additional material that they thought was appropriate for us to review. (Id.). The matter is now ripe for disposition.

Standard of Review

Granting summary judgment is proper 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. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that 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).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the 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 is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (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 v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiff is a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶¶ 1- 2). Defendant Guardian is a New York state corporation with its principal place of business in New York, New York. (Notice of Removal ¶ 5). Defendant Berkshire is a Commonwealth of Massachusetts corporation with a principal place of business in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (Notice of Removal ¶ 6). Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Defendant also asserts we have federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331 because the plaintiff is seeking to recover disability insurance benefits under the terms of an insurance ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.