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Hall v. Glenn O. Hawbaker

September 24, 2007

NICHOLE S. HALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GLENN O. HAWBAKER, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

Pending before this Court are two Motions for Summary Judgment: the first was filed by Defendants Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. ("GOH") and the Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. Employee Benefit Plan ("the Plan") on July 30, 2007 (doc. 93), and the second was filed by Defendant Capital Administrative Services, Inc. ("NCAS") on August 15, 2007 (doc. 100). For the reasons that follow, we will grant the Motions.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 31, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Complaint arising under the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, with GOH and NCAS as named Defendants. (Rec. Doc. 1-1). Prior to the filing of any Answer(s) or Motion(s) by Defendants, on June 22, 2006, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, also arising under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., and naming as Defendants GOH and NCAS. (Rec. Doc. 5-1).

On June 23, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction requesting reinstatement of her health insurance. (Rec. Doc. 6).

GOH and NCAS then filed Motions to Dismiss (docs. 16, 25) portions of the Amended Complaint, prompting Plaintiff, on September 21, 2006, to file a Motion to Amend Pleadings (doc. 41-1). By Order dated September 21, 2006 (doc. 43), this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, and on same date, Plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint (doc. 42). The Second Amended Complaint also arises under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. However, in addition to the original Defendants, GOH and NCAS, it also names the Plan as a Defendant.

On November 8, 2006, following the filing of new Motions to Dismiss (docs. 50, 56) portions of the Second Amended Complaint, we granted the same Motions to the extent that we dismissed Count IV and those claims in Count II that were brought pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). (Rec. Doc. 64).

On November 13, 2006 and December 11, 2006, we held proceedings on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (doc. 6), and on February 7, 2007, we entered an Order denying the aforementioned Motion. (Rec. Doc. 82). On same date, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration (doc. 83), which was denied on June 15, 2007 (doc. 87).

On July 30, 2007, GOH and the Plan filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 93), and on August 15, 2007, NCAS filed the same (doc. 100). As both Motions have been fully briefed, they are ripe for disposition.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 that a fact finder could draw from them. See 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. See Celotex Corp. 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. See id. at 325.

Rule 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. See 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. See Celotex, 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 North America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).

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). "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.

STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS

As the parties and this Court are well-acquainted with the factual background of the instant action, we will not belabor it here. However, we will briefly set forth the salient, undisputed*fn1 facts. (See Rec. Docs. 82, 95, 98, 101, 103).

By way of introduction as to the parties, Plaintiff is an adult individual residing at 3645 Depot Road, Erie, Pennsylvania 16510. (Rec. Docs. 95, ¶ 1; 98, ¶ 1). GOH sponsors and maintains the Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. Employee Benefit Plan ("the Plan"), which is a self-funded employee benefit plan for employees and beneficiaries of GOH. (Rec. Docs. 95, ¶¶ 2, 4; 98, ¶¶ 2, 4). The specific terms of the Plan are outlined in "The Glenn O. Hawbaker Employee Benefit Plan, Plan Document, Summary Plan Description" ("SPD"). (Rec. Docs. 95, ¶ 5; 98, ¶ 5). As noted in the SPD, GOH is not only the employer, but also the Plan Administrator, and NCAS is the "third-party Claims Administrator." (Rec. Docs. 95, ¶¶ 2-3; 98, ¶¶ 2-3; 102-2 at 18). In this capacity, NCAS is ...


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