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Hill v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co.

September 8, 2008

CATHERINE L. HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CONNECTICUT GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY DOING BUSINESS AS CIGNA GROUP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Pending before the court is a motion filed by Catherine L. Hill ("plaintiff") for reconsideration of this court's order dated May 9, 2008, granting, in part, the motion to dismiss filed by defendant, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company ("defendant"). For the reasons set forth on the record, the court granted defendant's motion to dismiss with respect to count one of the complaint, and denied the motion with respect to count two of the complaint at the hearing and oral argument held on May 9, 2008. The court found that count one was time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations pursuant to section 502 (a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (a)(1)(B). The court granted the motion without prejudice, permitting plaintiff to file a motion for reconsideration to further brief the issue of equitable tolling of the statute of limitations first argued by plaintiff at the hearing on May 9, 2008. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion for reconsideration will be denied.

Background

Plaintiff filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania on November 15, 2007, and it was removed to this court by defendant on December 14, 2007, based upon this court's federal question jurisdiction.

Plaintiff worked for Westinghouse from 1969 - 1992. Plaintiff stopped working at that time due to a disability (a combination of work related and non-work related injuries). Defendant was the plan administrator/carrier of the employer's long-term disability insurance plan. Plaintiff alleges that she was approved for long-term disability benefits under the plan, but she was never paid. Plaintiff asserts two counts in her complaint against defendant pursuant to ERISA. This motion for reconsideration only concerns count one in which plaintiff asserted a claim pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) for failure to pay benefits under an ERISA plan.

In support of her complaint, plaintiff attached several letters of correspondence between defendant and herself. Among those exhibits were the following:

! A letter from plaintiff to defendant dated December 22, 1994 in which plaintiff asserted, "My long-term disability . . . has been unjustly terminated, and I am not being paid as required under ERISA" (Compl. App. X);

! A letter from defendant to plaintiff dated July 23, 1996 in which defendant informs plaintiff that "[w]e have approved your claim for long-term disability benefits under the Westinghouse Benefits or Flexible Benefits Plan" (Compl. App. IV);

! A letter from plaintiff to defendant dated March 26, 1998 in which defendant requests information concerning her long-term disability claim. (Compl. App. XII); and

! A letter from defendant to plaintiff dated June 1, 2001 in which defendant requested additional information from plaintiff concerning her long-term disability claim. (Compl. App. V.)

Taking all allegations in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff and considering plaintiff's exhibits as part of the complaint, this court held at the hearing May 9, 2008, that the non-payment of benefits by defendant was a clear repudiation of plaintiff's claim, which was made known to plaintiff by March 26, 1998 at the latest. (Compl. App. XII.) Plaintiff did not file the present complaint until November 15, 2007. This court held that plaintiff's claim was time-barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations. At the hearing, plaintiff's counsel made an equitable tolling argument based upon plaintiff's alleged mental condition. The court granted leave for plaintiff to file a motion for reconsideration and brief the issue whether equitable tolling is available under federal law based upon plaintiff's mental health.

Plaintiff failed to produce any legal authority to support her equitable tolling argument, but instead used this motion for reconsideration to reassert her challenge of the court's application of the "clear repudiation" rule set forth in Miller v. Fortis Benefits Ins. Co., 475 F.3d 516 (3d Cir. 2007), and earlier adopted in Romero v. Allstate Corp. 404 F. 3d 212 (3d Cir. 2005).

Standard of Review

A motion for reconsideration is granted only if one of three situations is shown: "(1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice." Reich v. Compton, 834 F.Supp. 753, 755 (E.D. ...


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