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McPhail v. ES3 LLC

April 13, 2010

DONALD R. MCPHAIL, PLAINTIFF
v.
ES3 LLC, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

Pending before the Court are a motion for summary judgment by Plaintiff Donald R. McPhail (Doc. No. 63), and a motion for partial summary judgment by Defendant ES3 LLC (Doc. No. 67). The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. Because no genuine issues of material fact remain as to Defendant's claims for partial summary judgment, the Court will grant Defendant's motion. However, because genuine issues of material fact exist as to the balance of Plaintiff's claims for summary judgment, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff Donald R. McPhail is a resident of Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 3.) He began employment as a temporary employee with Defendant ES3 LLC in November 2003. (Doc. No. 64 ¶ 2.) On February 15, 2004, Plaintiff was hired full-time by Defendant as a fault chaser. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 9.) Defendant ES3 LLC warehouses grocery products for delivery to grocery retailers. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was employed at Defendant's warehouse in York, Pennsylvania. (Id.)

After Plaintiff completed 90 days of employment with Defendant, he became eligible for employment benefits offered by Defendant and received a benefits packet. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 11.) Information regarding the voluntary, employee-paid long-term disability insurance policy through Hartford Life and Accident Company was provided to Plaintiff within the packet. (Id.; see also Doc. No. 69, Ex. 4 ¶ 4 & Ex. A.)

On September 20, 2006, Plaintiff received a performance evaluation in which he achieved a total score of 48 out 70. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 13.) This score placed him in the lower part of the "Good" rating category, which encompassed scores from 47 to 60. (Id.) Plaintiff received a fifteen-cent raise after this evaluation. (Id. ¶ 14.)

On February 12, 2007, Plaintiff received a performance evaluation in which he achieved a total score of 35 out of 70. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 15.) This score placed him in the middle part of the "Average" rating category, which encompassed scores from 26 to 46. (Id.) Plaintiff received a fifty-cent raise in connection with his evaluation. (Id.)

Plaintiff had foot surgeries in both 2005 and 2006. (Doc. No. 64 ¶ 3.) In April 2005, Plaintiff went to Defendant's human resources department where he requested FMLA and short-term disability leave in connection with surgery that was scheduled for his foot on April 15, 2005. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 18.) Plaintiff was granted leave and remained on short-term disability for approximately three months. (Id.)

In December 2005, Plaintiff went to Defendant's human resources department to submit paperwork for leave in connection with surgery scheduled for January 2006 on both his feet. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff was granted the requested leave and remained on short-term disability for approximately six months. (Id.)

In early 2006, while he was on leave for his second foot surgery, Plaintiff began treatment for cancer. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 20.) Plaintiff tried to keep his cancer treatments from affecting his work. (Id.) He appeared for his scheduled shift even when he did not feel well. (Id.) On some occasions, he felt too sick to continue working and went home. (Id.) However, Dan McClucas, the lead who was responsible for keeping the grocery warehouse operational during the night shift, was not aware that Plaintiff missed any time at work because of his cancer treatments. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff left work on August 1, 2006, September 5, 2006, September 26, 2006, and November 14, 2006. (Id. ¶ 22.)

In April 2007, Plaintiff was diagnosed with heart disease and had heart surgery. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 26.) Upon his request, Plaintiff was granted short-term disability leave. (Id.) He began receiving short-term disability benefits on April 10, 2007. (Id.)

Long-term disability insurance is available to Defendant's employees through The Hartford insurance company. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 25.) Such long-term insurance is fully funded by Defendant's employees who opt to participate in the program; the insurance program is not contributed to by Defendant. (Id.)

In August 2007, The Hartford gave Plaintiff notice that his short-term disability benefits would end in October 2007. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 27.) At that time, Plaintiff completed the forms to claim long-term disability benefits, which were subsequently approved by The Hartford. (Id.)

On October 9, 2007, after having received short-term disability for 180 days, Plaintiff's short-term disability benefits were exhausted. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 28.) Plaintiff was removed from Defendant's payroll. (Id.) On October 10, 2007, Plaintiff began receiving long-term disability from The Hartford.*fn2 (Id.)

In January 2008, Plaintiff moved from Pennsylvania to Oregon. (Doc. No. 69 ¶ 30.) In early April 2008, The Hartford attempted to contact Plaintiff to inform him that pursuant to the terms of his long-term disability policy, he needed to provide proof of his ongoing disability and his inability to perform any one of the essential duties of his occupation. (Id. ¶ 31.) On April 24, 2008, The Hartford sent a letter to Plaintiff's medical provider to obtain additional information regarding Plaintiff's disability; however, Plaintiff's doctor responded that he had not seen Plaintiff since July 2007. (Id.) Because Plaintiff failed to respond to its inquiries to provide proof of his ongoing disability, The Hartford terminated Plaintiff's long-term disability benefits effective May 15, 2008. (Id. ¶ 33.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Both parties have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that "[t]he judgment sought should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). The substantive law identifies which facts are material, and "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248-49.

The moving party has the initial burden of identifying evidence that it believes shows an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004). Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's claims, "the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument." Berckeley Inv. Group., Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial," summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Summary judgment is also appropriate if the non-moving party provides merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative evidence. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. There must be more than a scintilla of evidence supporting the nonmoving party and more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. ...


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