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Laughman v. Black & Veatch Corp.

November 2, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)


Presently before the court are plaintiffs' (Doc. 52) and defendants' (Doc. 65) cross-motions for summary judgment, and the magistrate judge's report and recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 88), which recommends that the court deny plaintiffs' motion and grant defendants' motion. Plaintiffs, Alyssa Laughman, Jean C. Laughman, individually and as the administrator of the Estate of Joseph Laughman, and Tilghman Laughman (collectively, "the Laughmans"), filed objections (Doc. 89) to the R&R. The parties have fully briefed the issues. For the reasons that follow, the court will adopt the R&R.

I. Factual Background & Procedural History

The court adopts the magistrate judge's recitation of the facts of this case. (See Doc. 88). The procedural history relevant to this memorandum is as follows.

On June 6, 2008, the Laughmans commenced this action by filing a praecipe for writ of summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Adams County, Pennsylvania.

The Laughmans subsequently filed a complaint stating various causes of actions related to a life insurance policy and naming the following defendants: Ace American Insurance Company; Black & Veatch Corporation; Overland Contracting, Inc.; The Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company; The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.; and The Hartford. (See Doc. 1, Ex. A).

Defendants removed the case to this court on April 15, 2009, (see Doc. 1), and filed motions to dismiss, (see Docs. 6, 9, 12). On July 29, 2009, a magistrate judge recommended that the court dismiss the complaint but permit the Laughmans to file an amended complaint. (See Doc. 34). The Laughmans filed an amended complaint on August 5, 2009, wherein they asserted only that defendants Black & Veatch Corporation and Overland Contracting, Inc. (collectively, "defendants") violated 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c) by failing to provide copies of requested insurance plan documents. (See Doc. 37). On November 18, 2009, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint. (See Doc. 44).

Thereafter, the Laughmans and defendants filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (See Docs. 52, 65). The matter was referred to a magistrate judge, and on July 21, 2010, he recommended that the court deny the Laughmans' motion and grant defendants' motion. (See Doc. 88). The Laughmans filed objections (Doc. 90) to the R&R, and the parties have fully briefed the issues.

II. Standard of Review

A. Standard of Review for Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment

Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine issue as to any material fact" and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings," in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F. Supp. 2d at 315.

In the instant matter, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. According to the Third Circuit:

Cross-motions are no more than a claim by each side that it alone is entitled to summary judgment, and the making of such inherently contradictory claims does not constitute an agreement that if one is rejected the other is necessarily justified or that the losing party waives judicial consideration and determination whether genuine issues of material fact exist.

Lawrence v. City of Phila., 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Rains v. Cascade Indus., Inc., 402 F.2d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 1968)). Each movant must show that no genuine issue of material fact exists; if both parties fail to carry their respective burdens, the court must deny the motions. See Facenda v. N.F.L. Films, Inc., 542 F.3d 1007, 1023 (3d Cir. 2008). When reviewing each motion, the court is bound to view the evidence in the light ...

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