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Martin Hann v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company

April 8, 2011

MARTIN HANN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RELIANCE STANDARD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion (Doc. 32), filed on March 18, 2011, which recommends that we grant Plaintiff Martin Hann's ("Plaintiff" or "Hann") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14) and deny Defendant Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company's ("Defendant" or "Reliance Standard") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18.)

Reliance Standard filed objections to the R&R on March 29, 2011. (Doc. 33.) For the reasons that follow, we shall overrule the Defendant's objections, adopt the R&R in its entirety, and enter judgment in favor of the Plaintiff.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Review of Magistrate Judge's R&R

When objections are filed to the report of a magistrate judge, the district court makes a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. Id. Although the standard of review is de novo, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "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). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations of denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non- moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff was previously employed as an information technology specialist at ProSoft, a technical services company located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff was covered by a long-term disability ("LTD") policy that was purchased by his employer and issued by Reliance Standard. Plaintiff suffers from a severe case of Multiple Sclerosis and is totally disabled. He began receiving benefit checks on December 16, 2007. Reliance Standard informed Plaintiff on December 1, 2008 that they were recalculating his benefit amount by taking into consideration his Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits that began that year, and an estimated SSDI dependent award. Specifically, Reliance Standard offset his LTD benefit by his SSDI benefit in the amount of $1,783 and his estimated ...


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