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Gerald P. Meyers v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

March 6, 2013

GERALD P. MEYERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.

MEMORANDUM

Gerald Meyers brings a claim for wrongful denial of life insurance benefits. Before the Court is Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's ("MetLife") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion and remands the case for lack of jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

Prior to 2011, Plaintiff's wife, Joanne Meyers, worked for the law firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin ("Marshall Dennehey"). (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts [Def.'s SOF] ¶ 3.) While employed by Marshall Dennehey, Joanne Meyers participated in a Group Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance Benefit Plan (the "Plan"), which provided $50,000 in group life insurance coverage. (Id. ¶ 4.) MetLife issued to Marshall Dennehey a group insurance policy to fund benefits payable under the Plan. (Id. ¶ 2.)

On December 31, 2010, Joanne Meyers's employment with Marshall Dennehey was terminated. (Id. ¶9.) MetLife claims that, when she stopped working at Marshall Dennehey, her coverage under the Plan terminated. (Id.) According to the Plan documents, an insured could convert her group life insurance policy to an individual life insurance policy either within thirty-one days of the group coverage ending or, in certain situations, within fifteen days after the insured was provided with notice of her conversion rights. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D [Policy] at 35-36.) However, consistent with Pennsylvania law, the application period to convert the group policy to an individual policy could not exceed ninety-one days from when the insurance terminated. (See id. at 35.); 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7. If the insured converts the Plan or dies within the conversion period, her beneficiary is entitled to benefits. (Def.'s SOF ¶8.) However, if the insured fails to apply for conversion and dies outside of the conversion period, then the beneficiary is not entitled to benefits. (See id. ¶10.) Joanne Meyers never applied to convert her group policy to an individual policy. (Id.

¶ 14.) No one contests that the Plan was "delivered in and governed by the laws of Pennsylvania." (See Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. F [Insurance Policy Introduction] at 1.)

The motion for summary judgment hinges, in part, on whether MetLife provided Joanne Meyers with notice of her conversion rights in accordance with 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7. MetLife states that it mailed Joanne Meyers a letter outlining her conversion rights on December 30, 2010. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 12.) Plaintiff states that he and his wife never received any letter from MetLife. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s SOF ¶ 10.) Joanne Meyers died on March 23, 2011, eighty-two days after her employment was terminated. (See Def.'s SOF ¶ 13.)

On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff sued MetLife in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, claiming that he was entitled to benefits under 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7. Defendant removed the case on June 29, 2012 based on its argument that 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7 is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on February 1, 2013, arguing in part that Plaintiff's claim is preempted by ERISA, thereby requiring dismissal of the claim. (See Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. at 6-9.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when the admissible evidence fails to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). When the moving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, it must identify evidence in the record establishing the absence of a genuine factual issue. Nat'l State Bank v. Fed. Reserve Bank, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). When the moving party does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry its burden of persuasion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thereafter, the nonmoving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact if sufficient evidence is provided to allow a reasonable finder of fact to find for the nonmoving party at trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In reviewing the record, a court must "view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor." Spence v. ESAB Grp., Inc., 623 F.3d 212, 216 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court may not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in considering motions for summary judgment. See Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., 998 F.2d 1224, 1230 (3d Cir. 1993).

III. DISCUSSION

The question before the Court is whether 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7 is preempted by ERISA. Based on the following analysis, the Court finds that the statute is not preempted.

A. Pennsylvania Notice of Conversion Statute

Pennsylvania law sets out requirements for when "any individual insured under a group life insurance policy hereafter delivered in [Pennsylvania] becomes entitled under the terms of such policy to have an individual policy of life insurance issued to him." 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7. Under the statute, "[i]f the insured is not notified of the conversion privilege at least fifteen days prior to the expiration of the [conversion] period, the insured is entitled to an additional sixty day period in which to exercise such right." Harris v. St. Christopher's Hosp. for Children, 436 A.2d 203, 203 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1981); see also 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 532.7. The statute explains that "[w]ritten notice presented to the individual or mailed by the policyholder to the last known address of the ...


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