United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION RE: ECF NO. 17
MAUREEN P. KELLY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kriley (“Kriley”) brought this action under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§
1001, et seq., challenging the denial of his claim
for 26 weeks of severance benefits under the IBM Corporation
Resource Action Severance Plan (the “Severance
Plan”), administered by his former employer IBM
Corporation (“IBM”). ECF No. 1-2. IBM and the
Severance Plan (collectively, “Defendants”) have
filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (“the
Motion”). ECF No. 17. For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' Motion will be granted.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
1990 and 2009, Kriley worked for Allegheny Technologies, Inc.
(“ATI”) as the manager of ATI's Tandem
computer system. ECF No. 1-2 ¶ 7. In early 2009, ATI
outsourced management of its computer resources to IBM.
Id. ¶ 8. Kriley was deemed “critical to
this transition, ” and agreed to join IBM “but
only after IBM agreed to, ” among other things,
“treat his service at ATI as IBM service to calculate
his benefits. Id. ¶ 12. “IBM made these
assurances repeatedly[, ]” id. ¶ 14,
including at one of Kriley's first meetings with
IBM's human resources transition manager, id.,
and during his “introduction to IBM, ”
id. ¶ 16. “Based on IBM's repeated
assurances . . ., Kriley accepted IBM's offer and began
work in July 2009.” Id. ¶ 17.
March 2012, Kriley was permanently laid off, and IBM offered
him five weeks' salary under the Severance Plan if he
signed a release. Id. ¶¶ 19, 20. This
offer was “based on Kriley's 2.5 years of IBM
service and ignore[d] [IBM's] prior promise (and
practice) of counting [his] 19 years of ATI service in
calculating [his] IBM benefits.” Id. ¶
claims that IBM never provided him with a copy of the Plan or
Summary Plan Description (“SPD”) explaining the
terms of the Plan and the claims and appeals procedures.
Id. ¶ 25. Nevertheless, on June 3, 2016, over
four years after the termination of his employment, Kriley,
through counsel, sent a letter to the Severance Plan, making
a claim for 26 weeks' severance based on his combined
years of service with ATI and IBM. Id. ¶ 29. On
July 21, 2016, the Severance Plan denied his claim, on the
grounds that (1) the appeal was “time barred because it
arose after the plan closed[, ]” and (2) “the
Terms and Conditions of the contract which brought [him] from
Allegheny to IBM did not allow for Allegheny service time to
be used in calculating any separation payment.” Ex. C,
ECF No. 1-2 at 26. Kriley appealed, and the Severance Plan
denied his appeal on October 14, 2016. Id.
November 21, 2016, Kriley filed suit in the Court of Common
Pleas of Allegheny County under 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(1)(B) seeking payment of the 26 weeks of pay he
thought he was entitled to under his alleged agreement with
IBM. Id. ¶ 1. Defendants removed the action to
this Court based on federal question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1.
On December 20, 2016, Defendants filed an Answer, ECF No. 6,
which was followed two months later by their Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings, along with a brief in support, ECF
Nos. 17, 18. Kriley filed a Response in Opposition. ECF No.
19. Defendants filed a Reply, and Kriley filed a Sur-reply.
ECF Nos. 20, 25. Having been fully briefed, the Motion is
ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) may be
granted when “the movant clearly establishes that no
material issue of fact remains to be resolved” and that
it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir.
2008); see also Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609
F.3d 239, 259 n.25 (3d Cir. 2010). In ruling on the motion,
the court must construe the facts in the pleadings and the
inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Id.; see also Sikirica v.
Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 219 (3d Cir. 2005).
Generally, the court may “not consider matters outside
the pleadings, ” Mele v. Fed. Reserve Bank of
N.Y., 359 F.3d 251, 257 (3d Cir. 2004), though it may
consider “exhibits attached to the complaint, matters
of public record, and undisputed[ly] authentic documents if
the plaintiff's claims are based upon those documents[,
]” Perez v. Gamez, 2014 WL 670923, at *1 (M.D.
Pa. Feb. 21, 2014) (citation omitted).
Scope of Documents Considered
initial matter, the Court must address the scope of the
documents that it may consider in ruling on the instant
Motion. When they filed their Reply, Defendants also filed a
“statement” by Paul Horine, who was Kriley's
supervisor at IBM. ECF No. 21. Attached to this statement are
two e-mails between Horine and Kriley; the “Employee
Package” (including a copy of the summary plan
description (“SPD”)) that was allegedly attached
to one of the e-mails; and a chain of instant messages
between Horine and Kriley sent around the same time. ECF Nos.
21-1 to 21-4. The e-mails and text messages shed light on the
circumstances surrounding Kriley's layoff and IBM's
offer of five weeks' severance pay. Kriley argues in his
Sur-reply that the Court must disregard Defendants' new
evidence because the documents are outside of the scope of
the pleadings. ECF No. 25 at 1-2. Kriley is correct.
the exception of the SPD, which is also attached to the
Complaint, the Court cannot consider these documents in
ruling on Defendants' Motion, insofar as they are not
attached to the Complaint, are not matters of public record,
and do not form the basis of Kriley's Complaint. See
Mele, 359 F.3d at 257. Accordingly, this new evidence
will be disregarded by the Court.