United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
JOHN D. BICKHART
CARPENTERS HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND OF PHILADELPHIA AND VICINITY, et al.
John D. Bickhart (“Bickhart”) brought this
action, claiming defendants violated the Employee Retirement
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. 1001,
et seq. when they terminated plaintiff's retiree
medical benefits. Presently before the Court are the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the
reasons that follow, the defendants' motion is granted
and the plaintiff's motion is denied.
judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A
motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by
‘the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but
will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material
fact.” Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott
Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-248 (1986)). A fact is “material” if proof of
its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of
the litigation, and a dispute is “genuine” if
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
undertaking this analysis, the court views the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. “After
making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's
favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a
reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.”
Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J., 593 F.3d
265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Reliance Ins. Co. v.
Moessner, 121 F.3d 895, 900 (3d Cir. 1997)).
the moving party bears the initial burden of showing the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, meeting this
obligation shifts the burden to the non-moving party who must
“set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
parties have stipulated to the following facts:
Bickhart was a “participant” in the Carpenters
Health and Welfare Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity
(“Welfare Plan”). Amended Complaint
¶¶5-6; Amended Answer ¶¶5-6.
Bickhart has exhausted his administrative remedies under the
Health and Welfare Fund and has standing to maintain this
action. Amended Complaint ¶4; Amended Answer ¶4.
Defendant Health and Welfare Fund is a trust fund under 29
U.S.C. 186(c) Amended Complaint ¶¶7, 9; Amended
Answer ¶7, 9.
Defendant Board of Administration of the Carpenters Health
and Welfare Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity is the plan
sponsor, plan administrator and named fiduciary of the
Welfare Plan. Amended Complaint ¶10; Amended Answer
Welfare Plan is an employee benefit plan under 29 U.S.C.
§1002. Amended Complaint ¶7; Amended Answer
Defendants Edward Coryell, Thomas Breslin, Edward Coryell,
Jr., Michael Hand, Michael Morrow, Robert P. Naughton, James
R. Davis, Frank Boyer, Joseph Clearkin, Jack Healy, Frank T.
Lutter, and Philip Radomski served as the members of
Defendant Board of Administration of the Health and Welfare
Fund (collectively, “Board of Administration
Members”) in 2015 through February 2016. Amended
Complaint ¶11; Amended Answer ¶11; Deposition of Ed
Coryell, August 8, 2016, at 9-12.
Board of Administration acts as a collective board or, at
times, through a subcommittee thereof. Amended Complaint
¶20; Amended Answer ¶20.
of the members of the Board of Administration is a fiduciary
with respect to the Welfare Plan with respect to the benefit
claim and appeals at issue in this case.
COUNT III - BENEFITS CLAIM
Exhibit A to the parties' stipulation of facts describes
documents that are part of the Administrative Record
pertaining to Plaintiff and/or the termination of
Plaintiff's Retiree Medical Benefits.
COUNTS I AND II - FACTS
Bickhart was born in February 1953. Amended Complaint
¶22; Amended Answer ¶22.
Bickhart applied to retire on January 1, 2007 at the age of
53 and began receiving pension benefits from the Carpenters
Pension & Annuity Plan of Philadelphia and Vicinity
(“Pension Plan”) and Retiree Medical Benefits
from the Welfare Plan as a Retired Covered Participant.
Bickhart paid monthly premiums to the Health and Welfare Fund
between the years 2010 and 2015, ranging in amounts
increasing from $50 to $230, from year to year. Deposition of
Piotr Tonia, July 27, 2016, at 78-80.
Information that Bickhart allegedly was working for a
non-union contractor was provided by a Union Business Agent
to Coryell on June 5, 2015. Deposition of Ed Coryell, August
8, 2016, at 44-45, 60; Defendant's May 19, 2016
Supplemental Response to Plaintiff's First Set of
Interrogatories No. 16.
Coryell provided information to Tonia on June 5, 2015 that
Bickhart was working for a non-union contractor. Deposition
of Ed Coryell, August 8, 2016, at 31; Defendant's May 19,
2016 Supplemental Response to Plaintiff's First Set of
Interrogatories No. 16.
Piotr (“Pete”) Tonia was appointed in November
2005 as the Fund Coordinator and Coordinator of Benefits for
the Health and Welfare Fund by the Board of Administration.
Amended Complaint ¶¶13, 55; Amended Answer
¶¶13, 55; Deposition of Piotr Tonia, July 27, 2016,
Tonia, as Fund Coordinator and Coordinator of Benefits, makes
decisions on behalf of the Health and Welfare Fund office to
terminate retiree medical benefits under the Welfare Plan.
Amended Complaint ¶21; Amended Answer ¶21.
Tonia made the decision to terminate Bickhart's retiree
medical benefits under the Health and Welfare Fund on or
about June 8, 2015. Deposition of Piotr Tonia, July 27, 2016,
July 21, 2015 Appeals Memo was prepared by Tonia pertaining
to the termination of Bickhart's retiree medical benefits
was presented to the Board of Administration Appeals
Committee on that date. Deposition of Piotr Tonia, July 27,
2016, at 62.
Appeals Committee was comprised of Board of Administration
Members Coryell and James Davis, who were the only voting
members of the Appeals Committee, among other individuals who
were not Board of Administration Members. Deposition of Piotr
Tonia, July 27, 2016, at 62.
voting members of the Appeals Committee agreed with the
recommendation of Fund Coordinator Tonia to deny
Bickhart's appeal. Deposition of Piotr Tonia, July 27,
2016, at 64-65.
Board of Administration adopted the recommendation of the
Appeals Committee on July 21, 2015. W30003-W-30007,
Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund of Philadelphia &
Vicinity Board of Administration Minutes of Meeting of July
First Amendment to the Amended and Restated Health and
Welfare Fund was adopted by the Board of Administration of
the Health and Welfare Fund on January 20, 2009. Amended
Complaint, Docket # 29, Exhibit 1; Amended Complaint
¶59; Amended Answer ¶59.
further Amendment to Section 3.04 of the Welfare Plan was
adopted by the Board of Administration between the First
Amendment thereto on January 20, 2009 and the termination of
Bickhart's retiree medical benefits. Amended Complaint
¶61; Amended Answer ¶61. A change was made in 2016
for the future.
administration of waiver requests was undertaken primarily by
Coryell, who exercised the discretion to grant waivers or