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Reed v. Neca Local Union No. 313 Ibew Pension Fund

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 28, 2014

RICHARD REED, Plaintiff,
v.
N.E. C.A. LOCAL UNION No. 313. I.B.E.W. PENSION FUND, Defendant.

Martin D. Haverly, Esq. and Stephanie M. Smith, Esq., Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Timothy J. Snyder, Esq. and Curtis J. Crowther, Esq., Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Before the Court are the parties' motions for summary judgment (D.I. 17, 18), supporting memoranda (D.I. 19, 24), and reply briefs (D.I. 26, 28). For the reasons discussed, the Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part and the Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff enrolled in the Defendant's union pension fund when he became a journeyman wireman in 1989. (D.I. 19 at 9). The Plaintiff remained an union member throughout his career. ( Id. ). In the summer of 2011, the Plaintiff applied for permanent disability benefits, after experiencing severe, chronic back pain for years. ( Id. ). At the time, the Plaintiff had over eighteen years of credited service under the plan and over twenty years in the union. ( Id. ). The Plaintiff began to receive disability pension income in October 2011. ( Id. at 9-11). Each month, he received $2, 362.42. ( Id. at 9). In May 2012, the Defendant amended the plan, causing the Plaintiff to receive $1, 858.46 per month, a $503.96 reduction. ( Id. at 12). At the January 25, 2012 board meeting, the Defendant amended the disability pension plan's provisions. (D.I. 24 at 8). This amendment created a new calculation of pension amounts for those who started receiving disability benefits after January 1, 2012.

The parties agree that this amendment by itself did not affect the Plaintiff. (D.I. 24 at 8). On February 29, 2012, however, the Defendant considered a resolution that the January amendment would also apply to "disability pensioners who have not yet attained the age 55." (D.I. 20, p. A0111; D.I. 24 at 9). The Defendant approved the change in April 2012. (D.I. 24 at 9). The Defendant notified the Plaintiff of the change on May 18, 2012. (D.I. 20, p. A0113). The new amendment went into effect for the Plaintiff's June 2012 pension payment. (D.I. 24 at 9).

The Plaintiff appealed the reduction of benefits on July 10, 2012. (D.I. 19 at 12). On the same day, he wrote a letter to the Defendant and asked for copies of:

[All] documents governing the operation of the [Defendant's health and welfare and pension and disability pension fund, ] [i]ncluding insurance contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and a copy of the latest annual report (Form 5500 series), and an updated summary plan description. I will also need a summary of the [plan's] financial report. If different, I request a copy of the annual Funding Notice for the [Defendant's plan]. I request the names of the plan trustees, theri attendance record, and the names of the plan's [fiduciaries] and any consultants used, or to be used to create any new [rules] or changes concerning the [Defendant's fund]. I request a copy of any information or data submitted by any trustee, fiduciary, or consultant to be tor that has been used to change or amend the [plan or the fund]. I request a copy of the minutes from the Board of Trustees meetings that took place in 2012, 2011, 2010 and a copy of the minutes from the plan['s] fiduciary meetings containing all relevant information in regard[] to the plan['s] financial status or any need for change concerning pensioners[']/disability pensioners['] benefits. I request a copy of the current terms and conditions of the [plan and the fund] and the terms and conditions of the same fund as they were on October 1, 2011.

(D.I. 20 at A0121). On July 23, 2012, the Defendant sent a reply letter to the Plaintiff acknowledging the appeal and the document requests. (D.I. 19 at 5-6). The Defendant's letter stated that the Board of Trustees would review the requests at its July 25, 2012 meeting. ( Id. at 13). The Defendant did not consider the appeal until its October 24, 2012 meeting, when it denied the appeal. (D.I. 24 at 10). The Defendant notified the Plaintiff by letter on October 31, 2012. ( Id. at 10).

On October 10, 2012 (before the board's decision about the appeal), a representative of the Defendant mailed the Plaintiff the current Summary Plan Description (with the amendments to date), the most recent Form 5500 for 2010, the current collective bargaining agreement, and the latest Annual Funding Notice for the plan. (D.I. 19 at 13). Accompanying the documents was a letter that stated that the Defendant was still reviewing the request for the other documents and hoped to have copies of the other documents to which the Plaintiff was entitled soon. ( Id). The Plaintiff received the October 10th letter and documents on October 15, 2012, which was 91 days after his request. ( Id ).

The Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Defendant in April 2013 for the loss of plan benefits (Count I), for the failure to provide requested documents (Count II), for misrepresenting the terms of the plan (Count III), for breaching fiduciary duty by reducing the Plaintiffs benefits (Count IV), and for breaching fiduciary duty by misrepresenting the terms of the plan (Count V). (D.I. 1). Counts III and V were dismissed in October 2013. (D.I. 16). Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant filed motions for summary judgment on October 18, 2013. (D.I. 17, 18).

DISCUSSION

A. Legal ...


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