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Sikora v. UPMC

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

November 24, 2017

PAUL F. SIKORA, Appellant
v.
UPMC, a Pennsylvania non-stock non-profit corporation a/k/a UPMC Health System; UPMC HEALTH SYSTEM AND AFFILIATES NON QUALIFIED SUPPLEMENTAL BENEFIT PLAN

          Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) September 25, 2017

         On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania W.D. Pa. No. 2-12-cv-01860 District Judge: Honorable Mark R. Hornak

          Michael E. Hoover Diefenderfer Hoover McKenna & Wood Counsel for Appellant

          John J. Myers Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott Counsel for Appellees

          Before: SMITH, Chief Judge, McKEE, and RESTREPO, Circuit Judges

          OPINION

          SMITH, Chief Judge.

         A so-called "top-hat" plan is "a plan which is unfunded and is maintained by an employer primarily for the purpose of providing deferred compensation for a select group of management or highly compensated employees." 29 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(1), 1051(2), 1081(a)(3). These plans need not comply with many of the substantive provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). When Paul F. Sikora sought to recover pension benefits under ERISA, the District Court held that he was not entitled to obtain such relief because he sought benefits under a top-hat plan. Sikora appeals, arguing that the District Court should have required Defendants, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and its Health System and Affiliates Non-Qualified Supplemental Benefit Plan (collectively, "UMPC"), to prove that plan participants had bargaining power before concluding that he participated in a top-hat plan.[1] Plan participant bargaining power, though, is not a substantive element of a top-hat plan. We will therefore affirm the District Court's judgment.

         I

         Sikora is a former employee of UPMC. He became the Vice President of IT Transformation & IT Infrastructure Services in 2005. Following that position change, Sikora became a participant in UPMC's Non-Qualified Supplemental Benefit Plan ("the Plan") in 2008. Sikora's participation in the Plan ended upon his voluntary termination from UPMC in 2011. Sikora applied for benefits under the Plan following his voluntary termination but was denied benefits for reasons unrelated to the current appeal.

         Sikora filed suit against UPMC in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in December 2012. During discovery, UPMC and Sikora each filed motions for partial summary judgment. UPMC argued that the Plan was a top-hat plan, and, because three of Sikora's claims relied on ERISA provisions inapplicable to top-hat plans, those claims should be dismissed. Concluding that the Plan was a top-hat plan, the District Court granted UPMC's partial summary judgment motion and denied Sikora's motion. Following completion of discovery, UPMC filed a motion for summary judgment as to Sikora's remaining non-ERISA claim, which the District Court granted. Sikora timely appealed.

         II

          The District Court exercised jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. We have appellate jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

         We exercise plenary review over the District Court's decision to grant summary judgment, and so we apply the same standard of review the District Court should apply. See Willis v. UPMC Children's Hosp. of Pittsburgh, 808 F.3d 638, 643 (3d Cir. 2015). We review questions of law de novo. See Samaroo v. Samaroo, 193 F.3d 185, 189 (3d Cir. 1999) ...


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