Federal District Court Rejects Magistrate's Report and Recommendation, and Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of KM&M Client in ERISA Suit
By decision and order dated June 21, 2005, Judge Stephen C. Robinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted KM&M's motion for summary judgment and dismissed all three causes of action in Plaintiff's ERISA lawsuit filed against a severance plan and the employee benefits committee that served as Plan Administrator. This victory comes after a Magistrate Judge had previously recommended denial of summary judgment on all counts. Had KM&M not successfully filed objections to the Magistrate's recommendations, the case would have proceeded to trial; instead, it has been dismissed in its entirety on the strength of our objections.
Plaintiff was employed by our client (the "Company"), and covered by its Severance Plan, at the time he voluntarily resigned his employment. When he resigned, Plaintiff was aware that the Company was imminently merging with a third party, and he was aware that, if he were to resign his employment, he would only be eligible for benefits under the Company's Change in Control Severance Program if he had been required in connection with the merger to relocate to an office more than 50 miles from his home or from his prior office. The Company offered Plaintiff the option of working from home and even offered to equip his home with any necessary office equipment at its expense. Instead of taking the Company up on its offer, however, Plaintiff quit and immediately commenced employment elsewhere.
Subsequently, Plaintiff retained counsel and sought severance benefits under the Company's Change in Control Severance Plan. His request was denied on the grounds that he had not been required to relocate more than 50 miles and thus was ineligible for benefits when he resigned. A lawsuit followed, in which Plaintiff alleged that the Plan Administrator wrongfully denied him severance benefits; that the Severance Plan Summary Plan Description was deficient; and that the Plan Administrator failed to timely provide him with a copy of the Plan document upon request.
While the Magistrate Judge took Plaintiff's side and found that summary judgment was inappropriate on all three causes of action, we disagreed, and ultimately so did the District Court.