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MCDONALD v. ARTCRAFT ELEC. SUPPLY CO.

October 9, 1991

DOUGLAS McDONALD, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ARTCRAFT ELECTRIC SUPPLY COMPANY, a/k/a CONSOLIDATED ELECTRIC SUPPLY, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FLANNERY

 THOMAS A. FLANNERY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I. Introduction

 In March of 1989, Defendant Artcraft Electrical Supply ("Artcraft") hired Plaintiff Douglas McDonald ("McDonald") as an sales representative. One year later, in March of 1990, Artcraft terminated McDonald's employment. Plaintiffs allege, and Defendants do not dispute, that while McDonald was employed by Artcraft, his compensation included enrollment in the Consolidated Electric Supply Employee Group Medical Plan ("the Plan"). The Plan, which is self-insured, is funded, operated and administered by Defendant Wilcox and Gibbs. All Parties agree that the Plan is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461.

 In October of 1989, Mr. McDonald was diagnosed as having esophageal cancer. *fn1" He underwent surgery in November of 1989 and returned to work in February of 1990. A month later, Mr. McDonald was required to spend an additional week in the hospital for treatment of post-surgical complications. On March 12, 1990, the day he returned to work following his second hospitalization, Artcraft informed Mr. McDonald that his employment had been terminated as of March 9, 1991.

 Mr. McDonald filed this action against his employer and its parent corporations on December 17, 1990. He alleged that he was fired because Artcraft did not want to continue to pay for his medical expenses. He further alleged that Artcraft failed to provide him with timely, complete or accurate information regarding the status of his continuing medical and life insurance coverage. Additionally, Mr. McDonald claimed that Artcraft failed to pay him all of his accrued compensation.

 In this suit, based both on diversity and federal question jurisdiction, McDonald raises numerous state law claims *fn2" in addition to alleging that Artcraft violated ERISA. *fn3" Defendants have moved for partial summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to that Rule, the Court, for the purposes of this motion, will view the facts in the light most favorable to Defendants.

 II. Preemption

 Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on each of the state law claims on the grounds that they are preempted by the federal ERISA statute. With the exception of Mr. McDonald's claim for wages due and owing, the Court agrees with Defendants for the reasons set forth below.

 The preemption clause of ERISA provides that ERISA "shall supersede any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan" covered by ERISA. 29 U.S.C. § § 1144(a). The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that Congress intended for this clause to be read expansively. "The breadth of [ERISA]'s pre-emptive reach is apparent from that section's language. A law 'relates to' an employee benefit plan, in the normal sense of the phrase, if it has a connection with or reference to such a plan . . . . Congress used the words 'relates to' . . . in their broad sense." Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 96-97 77 L. Ed. 2d 490, 103 S. Ct. 2890 (1983) (footnotes omitted).

 
"The pre-emption clause is conspicuous for its breadth." FMC Corp. v. Holliday, 498 U.S.[ , ], 111 S. Ct. 403, 407 (1990). Its "deliberately expansive" language was designed to "establish pension plan regulation as an exclusively federal concern." Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 46, 95 L. Ed. 2d 39, 107 S. Ct. 1549 (1987) (quoting Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 451 U.S. 504, 513, 68 L. Ed. 2d 402, 101 S. Ct. 1895 (1981)).

 Ingersoll-Rand Co. v. McClendon, U.S. , , 111 S. Ct. 478, 482, 112 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1990).

 Not only has "relates to" been read broadly, but "State law" has a comprehensive statutory definition. "To underscore its intent that [ERISA's preemption clause] be expansively applied, Congress used equally broad language in defining the 'State law' that would be preempted. Such laws include 'all laws, decisions, rules, regulations, or other State action having the effect of law.' 29 U.S.C. § 1144(c)(1)." Id., 111 S. Ct. at 483. *fn4"

 The facts in Ingersoll-Rand are similar to those in this case. Ingersoll-Rand fired Perry McClendon who had worked as a salesperson for the company for over nine years. McClendon brought a state law wrongful discharge claim based in contract and tort law, claiming that the reason for his termination was the company's desire to avoid making contributions to his pension fund.

 The Court ruled that ERISA's remedies are exclusive. While the state law did not purport to regulate employee benefit plans and conditions, the state law claims were related to an ERISA plan and were, therefore, preempted by ERISA.

 The purpose of ERISA's preemption clause is to ensure uniformity of employee benefits law. The Court held that allowing a state claim based on an employee benefit-evading motive ...


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