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SAMPSON v. CITIBANK

May 27, 1999

CARLOTTA J. SAMPSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITIBANK, F.S.B. AND SHORT-TERM DISABILITY BENEFITS PLAN OF CITIBANK, N.A. AND PARTICIPATING COMPANIES, AND LONG-TERM DISABILITY BENEFITS PLAN OF CITIBANK, N.A. AND PARTICIPATING COMPANIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: June L. Green, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are three separate motions for summary judgment: one by Defendant Citibank, another by the two disability plans (the Short-Term Disability Plan and the Long-Term Disability Plan (collectively "the Disability Plans")) and a third by Plaintiff Carlotta Sampson for Partial Summary Judgment. Oral argument was heard on May 24, 1999. For the reasons that follow the Defendants' Motions are granted, the Plaintiff's motion is denied and this case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

This is a wrongful termination and employment benefits discrimination action brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (1994), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1994), and the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.*fn1 The ERISA claims are directed against the Disability Plans, while the ADA and FMLA claims are directed against Citibank.

The following are material facts as to which there are no genuine disputes. Plaintiff Carlotta Sampson worked for Defendant Citibank (or its predecessor) beginning in 1984 until June of 1995. She was an Assistant Branch Manager whose duties typically required her to be present every weekday and occasionally on Saturdays. Decl. of Andre F. Shaw, Citibank Ex. M.

Plaintiff was covered by two disability plans: a short-term plan and a long-term plan. Each provides for benefit payments (covering different time periods) when a covered employee is unable to work because of a disability.

On April 26, 1995, Plaintiff began an extended sick leave for what she alleges was severe asthma complicated by gastrointestinal reflux. On May 2, 1995, Plaintiff notified Aetna that she had seen her physician, Doctor Frank Finnerty, and was unable to return to work. She sought and was approved for short-term disability benefits from April 26 through May 30, 1995. On May 30, 1995, Plaintiff successfully sought to extend her disability leave and was approved to June 7, 1995. Aetna Life Insurance Co., responsible for administering the Disability Plans, recommended that Plaintiff see a pulmonary specialist in mid-May to determine her condition and whether she was, in fact, disabled. As a result, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Carl Schoenberger on May 25, 1995. Among other things, Dr. Schoenberger concluded that Plaintiff had "a well documented history of asthmatic bronchitis which appear[ed] to be under excellent control at the moment." (Ltr. by Dr. Schoenberger to Dr. Finnerty dated 5/30/95.)

Following the examination by Dr. Schoenberger, a nurse (employed by a company hired by Aetna to assist in disability evaluations) completed a form describing the physical requirements of Plaintiff's job at Citibank, which was then given to Plaintiff's personal physician, Dr. Finnerty. On a second form, Dr. Finnerty answered "yes" to the question: "Can the client work an 8-hour day?" (See Forms from Comprehensive Rehabilitative Associates, June 6, 1995, Disability Plans' Attachments 5 & 6, to Ex. E.) The purpose of these forms was to assist in evaluating whether Plaintiff was capable of performing her duties given her condition.

On June 26, 1995, the Medical Director, responsible for the Disability Plans, reviewed Plaintiff's file and upheld the June 7 return to work date.*fn2 Plaintiff had no further contact with Aetna after she was notified by letter dated June 29, 1995 of the final decision. (Letter of Joanne Hollinger, R.N., June 29, 1995.) By letter dated September 1, 1995, Plaintiff was terminated from Citibank for failure to return to work following an approved absence, effective June 7, 1995 (June 6 being the last day of her approved leave). (Letter of Milagros Santiago Vega, 9/1/95.)

Plaintiff never expressly requested uncompensated leave under the FMLA, despite being advised in writing of that option on at least three occasions. (Letters from Joan Huff, 5/11/95, 6/12/95 and 6/29/95, which included a separate notice concerning FMLA leave, see Decl. of David Charrier, ¶ 9, Def.Ex. E.)

DISCUSSION

A motion for summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The Court must view the material presented in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Adickes v. S.H. Kress and Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970), and resolve all doubts as to facts or the existence of facts against the moving party. United States v. Diebold, 369 ...


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