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Barbara J. Walker v. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America et al

December 8, 2011

BARBARA J. WALKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PHARMACEUTICAL RESEARCH AND MANUFACTURERS OF AMERICA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos.: 117, 119, 135

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING DEFENDANT NEW YORK LIFE'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; GRANTING THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS'MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT;

DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

In the final chapter of this lengthy litigious saga, the plaintiff, a former employee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America*fn1 ("PhRMA"), seeks damages for alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated ERISA's notice and disclosure requirements by failing to provide her with certain requested documents related to her retirement plan with PhRMA. Additionally, she asserts that in failing to meet their notice and disclosure obligations, the defendants also breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA § 404.

The matter is now before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. As elaborated below, the court concludes that the plaintiff's claims related to her August 2002 request for documents are time-barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations period.

With respect to the plaintiff's claims concerning her August 2003 request for documents, the court determines that the plaintiff failed to submit evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that an ERISA violation had occurred. Finally, the court concludes that claims regarding violations of ERISA's notice and disclosure obligations are not properly brought as a claim for breach of fiduciary duty under § 404. Accordingly, the court grants the defendants' respective motions for summary judgment and denies the plaintiff's cross-motion.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

From 1977 to 1988, the plaintiff worked for PhRMA as a full-time attorney. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-17.*fn2 In 1988, the plaintiff began working for PhRMA as an independent contractor. Id. As part of her work in PhRMA's general counsel's office, the plaintiff performed labor and employment legal work, which included reviewing employees' Retirement and Deferred Savings plans. Individual Defs.' Mot., Ex. 16 at 34-40.

To maintain her employment arrangement as an independent contractor, the plaintiff and PhRMA have entered into an identically worded one-year employment agreement every year since 1988. Am. Compl. ¶ 27. In September 2001, the plaintiff and PhRMA signed a final employment agreement that provided notice to the plaintiff of PhRMA's intention to discontinue their relationship after June 30, 2002. Mem. Op. (July 17, 2006) at 3. After this final employment agreement was signed, the plaintiff, through an attorney, requested that PhRMA provide her with an accounting of the employment benefits to which she was entitled. Am. Compl. ¶ 43. In response, PhRMA informed the plaintiff that she was not entitled to any benefits since the time that she began working as an independent contractor. Id. ¶ 44. The plaintiff appealed that determination to PhRMA without success. Id. ¶ 45.

On August 26, 2002, after completing her final one-year work agreement, the plaintiff submitted a letter to PhRMA's Retirement Committee requesting documents related to the denial of her claim for benefits. Pl.'s Mot. at 17; Individual Defs.' Mot., Ex. 3. On September 5, 2002, the Retirement Committee responded to the plaintiff's letter, stating that it would provide her with documents to which she was legally entitled. PhRMA's Mot., Ex. 5. On September 26, 2002, the Retirement Committee provided her with several documents, including the 1994 and 1999 restatements of the Retirement Plan, the 1989 restatement of the Deferred Savings Plan, the 2002 Summary Plan Description ("SPD") for the Retirement Plan and the 1996 SPD for the Deferred Savings Plan. Id., Ex. 6.

In August 2003,*fn3 the plaintiff emailed the Retirement Committee a request for copies of the Summary Annual Reports ("SARs") for the 2002 Retirement Plan and Deferred Savings Plan. Pl.'s Mot. at 22. On August 27, 2003, the Retirement Committee responded by providing the plaintiff with copies of the 2001 SARs for the Retirement and Deferred Savings Plans. Id.; Individual Defs.' Mot., Ex. 7. When the plaintiff inquired as to why she had not received the 2002 documents, the Retirement Committee notified her that those documents were not ...


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