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Lewis v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

May 8, 2014

WALTER A. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTY CORPORATION, Defendant

Walter A. Lewis, Plaintiff, Pro se, Brooklyn , NY.

For Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Defendant: Gregory Charles Matisoff, Kenneth Jay Cooper, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Washington , DC.

Page 148

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, challenges the decision of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (" PBGC" ) to deny his application for retirement benefits allegedly owed him from his employment with Shearson Hamill and Co., Inc., which merged with Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., in 1974. Contending that plaintiff was previously paid his benefits, PBGC moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [Dkt. # 7]. Plaintiff has filed two responses to the motion [Dkt. ## 9, 11] and PBGC has filed a reply [Dkt. # 10]. For the following reasons, the Court will grant defendant's motion and dismiss the case.

Page 149

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that he was employed full-time as a Teletype Operator for 27 years, from May 1969 to 1996, when he retired at age 65. Compl. at 1. " Because of two separate accidents" in February 1979 and January 1980, plaintiff " sustained 2 different fractures . . . after which [he] developed arthritis in [his] elbow and wrist joints." Id. at 2. " [A]fter being in pain so much," plaintiff took short-term disability leave from November 1984 to May 1985 and thereafter took long-term disability leave, which " accounts for a period of 7 months short term and about 11 years long term disability." Id.

In a decision dated August 24, 2011, PBGC's Appeals Board determined that plaintiff was not entitled to the requested retirement benefits because the records " PBGC's auditors obtained from the former Plan administrator" established that he had previously " received a lump-sum payment of $2,879.85 as a final distribution of your pension from the Lehman Brothers Plan." Compl. Attach. (hereafter " AB Dec." ), ECF pp. 9-12. In support of that decision, PBGC provided plaintiff a Lehman Brothers memorandum dated November 9, 1993, from the Pension Department to Group Insurance, which stated that the lump-sum payment " effective November 1993" constituted " a final distribution for [plaintiff's] retirement plan." Compl. Ex. A. The memorandum further stated that " Mr. Lewis is presently on Long Term Disability. Please adjust his payments to reflect his retiree status." Id. In addition, PBGC provided plaintiff a letter dated December 13, 1993, to Lehman Brothers's insurance carrier, CIGNA Life Insurance Company of New York, stating the same. Compl. Ex. B; see AB Dec. at 1, 2.

In the instant complaint filed in June 2013, plaintiff states that he " cannot recall receiving [the] payment" -- purportedly distributed 20 years earlier -- and that he " ha[s] not signed anything to indicate that I did, even if I did not remember. I found it hard to believe that I would receive money from a corporation and not have to sign off on it." Compl. at 2-3. Plaintiff further states that " if a lump sum payment was received[,] can Lehman Brothers at least provide proof that the Mandatory tax deducted portions was [sic] at least disbursed to the IRS for that period the alleged 'final pension payment' was made?" Id. at 3. Plaintiff also questions how the lump-sum amount was calculated and faults PBGC for failing to maintain " my record in the plan." Id. at 4. He concludes that " [e]ven though I do not have all my paperwork from all these years, under Title IV of the [ERISA], I believe I was denied the benefit of which I am entitled." Id. at 4-5.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain " a short and plain statement of the claim" in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974), abrogated on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). A court considering such a motion presumes that the complaint's factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000).

Page 150

" To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). This means that a plaintiff's factual allegations " must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citations omitted). " Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause ...


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