United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
XIEN HUANG NAPODANO, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of Caleb Napodano
ERICSSON INC. SHORT TERM DISABILITY PLAN
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Parties' respective
motions for summary judgment (Dkt. #10; Dkt. #12). After
careful consideration, Defendant's motion will be granted
while Plaintiff's will be denied.
Caleb Napodano worked at Ericsson Inc.
(“Ericsson”) and was a member of its various
employee benefits plans, including its Long-Term Disability
Plan and Short-Term Disability Plan. Both plans provide
employees with some or all of their income while they are on
leave from work due to a disability. On August 22, 2017,
Napodano placed a signed letter on his manager's chair,
instructing Ericsson's Human Resources team to
“consider today Tuesday 08/22/2017 [his] last working
day.” (Dkt. #12, Exhibit 2 at p. 390). Napodano
explained that he was “resigning due to on-going
illness issues with [his] health, ” that the HR Team
“w[ould] find [his] work laptop below [his] letter of
resignation, and [that his] work badge w[ould] be left
downstairs with the security officer.” (Dkt. #12,
Exhibit 2 at p. 390). Ericsson construed Napodano's
letter as a resignation and “honored [his] request to
process the resignation with the effective date of
8/22.” (Dkt. #12, Exhibit 2 at p. 94).
days later, Napodano submitted a claim for long-term
disability benefits to Prudential Insurance Company of
America (“Prudential”), the claims administrator
for Ericsson's long-term disability plan. Prudential
subsequently denied the claim. It noted that, to be eligible
for long-term disability benefits, claimants are required to
seek short-term disability benefits first. Prudential then
referred Napodano's claim for long-term disability
benefits to Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc.
(“Sedgwick”), the claims administrator for
Ericsson's Short-Term Disability Plan. Sedgwick agreed to
process his claim as one for short-term disability benefits.
denied the claim about a week later, finding him ineligible
for benefits under Ericsson's Short-Term Disability Plan.
The corresponding Summary Plan Description (the
“SPD”), which sets out the benefits the plan
offers, provides that “coverage under the Plan ends on
the earliest of” four dates. These include:
1. The date the Plan terminates;
2. The date [the claimant] no longer meet[s] the definition
of Eligible Employee;
3. The last day [the claimant is] in Active Employment; and
4. The date [the claimant is] no longer in Active Employment
due to a Disability that is not covered under the Plan.
(Dkt. #12, Exhibit 1 at p. 15). Ericsson argues that, once
Napodano resigned, he was no longer an “Eligible
Employee.” (Dkt. #12, Exhibit 1 at p. 15). Napodano
questions whether his letter can constitute a formal
resignation. He contends that, based on a conversation he had
with Ericsson's Human Resources team, he believed that he
needed to resign to be eligible for long-term disability
benefits. He also notes that, because the fourth possible
termination date is triggered only if he is “no longer
in Active Employment due to a Disability . . . not
covered under the Plan, ” his coverage did not end
because he stopped working due to a disability that was
covered (Dkt. #12, Exhibit 1 at p. 15) (emphasis added).
Ericsson, on the other hand, stresses that coverage ends on
the “earliest” of the four dates and that, once
Napodano's employment status ended, the second possible
termination date went into effect since he was no longer an
“Eligible Employee.” (Dkt. #12, Exhibit 1 at p.
purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of
factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary
judgment is proper under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A dispute about a material fact is genuine when
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Substantive law identifies which facts are material.
Id. The trial court “must resolve all
reasonable doubts in favor of the party opposing the motion
for summary judgment.” Casey Enters., Inc. v. Am.
Hardware Mut. Ins. Co., 655 F.2d 598, 602 (5th Cir.
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
informing the court of its motion and identifying
“depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”
that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); Celotex, 477 U.S. at
323. If the movant bears the burden of proof on a claim or
defense for which it is moving for summary judgment, it must
come forward with evidence that establishes “beyond
peradventure all of the essential elements of the
claim or defense.” Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780
F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). Where the nonmovant bears
the burden of proof, the movant may discharge the burden by
showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmovant's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325;
Byers v. Dall. Morning News, Inc., 209 F.3d 419, 424
(5th Cir. 2000). Once the movant has carried its burden, the
nonmovant must “respond to the motion for summary
judgment by setting forth particular facts indicating there
is a genuine issue for trial.” Byers, 209 F.3d
at 424 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49). A
nonmovant must present affirmative evidence to defeat a
properly supported motion for summary judgment.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. Mere denials of material
facts, unsworn allegations, or arguments and assertions in
briefs or legal memoranda will not suffice to carry this
burden. Rather, the Court requires “significant
probative evidence” from the ...