Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Conley v. Pitney Bowes case brief

Conley v. Pitney Bowes case brief summary
34 F.3d 714 (8th Cir. 1994)

Plaintiff employee sought review of the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, which granted defendant employer's motion for summary judgment based on the employee's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, on the ground that the employer failed to inform him of appeal procedures in the letter denying benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C.S. § 1001 et seq.


  • The employer was obligated under the ERISA plan to inform the employee of the appeal procedure at the time they denied him benefits. 
  • The court found that the plan was a bilateral contract for an agreed exchange of performances. 
  • The employer's performance of the notice clause was to be rendered prior in time to exhaustion by the employee, and the court determined that notice was a condition precedent to the exhaustion requirement. 
  • The court held that a defense under the exhaustion clause could not be asserted absent performance of the notice clause. 
  • Application of a legal rule that the summary plan description gave the employee constructive knowledge of the appeals procedures was not appropriate on summary judgment. 
  • The employee also could not be expected to deny actual notice when the employer's motion did not raise the issue. 
  • The court found that the district court erred in dismissing the employee's other ERISA claims for wrongful discharge and for breach of fiduciary duty. 
  • The motion for summary judgment did not refer to those claims or place the employee on notice that he needed to argue that the exhaustion requirement did not apply to those claims.

The court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

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