668 F.3d 53 (2nd Cir. 2012), 10-3038-cv, Muto v. CBS Corp.

Docket Nº:10-3038-cv.
Citation:668 F.3d 53
Opinion Judge:SUSAN L. CARNEY, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Joseph G. MUTO, Kevin Beam, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CBS CORPORATION, f/k/a Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the CBS Combined Pension Plan,[1] Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Jeffrey V. Mansell (David B. Rodes, John T. Tierney, on the brief), Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants. Shay Dvoretzky (Glen D. Nager, David J. Strandness, on the brief), Jones Day, Washington, DC, for Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: LIVINGSTON, LOHIER, and CARNEY, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:February 01, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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668 F.3d 53 (2nd Cir. 2012)

Joseph G. MUTO, Kevin Beam, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

CBS CORPORATION, f/k/a Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the CBS Combined Pension Plan, 1 Defendants-Appellees.

No. 10-3038-cv.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

February 1, 2012

Argued: Aug. 31, 2011.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jeffrey V. Mansell (David B. Rodes, John T. Tierney, on the brief), Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Shay Dvoretzky (Glen D. Nager, David J. Strandness, on the brief), Jones Day, Washington, DC, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: LIVINGSTON, LOHIER, and CARNEY, Circuit Judges.

SUSAN L. CARNEY, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-Appellants Joseph G. Muto and Kevin Beam appeal from the judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Barbara S. Jones, Judge ) dismissing as time-barred their putative class action complaint against their former employer and the employer's pension plan for benefits alleged to be due under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (" ERISA" ). Plaintiffs agree that since ERISA contains no express limitations period for claims brought pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132, the district court correctly looked to New York law to determine the applicable period. They assert that the court erred, however, when it looked past the six-year New York limitations period for contract actions; applied part of the New York regime known as the " borrowing statute," which directed it to Pennsylvania law; and ruled that Pennsylvania's four-year limitations period barred plaintiffs' claims.

We conclude that the district court was correct in applying New York's borrowing statute and that plaintiffs' claims are untimely under Pennsylvania law. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

BACKGROUND

The relevant facts, as alleged in the complaint, are as follows. Plaintiffs, residents of Pennsylvania, are former employees of Westinghouse Electric Corp. (" Westinghouse" ) who worked for the company in Pittsburgh in the 1990s. During that time, the company offered its employees a pension plan (the " Westinghouse Plan" ) defined and regulated by ERISA. See 29 U.S.C. § 1002(2). The Westinghouse Plan entitled participants to accrue pension benefits, but provided that the accrued benefits were vulnerable to forfeiture until the participants had achieved five years of " credited service." Neither Muto nor Beam had accrued five years of credited service before December 1998, when their employment with Westinghouse ended.

Plaintiffs' terminations occurred during a series of layoffs and business divestitures

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implemented by Westinghouse from 1994 through 2000. According to plaintiffs, Westinghouse's elimination of a significant number of Westinghouse Plan participants created a substantial funding surplus that only increased after the Westinghouse Plan's merger in 2000 with the CBS Combined Pension Plan (the " Plan" ), reaching a level that would have been sufficient to fund the pensions of all those whose employment was terminated between 1994 and 2000. Plaintiffs contend that " [t]he elimination of a significant number or percentage of Westinghouse Plan participants through layoffs and/or divestitures ... constituted a partial termination" of the Plan under both the terms of the Plan and ERISA and, accordingly, that their accrued benefits became nonforfeitable to the extent funded by Westinghouse. See Compl. ¶ 17; 26 U.S.C. § 411(d)(3). Defendants deny this characterization of their actions and reject plaintiffs' claims for accrued benefits.

Plaintiffs first sued CBS, as successor to Westinghouse, and the successor Plan for benefits under the partial termination theory in a putative class action in 2000 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In 2001, that court awarded summary judgment to defendants on the ground that plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their Plan remedies before bringing suit. D'Amico v. CBS Corp., No. 00-2495, slip op. at 28 (W.D.Pa. Oct. 1, 2001). In 2002, the Third Circuit affirmed. 297 F.3d 287 (3d Cir.2002).

In 2003, plaintiffs sought to exhaust their administrative remedies, sending correspondence regarding their claims in April and September of that year. These two pieces of correspondence were each addressed to the Plan Administrator at a CBS broadcast center in New York City, even though the Summary Plan Description identified postal addresses for Plan administrative offices only in Pennsylvania (for the Plan Administrator) and Florida (for the Plan Benefits Access Center) and directed that appeals be addressed to the Plan Administrator in Pittsburgh.

In April 2009, more than a decade after Westinghouse terminated their employment and more than five years after they sent their 2003 letters, plaintiffs filed this putative class action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. They again sought a judgment declaring that CBS effected a partial termination of the Plan and awarding plaintiffs accrued benefits on that basis. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), (a)(3). Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary...

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