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IHC Health Services Inc. v. Intermountain United Food and Commercial Workers

United States District Court, D. Utah

July 9, 2018

IHC HEALTH SERVICES, INC. dba LDS HOSPITAL, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERMOUNTAIN UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS AND FOOD INDUSTRY HEALTH FUND, Defendant.

         MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE RECOVERY OF BENEFITS CLAIM, AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 23) AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 23) ON THE FAILURE TO PROVIDE PLAN DOCUMENTS CLAIM

          EVELYNS FURSE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On June 5, 2018, the Court[1] entered an Order on the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (“Summary Judgment Order”). (Summ. J. Order, ECF No. 34.) The Court denied Plaintiff IHC Health Services, Inc. (“IHC”) summary judgment on its first cause of action for recovery of benefits claims, granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant Intermountain United Food and Commercial Workers and Food Industry Health Fund (“Intermountain”) on IHC's second cause of action for breach of fiduciary duties, and reserved judgment on the cross-motions as to IHC's third cause of action for failure to provide plan documents. (See id.)

         The Court informed the parties in advance of the June 19, 2018 Final Pretrial Conference that they should come prepared to argue the remaining issues in this case. (ECF No. 36.) At the Final Pretrial Conference, IHC conceded that dismissal of its third cause of action for failure to provide plan documents is appropriate. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Intermountain's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24) and DENIES IHC's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23) on IHC's third cause of action for failure to produce plan documents.

         During the Final Pretrial Conference, the parties also made arguments concerning the remaining cause of action for recovery of plan benefits. At the conclusion of oral argument, the Court instructed the parties to set forth their arguments on that issue in their trial briefs, due on June 21, 2018. The parties agreed at the Final Pretrial Conference that the Court could decide the issue based on the arguments of counsel and trial briefs and vacate the bench trial scheduled to begin June 25, 2018. The Court informed the parties that after reviewing the trial briefs, it would determine whether or not to vacate trial. After reviewing the trial briefs, the Court vacated the trial, indicating it would decide the remaining issue on the arguments and briefs. (ECF No. 41.)

         After considering the arguments of counsel at the Final Pretrial Conference and the parties' trial briefs and for the reasons addressed below, the Court GRANTS Intermountain summary judgment on IHC's claim for recovery of plan benefits.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In its prior Summary Judgment Order, the Court discussed at length the pertinent factual background in this case. (Summ. J. Order 5-10, ECF No. 34.) The Court will not repeat those facts here and instead incorporates them into this decision.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The Court grants summary judgment when the evidence shows “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). “In an ERISA case like this, where both parties move for summary judgment and stipulate that no trial is necessary, ‘summary judgment is merely a vehicle for deciding the case; the factual determination of eligibility for benefits is decided solely on the administrative record, and the non-moving party is not entitled to the usual inferences in its favor.'” Cardoza v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 708 F.3d 1196, 1201 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting LaAsmar v. Phelps Dodge Corp. Life, Accidental Death & Dismemberment & Dependent Life Ins. Plan, 605 F.3d 789, 796 (10th Cir. 2010)).

         Further, “[a] court may grant summary judgment sua sponte ‘so long as the losing party was on notice that [it] had to come forward with all of [its] evidence.'” Sports Racing Servs., Inc. v. Sports Car Club, 131 F.3d 874, 892 (10th Cir. 1997) (alterations in original) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 326 (1986); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(f)(1) (stating that a court may “grant summary judgment for a nonmovant” if the parties had notice and a reasonable time to respond).

         While IHC moved for summary judgment on its first cause of action for recovery of plan benefits, Intermountain did not. However, both parties had ample opportunity present argument on this cause of action-in their original summary judgment briefing, at the Final Pretrial Conference, and in their trial briefs-and agreed at the Final Pretrial conference that trial and further briefing are unnecessary. Therefore, the Court will proceed to determine this cause of action.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Arbitrary and Capricious Standard of Review Applies to IHC's ...


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