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Douglas S. Yip v. Robert W. Little

April 4, 2011

DOUGLAS S. YIP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT W. LITTLE, AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ROBERT W. LITTLE INSURANCE AGENCY, INC. RETIREMENT PLAN THREE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: R. Gary Klausner U.S. District Court Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Order RE: Court Trial

On January 4, 2009, Douglas S. Yip ("Plaintiff") filed suit against Robert W. Little ("Defendant"), as Administrator of the Robert W. Little Insurance Agency, Inc. Retirement Plan Three (the "Plan"). Plaintiff is a participant in the Plan and is seeking penalties under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1) because Defendant failed to promptly produce Plan-related documents upon request as required by ERISA.*fn1

Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on November 5, 2010, after receiving some of the documents he requested. In the FAC, Plaintiff updated his request for penalties and added a claim for declaratory judgment, asking the Court to resolve a discrepancy between the documents Defendant produced. Specifically, Plaintiff asked the Court to determine whether a 1999 Amendment, which purported to significantly reduce Plaintiff's benefits under the Plan, was rendered unenforceable by improper notice.

In his most recent arguments before the Court, Plaintiff asked that the declaratory judgment claim be resolved by remanding this case to the Plan administrator (i.e., Defendant) for a determination of whether notice was properly provided, and a calculation of Plaintiff's benefits.

A bench trial was held on March 1, 2011. The Court heard the matter on trial briefs submitted by both parties. The Court has reviewed the record and considered all the arguments and evidence presented. Based on the credible evidence and the reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence, the Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to an award on his claim for penalties. The Court further determines that remand is appropriate for the purpose of resolving the questions raised in Plaintiff's declaratory relief claim.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This opinion serves as the findings of fact and conclusions of law required by Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Any finding of fact that constitutes a conclusion of law is adopted as such, and the converse is true as well.

A. Findings of Fact

1. Plaintiff was an employee of the Robert W. Little Insurance Agency, Inc. until he was terminated in August 2008. (Yip Decl.*fn2 ¶ 5.)

2. While employed with the Robert W. Little Insurance Agency, Inc., Plaintiff participated in the Plan. (Yip Decl. ¶ 4.)

3. As of January 24, 2011, Plaintiff's accrued benefits under the Plan had not yet been disbursed to him. (Yip Decl. ¶ 7.)

4. The parties have agreed that Defendant may be considered the "administrator" of the Plan, as defined by ERISA. (Joint Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 4.)

5. On December 5, 2008, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant ("Initial Request"), requesting copies of the following (PAE,*fn3 Ex. 1):

a. The latest summary description for the Plan;

b. The latest annual report for the Plan;

c. Copies of all modifications and changes made to the Plan after Plaintiff became a participant;

d. Any terminal reports, bargaining agreements, trust agreement, contracts or other instruments under which the Plan is established or operated; and

e. Written evidence of all notifications and receipts that Defendant was required to furnish to ...


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