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Upadhyay v. Aetna Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 3, 2014

VANDANA UPADHYAY, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a Connecticut corporation, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.

By the present motion, plaintiff moves for reconsideration of the Court's January 16, 2014 order granting defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

BACKGROUND

This is an action brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et. seq. In March of 2005, plaintiff Vandana Upadhyay was hired by Symmetricom, Inc. ("Symmetricom") as a Senior Director of Business Development. Docket No. 29, Upadhyay Decl. ¶ 2; Docket No. 31-1, LaRosa Decl. Ex. A. Shortly after being hired, plaintiff was injured while attending an industry conference in Dallas. Docket No. 29, Upadhyay Decl. ¶ 4. As a result of the accident, plaintiff suffers from Bilateral Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Id. ¶ 5.

Eventually, on January 2, 2007, plaintiff took a medical leave of absence from Symmetricom and her employment was terminated effective February 27, 2007 while she was on leave. Id.; Docket No. 33-1, Valentine Decl. Ex. A § B. On February 11, 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint in state court against Symmetricom alleging claims for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violations of the California Family Rights Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Docket No. 33-1, Valentine Decl. Ex. A § C. On May 3, 2010, as a result of a JAMS mediation, plaintiff and Symmetricom entered into a settlement agreement, containing a general release of claims. See id.

On December 15, 2010, Aetna received an application from plaintiff for long-term disability benefits under the group long-term disability policy issued by Aetna to Symmetricom ("the Plan"). Docket No. 31-1, LaRosa Decl. Ex. A. On February 1, 2011, Aetna sent plaintiff a letter denying her claim for long-term disability benefits on the basis that plaintiff's claim was untimely and plaintiff failed to prove that she met the definition of disabled as described in the Plan. Docket No. 31-4, LaRosa Decl. Ex. D. Plaintiff appealed Aetna's denial of benefits. On July 18, 2012, Aetna sent a letter to plaintiff denying her appeal and upholding its prior determination that she was not entitled to long-term disability benefits under the Plan. Docket No. 31-5, LaRosa Decl. Ex. E.

On March 27, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint against Aetna, alleging a cause of action under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) to recover benefits due to her under the terms of her plan and a cause of action under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3) for breach of fiduciary duty. Compl. ¶¶ 13-25. On November 1, 2013, defendant moved for summary judgment of its waiver and contractual limitations affirmative defenses. Docket No. 30. On January 16, 2014, the Court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment. Docket No. 41. In the order, the Court held that plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily waived her ERISA claims against Aetna when she entered into the settlement agreement with Symmetricom. Id. at 7-8. In addition, the Court held that plaintiff's action was barred by the contractual limitations provisions contained in the Plan. Id. at 9-10.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a motion for reconsideration of the Court's January 16, 2014 order based on four separate grounds. The Court granted in part and denied in part plaintiff's motion for leave. Docket No. 46. Specifically, the Court denied the motion as to one ground[1] and gave plaintiff leave to seek reconsideration of the order based on the following three grounds:

1. Under the Supreme Court's recent decision in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 134 S.Ct. 604 (2013) and the controlling provisions of the California Insurance Code, plaintiff's suit was timely.
2. Defendant substantively waived its right to raise the release as an affirmative defense when, at the conclusion of the administrative process, it told plaintiff that she had the right to bring a civil suit under ERISA for judicial review of its denial of benefits.
3. There is a triable issue of fact as to whether the release executed by plaintiff extended to the insurers of the Plan.

Id. at 2.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Motion for ...


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