United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL
SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 36
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge.
moves for partial summary judgment as to the third cause of
action, which seeks statutory penalties for Defendant’s
failure to turn over requested plan documents. Dkt. No. 36.
Defendant contends the claim fails as a matter of law,
because only ERISA plan administrators are liable for these
penalties, and Defendant was not the ERISA plan administrator
under § 1002(16)(A). The Court finds this matter
suitable for resolution without oral argument, pursuant to
Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), and grants partial summary judgment
in Defendant’s favor.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
is entitled to summary judgment when “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movement is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). The party who seeks summary judgment bears the initial
responsibility of identifying an absence of a genuine issue
of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). If the moving party satisfies this initial
burden, the non-moving party must present specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. “Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under governing law” are material. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine
issue exists if the nonmoving party presents evidence from
which a reasonable factfinder, viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to that party, could resolve the
material issue in his or her favor. Id. at 248-49.
1132(c)(1) states: “Any administrator . . . who fails
or refuses to comply with a request for any information which
such administrator is required by this subchapter to furnish
to a participant or beneficiary . . . may in the
court’s discretion be personally liable to such
participant or beneficiary in the amount of up to $100 a
day.” ERISA defines a plan administrator as “(i)
the person so designated by the terms of the instrument under
which the plan is operated” and “(ii) if an
administrator is not so designated, the plan sponsor.”
29 U.S.C. § 1002(16)(A). The “plan sponsor”
is “the employer in the case of an employee benefit
plan established or maintained by a single employer.”
Ninth Circuit has held that only the plan administrator can
be sued for failing to provide documents under §
1132(c)(1)(B). See Moran v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 872
F.2d 296, 299-300 (9th Cir. 1989) (“Because Aetna was
not designated as plan administrator in the policy and is not
the plan sponsor, it is not liable under the
statute.”); see also Rodriguez v. Reliance Standard
Ins. Co., No. C 03-04189 CRB, 2004 WL 2002438, at *1
(N.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2004) (“As Reliance was not the
plan administrator as a matter of law, plaintiff’s
claim that Reliance owes statutory penalties for failing to
provide a summary plan description fails.”);
Younkin v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 288 Fed.
App’x. 344, 346 (9th Cir. 2008) (unpublished)
(“Here, the ERISA plan at issue named Washington
Corporations-not Prudential-as the ‘plan
administrator.’ The fact that Prudential makes benefit
determinations does not change this analysis”);
Gravelle v. Health Net Life Ins. Co., No. C 08-04653
MHP, 2009 WL 210450, *10 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2009)
(“Only an entity designated by the statute as an
administrator can be held liable for failure to provide plan
documents”). The Ninth Circuit takes a strict textual,
rather than functional, approach in determining the identity
of the plan administrator. Rodriguez, 2004 WL
2002438 at *1 (rejecting an argument that an entity that
acted like the administrator was de facto the plan
administrator because it did not satisfy the statutory
because Defendant was not designated as the plan
administrator as defined by § 1002(16) and because
Defendant is not the plan sponsor, Plaintiffs third cause of
action fails as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court
GRANTS partial summary judgment as to the third cause of
 Cyr v. Reliance Standard Life Ins.
Co., 642 F.3d 1202 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc), is
inapposite, as Cyr dealt with an ERISA section not
applicable here. Plaintiff has cited nothing to suggest that
Cyr applies to § 1132(c)(1), and the Court
declines to extend its application. See Moran, 872
F.2d at 299 (holding that “[t]he rationale and policies
articulated by the [Supreme Court] require us to limit
liability under 1132(c) to the targets expressly identified
by Congress in section 1002(16)”).
 Plaintiff argues that
Defendant’s motion is inappropriate in light of the
parties’ stipulation to resolve the remaining ERISA
claims through Rule 52 motions, see Dkt. No. 32.
Although Plaintiff correctly characterizes the stipulation,
this is not a basis for the Court to decline to rule on this
motion. Plaintiff has raised the very same arguments in its
Rule 52 ...