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Smith v. Ameritech

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

October 31, 1997, Argued ; November 20, 1997, Decided ; November 20, 1997, Filed

No. 96-4263


 [***2]  [*859]   KENNEDY, Circuit Judge. Plaintiff, Terry Smith, appeals from the District Court's order granting summary judgment in favor of defendants, Ameritech, Ameritech Publishing, Inc. (now known as Ameritech Advertising Services), their Sickness and Accident Disability Benefit Plan ("SADB Plan"), and their Long Term Disability Plan ("LTD Plan") (hereinafter collectively referred to as defendants). Plaintiff alleged that defendants denied him disability benefits in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461; interfered with his right to future disability [**2]  benefits in violation of ERISA § 510, 29 U.S.C. § 1140; denied him reasonable accommodations for his disability in violation of both the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12213, and OHIO REV. CODE ANN.  [*860]  § 441202(A); and discharged him without just cause in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on all of his claims. For the following reasons, we affirm.

 [***3] I. Facts

In 1991, plaintiff began working for Ameritech Advertising Services as a "premises sales representative." In that capacity, plaintiff traveled through northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan selling advertising space in Ameritech's yellow pages directories. On April 16, 1992, while traveling from a personal errand to meet with a business client, plaintiff was injured in an automobile collision. Plaintiff suffered a herniated disc at the T7-T8 level of his spine, causing chronic back pain. Despite the pain, plaintiff continued working for eighteen months, until he took a disability leave of absence on October 19, 1993.

At that time, Ameritech and Ameritech Advertising Services offered two plans which [**3]  provided benefits to employees who were prevented from working by illness or injury arising outside the scope of employment. The Sickness and Accident Disability Benefit Plan ("SADB Plan") provided qualified employees with short-term disability benefits for up to fifty-two weeks. After receiving SADB Plan benefits for fifty-two weeks, an employee who still is disabled from working becomes eligible for benefits under the Long Term Disability Plan ("LTD Plan"). It is undisputed that both plans qualified as "employee welfare benefit plans" under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1). The original SADB Plan designated the "Company" as the plan administrator. A subsequent modification to the SADB Plan vested the Ameritech Employees' Benefit Committee with

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129 F.3d 857 *; 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 32784 **; 1997 FED App. 0343P (6th Cir.) ***; 156 L.R.R.M. 2947; 21 Employee Benefits Cas. (BNA) 2126; 7 Am. Disabilities Cas. (BNA) 917


Prior History:  [**1]  Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Toledo. No. 95-07481. David A. Katz, District Judge.

Disposition: Affirmed.


disability, accommodation, benefits, disability benefits, plan benefits, eligibility, interfering, terminated, reasonable accommodation, summary judgment, return to work, discharged, collective bargaining agreement, grant summary judgment, terms of the plan, reassignment, restrictions, Advertising, defendants', qualified individual, essential function, disabled employee, prima facie case, short-term, employees, grant of summary judgment, objectively reasonable, total disability, genuine issue, just cause

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, General Overview, Standards of Review, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Supporting Materials, Discovery Materials, Pensions & Benefits Law, ERISA, Civil Litigation, Civil Litigation, Causes of Action, Suits to Recover Plan Benefits, Remedies, Equitable Relief, Declaratory Judgments, Business & Corporate Compliance, Fiduciaries, Fiduciary Responsibilities, Prohibited Transactions, Interference With Protected Rights, Environmental Law, Administrative Proceedings & Litigation, Judicial Review, Governments, Fiduciaries, Pensions & Benefits Law, Civil Penalties, Labor & Employment Law, Retaliation, Statutory Application, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Disability Benefits, Evidence, Opposing Materials, Torts, Elements, Causation, Burdens of Proof, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Accommodation, Disability Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Disabled Persons, Americans With Disabilities Act, Scope, Employee Burdens of Proof, Public Accommodations, Reasonable Accommodations, Undue Hardship, Employment Practices, Medical Inquiries, Qualified Individuals With Disabilities, Reassignments & Transfers, Federal Employment & Services, Accommodations, Contracts Law, Breach, Collective Bargaining & Labor Relations, Duty of Fair Representation, Interpretation of Agreements