United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
M. AFRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Hilton Hotels Retirement Plan (“Hilton”),
incorrectly identified by plaintiff Babom Horton
(“Horton”) as Hilton Retirement Plan, filed a
motion to dismiss the above-captioned matter. Because Hilton
attached documents to its motion that are not referenced in
Horton's complaint, the Court converted the motion to
dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(d).
then responded to the motion. In his response, Horton explains
why he is suing Hilton, but he does not address the basis for
Hilton's motion-namely, that Horton's case is
is an ERISA-regulated employee pension benefit
plan. The plan's governing document
outlines, among other things, a detailed claims review
process that claimants must exhaust prior to initiating a
legal action for benefits under the plan. Importantly for
present purposes, the governing document provides that,
“[e]ffective for claims initially filled [sic] . . . on
or after January 1, 2011, any suit or legal action initiated
by a claimant under the Plan must be brought by the claimant
no later than one hundred eighty (180) days following a final
decision on the claim for benefits.”
filed a claim for benefits with Hilton on October 9,
2012. On his claim form, Horton listed his
address as an apartment on South Liberty Street in New
Orleans. During the course of the claims review
process, Hilton used that address to correspond with
process came to an end during the summer of 2015. In a letter
dated July 31, 2015, the Hilton U.S. Appeals Committee denied
Horton's appeal of the denial of his claim for
benefits. The letter informed Horton, in bold:
“The administrative process is complete. You now have
the right to bring a civil action under Section 502(a) of
ERISA in federal court if you choose to further pursue this
claim. Please be aware that the Plan requires that any such
suit be filed within 180 days of the date of this
letter.” The letter listed Horton's address
as his South Liberty Street apartment.
to Hilton's outside counsel for employee benefit matters,
the letter was sent to that address via regular mail on the
date listed on the letter. Further, Horton's counsel
at the time received a disc containing a digital copy of the
letter on August 7, 2015.
filed this lawsuit on September 14, 2017.
judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits, the court determines that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.
“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party need
not produce evidence negating the existence of material fact,
but need only point out the absence of evidence supporting
the other party's case. Id.; Fontenot v.
Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1195 (5th Cir. 1986).
the party seeking summary judgment carries its initial
burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific
facts showing that there is a genuine dispute of material
fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The showing of a
genuine issue of material fact is not satisfied by creating
“‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts, ' by ‘conclusory allegations, ' by
‘unsubstantiated assertions, ' or by only a
‘scintilla' of evidence.” Little v.
Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). Instead, a genuine issue of material
fact exists when the “evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
party responding to the motion for summary judgment may not
rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts
that establish a genuine issue. Id. However, the
nonmoving party's evidence “is to be believed, and
all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [the nonmoving