Brooks v. Pactiv Corp.

Federal 7th Circuit Court
Civil Court
Case Number: 
No. 12-1155
Decision Date: 
September 6, 2013
Federal District: 
N.D. Ill., E. Div.
Affirmed and reversed in part and remanded
Dist. Ct. erred in granting defendant-employer’s motion to dismiss plaintiff's state-count wrongful retaliation and ERISA claims, alleging that defendant terminated plaintiff-employee in breach of its fiduciary duty to plaintiff under terms of health plan administered by defendant and/or in retaliation for plaintiff’s assertion of workers’ compensation claim that arose out of work-related injuries to his hand and forearm. Dismissal was appropriate on ERISA claim since Plaintiff’s termination did not violate any fiduciary duty under ERISA where defendant acted in its capacity as employer and not as fiduciary at time of termination. Moreover, terms of instant health plan did not promise plaintiff any post-employment benefits. Record, though, contained sufficient allegations to preclude dismissal of plaintiff’s retaliation claim, even though defendant could have legitimately terminated plaintiff due to his inability to perform his job duties, since defendant’s demand just prior to termination that plaintiff verify his ability to perform his job duties as condition of his continued employment could have been motivated by defendant’s desire to undermine plaintiff’s pending workers’ compensation claim in which plaintiff alleged total disability. Ct. also noted that termination took place just after defendant began receiving plaintiff’s extensive medical bills that were being paid either through workers’ compensation proceeding or through company’s health insurance.