United States District Court, D. Connecticut
LORI T. TYLL, Plaintiff,
STANLEY BLACK & DECKER LIFE INSURANCE PROGRAM ET AL., Defendants.
RULING RE: CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC.
NOS. 58 & 59)
C. Hall, United States District Judge
Lori T. Tyll (“Mrs. Tyll”), individually and as
the Executrix of the Estate of Michael A. Tyll (“Mr.
Tyll”), brought this action, arising under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”),
against the Stanley Black & Decker Life Insurance Program
(“Plan”) and Federal Insurance Company
(“Federal Insurance”) (collectively
“defendants”). See Complaint
(“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1) at 1. Mrs. Tyll seeks
payments of benefits under the Plan that she alleges have
been withheld in violation of the Plan terms. Id.
Mrs. Tyll also seeks to recover interest, costs and
attorneys' fees. Id. at 2. Before the court are
the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment.
See Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 58); Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 59).
reasons stated below, both the plaintiff's and the
defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted in
part and denied in part.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving
party to establish that there are no genuine issues of
material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State
Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016).
Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party
“must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a
reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ”
Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.
2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce
Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d
assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed
issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve
all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party
against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v.
Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir.
1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of
fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party
because the evidence to support its case is so slight,'
summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v.
Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010)
(quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd.
P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the
other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to
the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left
to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City
Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting
R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d
as here, both parties come before the court on cross-motions
for summary judgment, the court is not required to grant
judgment as a matter of law for either side. See Ricci v.
DeStafano, 530 F.3d 88, 109-10 (2d Cir. 2008).
“Rather the court must evaluate each party's motion
on its own merits, taking care in each instance to draw all
reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under
consideration.” Id. at 110.
plans are construed in accordance with federal common law.
See Aramony v. United Way of Am., 254 F.3d 403, 411
(2d Cir. 2001). “ERISA federal common law is largely
informed by state law principles, ” and courts
“apply familiar rules of contract interpretation in
reading an ERISA plan.” Lifson v. INA Life Ins. Co.
of New York, 333 F.3d 349, 352-53 (2d Cir. 2003) (per
curiam). Unambiguous language in an ERISA plan must be
enforced according to its plain meaning. Aramony,
254 F.3d at 412. “Language is ambiguous when it is
capable of more than one meaning when viewed objectively by a
reasonably intelligent person who has examined the context of
the entire integrated agreement.” Id. In
determining whether language in a plan is ambiguous,
“reference may not be had to matters external to the
entire integrated agreement.” Id. Where, as
here, de novo review applies,  ambiguities in
the language of an insurance policy that is part of an ERISA
plan are to be construed against the insurer. See
Critchlow v. First UNUM Life Ins. Co. of Am., 378 F.3d
246, 256 (2d Cir. 2004).
September 25, 2014, Mr. Tyll died while on board a commercial
flight from Paris to New York. Defendants' Local Rule
56(a)(2) Statement of Facts in Opposition (“Def.
SOF”) (Doc. No. 65-1) ¶ 3. On the date of Mr.
Tyll's death, his salary was greater than $ 1 million per
year. Id. ¶ 9. Stanley Black & Decker
(“Stanley”) provided Mr. Tyll various forms of
insurance through the Plan, including life insurance,
business travel insurance, and accidental death and
dismemberment insurance. Id. ¶ 6. Mr. Tyll was
an active, full-time employee of Stanley at the time of his
death and was therefore a Class 1 Insured Person under the
Plan. Id. ¶ 12.
Plan is comprised of “component benefit programs,
” see Administrative Record (“AR
___.”) 4. The component program at issue in this
litigation is the Business Travel Accident Insurance Program
(“the Policy”). See AR 18. Principal sum
is defined in the Policy as “the amount of insurance
appearing in Section IV-A of the Schedule of Benefits
applicable to each Class.” AR 52. For Class 1 Insured
Persons, the Principal Sum under the Policy is “Five
(5) times Salary subject to a Minimum of $100, 000 and a
Maximum of $1, 000, 000.” AR 78. Salary is defined as
“a Primary Insured Person's Annual Benefits pay
from the Policyholder at the time of the Accident, excluding
overtime and incentive payments.” AR 54.
October 9, 2014, Stanley filed a claim with Federal Insurance
naming Mrs. Tyll as the beneficiary of Mr. Tyll. Def. SOF
¶ 15. On December 11, 2014, Federal sent Mrs. Tyll a
denial letter. Id. ¶ 33. Mrs. Tyll appealed the
denial on June 12, 2015 and, on April 12, 2017, Federal
Insurance informed Mrs. Tyll's attorney that it would pay
the claim. Id. ¶¶ 34, 73. On May 16, 2017,
Mrs. Tyll appealed Federal Insurance's decision to pay $1
million on the claim instead of $5 million, as well as the
decision not to pay accrued interest under Connecticut law.
Id. ¶ 78.
Tyll seeks two things: first, she seeks payment of the
additional benefits she argues she is entitled to under the
Plan, in the amount of $4 million, plus attorneys' fees,
interest, and cost of litigation. See Compl. at 11
¶¶ 1-2. Second, she seeks prejudgment interest
pursuant to ERISA and Connecticut law. See id.
¶ 1. As to the claim for additional benefits, the
defendants argue that the Plan unambiguously provides for a
benefits cap of $1 million. See Defs.' Mem. in
Supp. at 6. As to the claim for prejudgment interest, the
defendants argue first, that the Plan is not subject to the
Connecticut law under which Mrs. Tyll seeks prejudgment
interest, id. at 8, and second, that even if the law
were applicable, ERISA precludes its application,
id. at 8-9.
Plan and Policy identify nine classes of insured persons. AR
78. Those classes are: (1) All active full time U.S. and
International Employees of the Policyholder; (2) All active
part time and temporary U.S. and International Employees of
the Policyholder; (3) Designated business guests, prospective
employees, dependent employees, consultants, and audit staff;
(4) All pilots; (5) All employees covered by relevant
collective bargaining agreements; (6) All active non-employee
officers and non-officer directors; (7) Spouses and domestic
partners of primary insured persons; (8) Dependent children
of primary insured persons; and (9) All expatriates of the
policyholder. AR 78. Mr. Tyll was a Class 1 Insured Person
under the Plan. Def. SOF ¶ 12.
questions determine whether Mrs. Tyll is entitled to the
payment of additional benefits. First, the court must
determine whether the Plan language in question, which
language defines the principal sum payable under the Plan, is
ambiguous. If the language unambiguously comports with the
defendants' proffered interpretation, then Mrs. Tyll
would not be entitled to any benefits beyond the $ 1 million
already paid under the Plan. If, however, the language is
ambiguous, the court must determine whether Mrs. Tyll's
reading of the statute is reasonable. If the language is
ambiguous and Mrs. Tyll's reading is reasonable, the
language must be construed in her favor. See
Critchlow, 378 F.3d at 256. Mrs. Tyll would then be
entitled to the $4 million she seeks.
language at issue is found under the heading “PRINCIPAL
SUM” in the Policy. See AR 78. The section
defines “principal sum” as follows, with each
numeral in the left-hand column referencing a class of
B) PRINCIPAL SUM
1 Five (5) times Salary subject to a Minimum of $100, 000 and
a Maximum of $1, 000, 000
2 $100, 000
3 $100, 000
4 Two (2) times Salary subject to a Minimum of $100, 000 and
a Maximum ...