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Stone v. Travelers Corp.

filed: June 22, 1995.

JOHN R. STONE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
THE TRAVELERS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. CV-93-00004-JPV. John P. Vukasin, Jr., District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Herbert Y.c. Choy, William C. Canby, Jr., and Thomas G. Nelson, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Canby.

Author: Canby

CANBY, Circuit Judge:

I.

John Stone brought this action against his employer, The Travelers Corporation, alleging that Travelers' manner of providing for Stone's early retirement violated the Age Discrimination In Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C §§ 621, et seq., and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. Stone also asserted an age discrimination claim under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov't Code § 12941, and a state-law breach of contract claim. The district court dismissed the ADEA count for failure to state a claim, and held that the ERISA claim was time-barred. It also held that the California FEHA claim was preempted by ERISA. Finally, the court dismissed the breach of contract claim as moot except for a dispute over interest, regarding which the court granted leave to amend. No amendment was made, and Stone appeals.

We affirm the district court's judgment with regard to the ADEA claim, although on a somewhat narrower ground than that chosen by the district court. We affirm the dismissal of the California FEHA claim as preempted. Stone has failed on appeal to support his breach of contract claim, and we consider it abandoned; the dismissal of that claim is affirmed. We reverse, however, the dismissal of the ERISA claim because we conclude that it is not barred by the applicable limitation.

II.

On April 1, 1991, Travelers offered Stone, who was then age 52, a Voluntary Severance Option (VSO). Stone submitted his application for the Option and then requested information regarding payments of his severance benefits. Travelers informed Stone that he, like other employees between the ages of 50 and 55, could receive his payments either in a lump sum or in 12 monthly installments. In contrast, employees over the age of 55 could receive their severance benefits in the form of a lifetime annuity under the Travelers Pension Plan.

On May 6, 1991, Stone requested documentation regarding severance benefits. Travelers allegedly never supplied Stone with information regarding severance benefits under the VSO and the pension plan, or information regarding pension benefits, despite his repeated requests. On May 7, Stone elected to receive his benefits in the form of a lump sum, and on May 10, he retired. On June 8, he informed Travelers that he was appealing the form of distribution of retirement benefits. On August 6, Travelers informed Stone that his appeal was denied, and on October 7, 1991, it denied reconsideration and allegedly denied Stone's requests for further information.

On January 4, 1993, Stone filed his Original Complaint alleging that Travelers' method of distributing severance payments violated the ADEA. On April 20, 1993, Stone filed his First Amended Complaint alleging that Travelers (1) violated the ADEA by refusing to give him severance benefits in the form of a lifetime annuity as it did for employees over the age of 55, (2) violated the California FEHA by the same acts, (3) violated ERISA by failing to provide him with documentation regarding the Severance Plan and the Pension Plan, and (4) breached an agreement to pay him a bonus. The district court subsequently dismissed all the claims.

III.

We review de novo the district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Keams v. Tempe Technical Institute, Inc., 39 F.3d 222, 224 (9th Cir. 1994).

A. Stone Failed to State a Claim under the ADEA

Stone's ADEA claim is quite an unusual one. In his First Amended Complaint, Stone alleged that Travelers denied him the option of taking his severance benefit in the form of a life annuity because he was not yet 55 years old and thus not eligible to be paid from the Travelers pension account. In other words, Stone claims that Travelers violated the ADEA by discriminating against him because he was too young! He contends that he may invoke the ADEA because, being over 40 years of age, he is in the ...


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