United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
court has before it the November 14, 2017 motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendant Tyco Fire Products, LP
(“Tyco”). (Doc. 25). Pursuant to the court's
initial order and orders dated December 11, 2017, and
December 20, 2017, the motion was under submission as of
January 16, 2018. (Docs. 17, 33, 35). After consideration of
the briefs and evidence, the motion is due to be granted for
the following reasons.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
manufactures water-based fire suppression system components
and ancillary building construction products. (Doc. 27-6 at
1). Plaintiff Matthew Duncan was hired in February 2012, at
the Tyco facility in Anniston, Alabama. (Doc. 27-2 at 6; Doc.
27-3 at 13-14). Duncan worked as an hourly employee in the
finishing department. (Doc. 27-1 at 28).
Tyco Benefits and Policies
was hired, Duncan participated in orientation, which included
the benefits enrollment process. (Id. at 3). Tyco
employees select their own benefit elections on the website
MyTycoHR.com. (Id.). Tyco provides employees access
to a computer at the Anniston facility, where they complete
their benefit elections and enrollments. (Id.).
Duncan was given the paperwork discussing the available
benefits, and he completed his benefit elections on the
computer at the facility. (Doc. 27-1 at 24). Duncan elected
to receive $30, 000 in coverage for his wife under the
spouse/domestic partner supplemental life insurance policy.
(Doc. 27-4 at 15; Doc. 24-5 at 11).
are administered through the Tyco EmployeeAccess group and
not at the plant level. (Doc. 27-6 at 6). Employees can
contact MyTycoHR.com or EmployeeAccess at a toll-free number
with any questions about their benefits. (Id. at
3-4). Additionally, plan documents are available at
MyTycoHR.com. (Id. at 35).
of the benefits enrollment process, Duncan provided a contact
address to receive his benefit notifications. (Doc. 27-6 at
34). Duncan provided the same address in his contact
information during orientation. (Doc. 27-1 at 28). Duncan has
lived at that address for approximately ten years and lived
at the address at the time of his deposition. (Id.
at 4). An employee can change the address for benefits
notification through the MyTycoHR.com website or by
contacting EmployeeAccess at the toll-free number. (Doc. 27-4
at 11; Doc. 27-6 at 4). Duncan never made any changes to his
has a military leave of absence policy providing for the
possibility of compensation and continued benefits for a Tyco
employee on active military service. (Doc. 27-4 at 10-11;
Doc. 27-6 at 4, 8-16). The policy was available to Duncan
with all the other plan documents on MyTycoHR.com.
(Id. at 4). The military leave of absence policy in
place at the time of Duncan's military leave became
effective on January 31, 2010. (Id.; Doc. 27-4 at
applicable military leave of absence policy provides a Tyco
employee with “differential military leave pay”
while serving on military duty if the employee meets the
eligibility requirements to receive the pay. (Doc. 27-6 at
4). To receive “differential military leave pay”
an employee's military pay must be less than his Tyco
pay. (Id. at 4, 9). Specifically, the policy states,
“[In the event that Military Earnings are greater than
the employee's Regular Rate of Pay, no Differential
Military Leave Pay will be paid to the employee.”
(Id. at 9). If an employee is not eligible for
differential military leave pay, the employee will be
provided with unpaid time off for a military leave in
accordance with USERRA and governing state laws.
(Id. at 11-12, 14-15).
military leave of absence policy also provides eligible
employees on active duty the ability to continue welfare
benefits while on active military leave. (Doc. 27-5 at 9).
Specifically relating to supplemental life insurance
benefits, the policy states:
While on Active Military Duty Leave of Absence, all welfare
benefits offered by the Company in which the employee was
participating while an active employee of the Company may
continue as long as all required employee contributions are
satisfied during the Active Military Leave of Absence, either
through withholding from Differential Military Pay, or
through direct payments by the employee if there is either
insufficient or no Military Differential Pay from which to
withhold all required employee contributions.
Duncan's Military Leave
actively served in the military from 1981 until 1995 and then
joined the National Guard. (Doc. 27-1 at 4). On March 11,
2013, while working at Tyco, Duncan received orders to report
for overseas deployment on June 20, 2013. (Id. at
40; Doc. 27-3 at 31). Duncan made $12.52 an hour at the time
he went on military leave, which equates to approximately $2,
000 per month. (Doc. 27-6 at 4-5). His military pay was in
excess of $6, 000 per month. (Doc. 27-1 at 6). Because his
military pay was greater than his rate of pay at Tyco, Duncan
did not receive any payments from Tyco while on military
leave. (Doc. 27-6 at 4).
Duncan was not making any wages while on military leave, he
was responsible for paying his portion of premiums, including
the premiums for his spouse/domestic partner supplemental
life insurance policy. (Doc. 27-5 at 9). In accordance with
their standard policy, Tyco sent two direct payment invoices
to Duncan regarding his payment obligations to the address he
provided when he elected his benefits. (Doc. 27-6 at 34,
39-44). The first invoice was dated August 6, 2013, and the
second was dated September 6, 2013. (Id.). The
September 6, 2013 invoice advised Duncan benefits coverage
would end retroactively on the last day of the month for
which the full premium was paid if payment was not received
by October 1, 2013. (Id. at 43). Duncan did not make
the payments requested in the August and September invoices.
(Id. at 35). On October 2, 2018, Tyco sent Duncan a
notice of benefit termination. (Id. at 45). The
notice stated his coverage was cancelled for nonpayment
effective July 1, 2013, the end of the last month in which
Duncan paid his premiums. (Id.).
Duncan's deployment, his wife battled cancer and passed
away on February 26, 2014. (Doc. 1 at 4; Doc. 27-1 at 18).
Duncan returned from active service in May 2014 and resumed
his same position at Tyco. (Doc. 27-1 at 25; Doc. 27-6 at 6).
When he returned, Duncan inquired about the insurance
proceeds for the spouse/domestic partner life insurance
policy. (Doc. 27-6 at 6). Tyco submitted a claim for the
benefits on Duncan's behalf but was told the policy
lapsed due to nonpayment of premiums. (Id. at 36).
Additionally, Duncan called the Tyco EmployeeAccess number
after his return and was told the insurer declined payment
under the policy as it had lapsed because he did not pay the
premiums. (Doc. 27-1 at 22-23).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to