IBM Retiree Loses Pension Suit – Again

February 7, 2008 ( - A federal judge in New York has thrown out a lawsuit by a former IBM employee over his pension benefits after ruling the latest suit covers the same ground as an earlier federal court case filed in Georgia.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the suit by plaintiff Richard A. Adams was precluded by a rule known as res judicata, which bars litigants from ploughing over the same ground in successive similar cases once one has been dismissed.

Rakoff’s ruling noted that Adams represented himself in the first suit against IBM filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia that was thrown out in October 2006 (See Court Denies Retiree Interest on Delayed Distribution ). Adams, now represented by a lawyer, filed the new suit in August 2007.

Both suits alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for not giving Adams the proper amount in a lump-sum distribution he took in September 2005 for, among other reasons, “failing to actuarially increase his (Adams’) benefit to reflect the delay in the payment of his benefit after the later of the date he attained normal retirement age and the date he terminated employment with IBM, i.e., June 1, 2003.”

Rakoff explained in the ruling that res judicata applies if the prior case

  • involved a final adjudication on the merits,
  • the prior action involved the same parties or their representatives, and
  • the claims raised in the subsequent action were or could have been raised in the prior suit.

The court said the parties in the latest case agreed that the first and third conditions applied; Rakoff ruled that the second condition applied as well.

The ruling is here .