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Eichenberger v. Cardinal Health, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

March 31, 2017

Raymond L. Eichenberger, Plaintiff,
Cardinal Health, Inc., Defendant.


          JAMES L. GRAHAM United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Raymond L. Eichenberger, proceeding pro se, brings this action against defendant Cardinal Health, Inc. Eichenberger alleges that defendant wrongfully terminated the dependent health insurance coverage he received as the spouse of a Cardinal employee. This suit was originally filed in state court and was removed by Cardinal to this court on the grounds that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., governs plaintiff's claim.

         This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order, which the court denies for the reasons stated below.

         I. Background

         Eichenberger was married to Maxine Irvine, who has been employed by Cardinal since 2009. Eichenberger was covered on the family health insurance policy that Irvin obtained through Cardinal at the beginning of 2016.

         Irvin filed for divorce in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in late 2014. On September 7, 2016, the state court issued a decree of divorce that, among other things discussed below, terminated the marriage. (Doc. 13-2).

         The Cardinal Plan provided that divorce is an event which constitutes a qualified change in status, allowing the participant to make a new election. (Doc. 13-1 at § 4.5(A)). On September 13, 2016, Irvin notified Cardinal of the termination of her marriage and Eichenberger's coverage was immediately terminated. (Doc. 13-3 at ¶ 2).

         On October 5, 2016, Cardinal issued a COBRA notice to Eichenberger, informing him of his right to continue coverage for up to 36 months. (Doc. 13-4). He responded by letter on November 3, 2016 stating that he would not be electing COBRA coverage. (Doc. 13-5). Eichenberger asserted in the letter that the divorce decree had been stayed and alleged that the effect of the stay was that “I am not legally divorced from Maxine.” (Id.). Eichenberger, who is an attorney, [1] warned Cardinal's representative that “unless you are an attorney, you have no qualifications to be construing these court Orders.” (Id.).

         Eichenberger had in fact appealed the state court's September 7, 2016 order. But that order was not a run-of-the-mill decree granting a divorce. The order recited at length the misconduct in which Eichenberger had engaged during the course of the divorce proceeding. The court found that Eichenberger had: “engaged in fraudulent disposition of marital assets”; “blatantly refused to provide full discovery” regarding his income, business records and bank accounts “despite multiple Court Orders to do so”; “behav[ed] in a manner that is overtly hostile and combative”; “prevented the Court from making a clear, reasoned, and accurate determination of the parties' marital assets”; engaged in “frivolous behavior” throughout the course of the litigation; exhibited a “flagrant disregard” for the authority of the court; and had such a lack of candor that it reflected “his disdain for the profession.” (Doc. 13-2 at PAGEID#160, 166, 168, 178). As a result, the court held that it would be inequitable to award Eichenberger his dower interest in certain marital property, and it ordered him to pay his wife's attorney's fees and held him in contempt and imposed a sentence of three days incarceration.

         On November 2, 2016 the state court issued a stay order that restrained the parties from encumbering or transferring their assets pending appeal. (Doc. 13-7). The stay order did not contain any language vacating, reversing or staying the termination of the marriage. Nor did the stay order (or the September 7 order) make any mention of entitlement to health insurance coverage or benefits. The appeal remains pending.

         On November 22, 2016, Cardinal sent a letter to Eichenberger stating that it would not reinstate his coverage unless he provided “documentation to confirm that the date of the divorce has been postponed.” (Doc. 13-6). The letter further stated that “[i]n the meantime, you have the right to submit claims under the Plan. If any claims are denied due to the termination of your coverage, you have the right to appeal the denial . . . .” (Id.).

         After receiving the November 22, 2016 letter, Eichenberger did not submit any claims for medical services received between September 7 and December 31, 2016. (Doc. 13-3 at ¶ 7).

         II. Standard of Review

         Temporary restraining orders are authorized under Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They are extraordinary remedies governed by the following considerations: (1) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on the merits, (2) whether the movant would suffer irreparable injury absent an injunction, (3) whether issuance of the injunction would cause substantial harm to others, and (4) whether the public interest would be served by granting the requested injunction. Ohio Republican ...

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