TRUSTEES OF THE UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION AND PARTICIPATING FOOD INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS TRI-STATE PENSION FUND v. LOUIS M. BUFF
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Timothy J. Savage (EDPA) on 3/31/2021. (rss, )
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
TRUSTEES OF THE UNITED FOOD &
COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION AND
PARTICIPATING FOOD INDUSTRY
EMPLOYERS TRI-STATE PENSION FUND :
LOUIS M. BUFF
March 31, 2021
The United Food & Commercial Workers Union and Participating Food Industry
Employers Tri-State Pension Fund is a trust fund established pursuant to an Agreement
and a Declaration of Trust.
Pursuant to various collective bargaining agreements
between local unions and employers in the retail food industry, it is funded by
contributions by employees. The Fund provides pension benefits to eligible employees
of employers in the retail food industry. As fiduciaries, the trustees have an obligation to
seek repayment of benefits mistakenly paid.
Virginia M. Buff, now deceased, was a member of the United Food & Commercial
Workers Local 1360 (“Union”). She worked for Pathmark Supermarkets from October 5,
1964 to March 27, 1999. During that time, contributions were made to the Fund on her
On March 27, 1999, upon her retirement, Ms. Buff signed an election form agreeing
to receive all of her benefits as a Single Life Annuity beginning April 1, 1999. Pursuant
to the election, no further benefits would be payable to her after her death.
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Ms. Buff passed away on December 17, 2013. Pursuant to the terms of the Single
Life Annuity and her election, her benefit payments should have ceased at that time.
However, because it received no notice of Ms. Buff’s death, the Fund continued to deposit
benefit payments into her bank account in the amount of $1,300.15 each month from
January, 2014 to December, 2018. The total amount of benefits paid into Ms. Buff’s
account after her death was $78,009.00.
During a routine check, the Fund sought to confirm that Ms. Buff was alive and
receiving her Social Security benefits. It sent a form to her address for her to complete
and return. Ms. Buff’s son, Louis Buff, completed the reply form as if she were alive and
receiving benefits. Louis did not disclose his mother’s death to the Fund. Because the
Fund noticed that the form had been completed by someone other than the intended
recipient of the benefits, it investigated. It discovered that Ms. Buff had passed away on
December 17, 2013. Upon receipt of the death certificate on December 12, 2018, the
Fund immediately ceased all payments to Ms. Buff’s account.
The Pension Plan provides that the Fund has the right to recover overpayments.
It provides “the Plan has the right to recover any mistaken payment, overpayment, or any
payment made in error to any individual who is not eligible for that payment
(“overpayment”). Any overpayment creates a lien by agreement, and the Plan, or its
designee, may withhold or offset future benefit payments, sue to recover overpayment,
or use any other lawful remedy to recoup any overpayment.”
Despite demand, Louis Buff has failed to return the overpaid benefit payments to
The Fund then instituted this action against Louis Buff to recover the
overpayments. The Fund now moves for summary judgment.
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There are no disputed material facts. The Fund mistakenly overpaid benefits to
Ms. Buff’s son, Louis Buff, in the amount of $78,009.00. The Fund is entitled to the
Louis Buff has refused to return the benefits. Therefore, because the
plaintiffs are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the motion for summary judgment
will be granted.
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