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Donati v. Ford Motor Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 1, 2016

Lydia Donati, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Ford Motor Company, General Retirement Plan, Retirement Committee, Defendant-Appellee.

Argued: January 27, 2016

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:13-cv-14496-Robert H. Cleland, District Judge.

COUNSEL

ARGUED:

Sarah S. Prescott, DEBORAH GORDON LAW, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellant.

Eugene Scalia, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Sarah S. Prescott, DEBORAH GORDON LAW, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellant.

Eugene Scalia, Jason C. Schwartz, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER, LLP, Washington, D.C., Julia Turner Baumhart, KIENBAUM OPPERWALL HARDY & PELTON, P.L.C., Birmingham, Michigan, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS, GIBBONS, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

When Ford offered to cash out Lydia Donati's retirement benefits for a lump sum, she accepted the opportunity. A few months later, Ford told Donati that it had miscalculated the size of her lump sum. Donati died shortly thereafter, and her daughter sued the Retirement Committee on behalf of her estate for the money Ford originally promised. The district court granted the Committee judgment on all claims and, for the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

I

Lydia Donati and her husband worked for Ford Motor Company and participated in Ford's General Retirement Plan. After the couple divorced, a Michigan court ordered Donati's ex-husband to redirect a portion of his retirement benefits to her. This was a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), as defined by 26 U.S.C. § 414. Donati received those benefits along with her own benefits in the form of a single monthly payment of $1, 184.91 from the General Retirement Plan.

In 2012, Ford offered retirees an opportunity to cash out their retirement benefits for a single lump-sum payment. This allowed Ford to reduce its financial volatility and administrative costs, while giving retirees flexibility in managing their retirement funds. In November, Ford sent Donati a letter stating that if she ...


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