United States District Court, D. Colorado
RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
Y. Wang, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the court on Defendant United of Omaha
Life Insurance Company's (“United”) Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Claim for Relief (Amended
Complaint) (“Motion to Dismiss” or
“Motion”) [#70, filed August 25, 2017]. The
undersigned considers the Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b), the Order Referring Case dated June 1, 2017 [#18],
and the memorandum dated August 25, 2017 [#71]. Upon careful
review of the Motion, the relevant case law, the entire
docket, and the comments offered at the November 2, 2017
Motion Hearing, this court respectfully RECOMMENDS that
United's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.
initiated this action on April 5, 2017. [#1]. Plaintiff
suffers from severe and disabling injuries and illnesses that
render her disabled, see [id. at
¶¶ 26-32 (detailing Plaintiff's ailments)]-the
Social Security Administration found Ms. Ihde completely
disabled for Social Security Disability Insurance and
Supplemental Security Income purposes. [Id. at
¶¶ 14-15]. Plaintiff is a beneficiary of and
participant in the Generational Equity, LLC Employee Benefits
Health & Welfare Plan (the “Plan”), an
employee welfare benefit plan as that term is defined under
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et.
seq. [Id. at ¶¶ 2, 6-8]. The
Complaint named Generational Equity, LLC (“Generational
Equity”); the Plan; and United, a fiduciary and insurer
of the Plan, as Defendants in this action for unlawfully
withholding benefits and violating ERISA. [#1].
alleges that she filed claims with the Plan for Short Term
and Long Term Disability (“LTD”) benefits, and
that the Plan approved and paid ($5, 000 per month) those
claims through November 20, 2014. [Id. at
¶¶ 16-18]. However, according to Plaintiff, United,
acting on behalf of the Plan, terminated payments on November
20, 2014, and issued a denial of benefits letter on November
21. [Id. at ¶¶21-22]. Plaintiff
administratively appealed this denial that same day.
[Id. at ¶ 23]. United, acting on behalf of the
Plan, upheld its denial of benefits, despite medical evidence
proffered by Plaintiff, on April 28, 2015. [Id. at
maintains that she continues to satisfy the definition of
disability under the Plan, has done so since June 22, 2013,
and is permanently disabled. [Id. at ¶¶
37-38]. Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies
and, thus, filed this suit. [Id. at ¶ 39].
Complaint asserted three claims against the named Defendants.
[#1]. First, that all Defendants unlawfully withheld LTD
benefits under the Plan in violation of 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(1)(B) (“Claim I”). [Id. at 6-7].
Second, that Defendants Generational Equity and United, as
fiduciaries of the Plan, breached their fiduciary duties owed
to Plaintiff as a participant in the Plan under 29 U.S.C.
§§ 1109(a) and 1132(a)(2) (“Claim II”).
[Id. at 7-11]. Lastly, that Defendant Generational
Equity failed to provide requested documents pursuant to 29
U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(A) and 1132(c)(1)
(“Claim III”). [Id. at 11-17]. On May
18, 2017, Defendants Generational Equity and the Plan filed
their Partial Motion to Dismiss seeking dismissal of Claims I
and II under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and an Answer to Claim III. [#7; #8]. In addition,
United filed a Motion to Strike and a Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint on June 2 and June 7, 2017,
respectively. See [#21; #24].
7, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time to
Respond to the Partial Motion to Dismiss, indicating that she
and Defendants Generational Equity and the Plan were engaged
in meaningful settlement negotiations. [#26]. Then, on June
22, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Settlement informing
the court that she had settled all of her claims against
Generational Equity and the Plan, and that she would not file
a response to their Partial Motion to Dismiss. [#34]. On
August 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed a stipulation of dismissal
dismissing Generational Equity and the Plan as Defendants.
See [#56; #58].
Scheduling Conference regarding Plaintiff's remaining
claims against United (Claims I and II) was held on June 23,
2017. See [#37]. At this Scheduling Conference, the
undersigned set July 15, 2017 (later extended to July 25,
2017 [#47]) as the deadline for the Parties to submit the
Administrative Record; August 15, 2017 as the deadline for
the filing of any motion(s) requesting discovery; and also
set a briefing schedule on the Administrative Record.
See [#37; #38]. The undersigned also scheduled oral
argument on the Motion to Dismiss for September 21, 2017
[#37], later reset for November 2, 2017 [#72].
and Plaintiff filed a Stipulated Motion to Suspend
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and to Set Deadline to
Amend Complaint that requested this court set July 28, 2017,
as the deadline for Plaintiff to file an amended complaint
and August 7, 2017, as the deadline for United to file a
Reply to its Motion to Dismiss should Plaintiff forego filing
an amended complaint. See [#42]. Pursuant to the
Parties request, this court set July 28, 2017, as
Plaintiff's deadline to file an amended complaint. [#44].
Plaintiff thus filed her Motion to Amend on July 28, 2017.
[#53]. At the August 3, 2017 Status Conference, United
clarified that it did not oppose the Motion to Amend but
maintained its right to file an appropriate responsive
motion, and that it believed the Amended Complaint mooted its
Motion to Strike and its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint. See [#57; #59]. The presiding judge, the
Honorable Raymond P. Moore, adopted this court's
Recommendation that United's first Motion to Dismiss be
denied as moot; this court also denied as moot United's
Motion to Strike. See [#60; #66].
August 4, 2017, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint
(“FAC”) became the operative complaint in this
matter. [#62]. The FAC alleges two claims against United: (1)
unlawful withholding of LTD benefits under the Plan in
violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) (“Claim
I”); and (2) breach of fiduciary duty pursuant to 29
U.S.C. §§ 1109, 1132(a)(2), and 1132(a)(3)
(“Claim II”). [Id. at 5-12]. As relief,
Plaintiff seeks her past due LTD benefits with pre- and
post-judgment interest, future LTD benefits up to the maximum
benefits allowed, make-whole damages for injuries
attributable to United's breaches of its fiduciary
duties, costs and fees, as well as injunctive relief (1)
enjoining “United  from violating ERISA and its
implementing regulations in the future” and
“administering any ERISA governed plans offering [LTD]
benefits”, (2) removing United “as fiduciary of
the Plan”, (3) ordering United to provide all Plan
participants with a complaint Summary Plan Description
(“SPD”), and (4) prohibiting United from
dispersing any future noncompliant SPD. [Id. at
August 25, 2017, United filed the instant Motion seeking
dismissal of Claim II. [#70]. The undersigned held oral
argument on the Motion to Dismiss on November 2, 2017, and
took the Motion under advisement. [#84]. Because the Motion
is ripe for recommendation, this court considers the
Parties' arguments below.
Rule 12(b)(6) a court may dismiss a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion
under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations . . . and view these
allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Casanova v. Ulibarri, 595 F.3d
1120, 1124 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. United
States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)). A
plaintiff, however, may not rely on mere labels or
conclusions, “and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Rather, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129
S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); see also Robbins v.
Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008)
(explaining that plausibility refers “to the scope of
the allegations in a complaint, ” and that the
allegations must be sufficient to nudge a plaintiff's
claim(s) “across the line from conceivable to
plausible.”). The ultimate duty of the court is to
“determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges
facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an
entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.”
Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 478 F.3d 1149, 1160
(10th Cir. 2007).
enacted ERISA to regulate employee pension and welfare
benefits, and “to promote the interests of employees
and their beneficiaries in employee benefit plans.”
Ingersoll-Rand Co. v. McClendon, 498 U.S. 133, 137
(1990) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Section
502(a), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a), is ERISA's civil
enforcement scheme that “consists of several carefully
integrated provisions.” Millsap v. McDonnell
Douglas Corp., 368 F.3d 1246, 1250 (10th Cir. 2004)
(citation omitted). Relevant here, § 1132(a)(2)
authorizes suits by “a participant, beneficiary or
fiduciary for appropriate relief under section 1109, ”
which imposes liability on “[a]ny person who is a
fiduciary with respect to a plan who breaches any of the
responsibilities, obligations, or duties imposed upon
fiduciaries by this subchapter, ” id. §
1109(a). In addition, a participant, beneficiary, or
fiduciary may bring a civil action “to obtain other
appropriate equitable relief (i) to redress such violations
or (ii) to enforce any provisions of this subchapter or the
terms of the plan.” Id. § 1132(a)(3)(B).