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Bach v. Prudential Ins.

United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Western Division

February 4, 2015

KYLE BACH, Plaintiff,
v.
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE, Defendant

For Kyle Bach, Plaintiff: John W Kocourek, LEAD ATTORNEY, JOHN W. KOCOUREK PC, COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA.

For Prudential Insurance Co., Defendant: Megan E Troy, LEAD ATTORNEY, SEYFARTH SHAW, CHICAGO, IL; Ryan Gene Koopmans, LEAD ATTORNEY, NYEMASTER GOODE PC, DES MOINES, IA; Amanda Anne Sonneborn, PRO HAC VICE, SEYFARTH SHAW, CHICAGO, IL.

ORDER

JAMES E. GRITZNER, Chief United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Motion to Dismiss Certain Claims in Plaintiff's Complaint, ECF No. 10, by The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Defendant).[1] Kyle Bach (Plaintiff) resists. Neither party has requested a hearing, and a hearing is unnecessary. The Motion is fully submitted and ready for disposition.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff is a former employee of Omaha Standard. Plaintiff was a participant in a disability insurance plan offered by Omaha Standard and administered by Defendant. In November 2012, Plaintiff suffered a back injury that he asserts rendered him disabled. Although Defendant initially paid disability benefits to Plaintiff, it subsequently determined he was able to work. Plaintiff contested this decision and has exhausted his administrative remedies under the plan.

Plaintiff initiated the present action with a two-count complaint. The first count asserts Defendant wrongfully denied Plaintiff disability benefits. In part, Plaintiff supports his claim with his allegation that the Social Security Administration has determined he is completely disabled and eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Although the Complaint does not state this expressly, the parties' briefs on Defendant's Motion clarify that Count One is a claim for benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) § 502(a)(1)(B),[3] 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B).[4]

Count Two of the Complaint alleges a breach of fiduciary duty. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges " the defendant breached its fiduciary duty by failing to conduct a proper investigation, by failing to subject the findings of its investigation to a reasonable evaluation and by wrongfully denying plaintiff's claims without a reasonable basis for the denial." Compl. ¶ 23, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges this breach was in violation of Iowa Code § 507B.4 as well as 29 U.S.C. § § 1104 and 1109. Both counts request relief under ERISA, including past-due and future benefits and attorney's fees, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

II. DISCUSSION

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) " motion to dismiss, 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Under the current pleading standard, " [a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) Partial Motion to Dismiss makes three primary arguments. First, Defendant asserts that ERISA preempts Plaintiff's state-law claim for breach of fiduciary duty. Next, Defendant argues the Court should dismiss Count Two of the Complaint in its entirety because it is duplicative of Plaintiff's claim for benefits under Count One. Finally, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's potential remedy is limited to benefits under the plan, and Plaintiff is not entitled to compensatory or punitive relief.

Plaintiff concedes that Supreme Court precedent likely requires this Court to hold that ERISA preempts his state-law claims and his request for compensatory and punitive damages. However, Plaintiff argues that he can simultaneously pursue, in the alternative, a claim for benefits under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) and a claim for breach of fiduciary duty pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3).[5]

As both parties recognize, ERISA bars Plaintiff's state-law claims and his request for compensatory and punitive damages beyond those ERISA authorizes. ERISA contains a broad preemption provision. See 29 U.S.C. § 1144 (" Except as [otherwise provided, ERISA] shall supersede any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan described in section 1003(a) of this title and not exempt under section 1003(b) of this title." ). In addition, ERISA contains an " integrated enforcement mechanism, ERISA § 502(a), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)." Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila,542 U.S. 200, 208, 124 S.Ct. 2488, 159 L.Ed.2d 312 (2004). These provisions are " intended to ensure that employee benefit plan ...


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