United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Waterloo Division
VANESSA LEE, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of John Lee, Plaintiffs,
THE LINCOLN NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
WILLIAMS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matters before the Court are defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Petition at Law (Doc.
9), plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her petition
(Doc. 13, at 6-7), and Defendant's Unopposed Motion to
Extend the Deadline to Submit a Scheduling Report (Doc. 16).
For the following reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss
is granted, plaintiff's motion to amend
is granted, and defendant's motion to
extend is granted.
19, 2018, plaintiff filed her First Amended Petition at Law
(“the petition” or “petition”) in the
Iowa District Court for Fayette County, Iowa. (Doc. 4).
Plaintiff alleges that her husband, John Lee, passed away on
July 19, 2015, as the result of an ATV accident.
(Id., at ¶¶ 4, 9-14). Plaintiff claims
that at all relevant times, Mr. Lee was an employee of Ashley
Industrial Moldings, Inc. (“Ashley”), and that
Mr. Lee was covered by an accidental death policy that
defendant sold to Ashley (the “Policy”).
(Id., at ¶¶ 3-5). Defendant asserts that
it issued the Policy pursuant to Ashley's Life Benefit
Plan (the “Plan”). (Doc. 9-1, at 2). Plaintiff
attached a copy of the Policy to the Petition and
incorporated it by reference. (Docs. 4, at ¶ 17; 4-1).
The Policy is a “Group Insurance Policy” issued
by defendant to Ashley. (Doc. 4-1, at 1-4). Plaintiff asserts
that she is Mr. Lee's named beneficiary for accidental
death benefits under the Policy and that defendant has denied
paying plaintiff accidental death benefits under the Policy.
(Doc. 4, at ¶¶ 7, 20). Plaintiff's petition
asserts a single count against defendant for breach of
contract. (Doc 4).
August 30, 2018, defendant timely removed this case to this
Court based on both federal question jurisdiction and
diversity jurisdiction (see Docs. 1, at 2-3; 1-2, at
43). 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331-32, 1446(b)(1). Defendant
then filed its motion seeking dismissal under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 9). Defendant argues that
plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted because plaintiff's state-law breach of
contract claim is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 1001, et seq. (Doc. 9). In
plaintiff's motion to extend the time to resist
defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff stated “it
is admitted that the policy was issued as a part of a [sic]
ERISA Plan . . ..” (Doc. 11, ¶6). In her
resistance, plaintiff argues that her claim is only a claim
for breach of contract, not an ERISA claim, and, accordingly,
plaintiff asserts that her breach of contract claim is not
preempted. (Doc. 13, at 1-6). Plaintiff requests, in the
alternative to the Court denying defendant's motion to
dismiss, that the Court grant plaintiff leave to amend the
petition “to satisfy the ERISA requirements.”
(Doc. 13, at 7). On October 29, 2018, defendant filed an
unopposed motion to extend the deadline for the parties to
file their scheduling order and discovery plan. (Doc. 16).
MOTION TO DISMISS
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint
include “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Prior
to filing an answer, a defendant may move to dismiss a
complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
“To survive a 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 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible on its face when
the facts set forth in the complaint are sufficient for the
Court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for
the conduct alleged. Id.
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court draws all reasonable
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party and accepts all of
the facts alleged in the complaint as true. Richter v.
Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 686 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir.
2012). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the
Court may consider, in addition to the face of the complaint,
“‘matters incorporated by reference or integral
to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of
public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the
case, and exhibits attached to the complaint whose
authenticity is unquestioned;' without converting the
motion into one for summary judgment.” Miller v.
Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 n.3
(8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (3d ed.
2004)). The Court may also consider materials that are
outside the complaint, but do not contradict the complaint,
without converting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a
motion for summary judgment. Id.; see also
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 269 n.1 (1986) (holding
that the Supreme Court would consider historical
documentation outside of the complaint where the facts in the
documents were not disputed by the parties, but the parties
disagreed as to the legal significance of the facts).
argues that plaintiff's sole claim for breach of contract
claim is preempted by ERISA, and, accordingly, the petition
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
(Doc. 9-1, at 3-6). To determine if a claim is preempted by
ERISA the Court must determine if the plan at issue is
governed by ERISA, and if so, determine if the
plaintiff's particular claim is preempted by ERISA.
See Van Natta v. Sara Lee Corp., 439 F.Supp.2d 911,
921-35 (N.D. Iowa 2006).
Court has outlined ERISA's preemptive force as follows:
Essentially, there are two components to ERISA's
extensive preemptive force. First, ERISA § 514(a)
expressly preempts all state laws insofar as they may now or
hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan . . .. 29
U.S.C. § 1144(a). . .. Second, ERISA § 502(a)
contains a comprehensive scheme of civil remedies to enforce
ERISA's provisions. See 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a). The preemptive force of this ERISA subsection
likewise casts a broad net. A state cause of action that
would fall within the scope of this remedial scheme is
preempted as conflicting with the intended exclusivity of the
remedies provided for by ERISA's remedial scheme, even if
those causes of action would not necessarily be preempted by
Van Natta, 439 F.Supp.2d at 924-25 (internal
citations omitted). Preemption under Section 514(a) is known
as “express preemption” and preemption under
Section 502(a) is known as “complete preemption.”
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