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Flynn v. Ascension Health Long Term Disability Plan

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 23, 2014

DEBRA FLYNN, Plaintiff,
v.
ASCENSION HEALTH LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, et al., Defendants

For Debra Flynn, Plaintiff: Talia Ravis, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICE OF TALIA RAVIS, Overland Park, KS; Troy W. Haney, LEAD ATTORNEY, HANEY LAW OFFICES, P.C., Grand Rapids, MI.

For Ascension Health Long Term Disability Plan, Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., Defendants: Amy L. Blaisdell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Camille Patrice Toney, GREENSFELDER AND HEMKER, PC, St. Louis, MO.

Page 1081

OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Voluntary Dismissal, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, [Doc. No. 39].[1] Defendants

Page 1082

oppose the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

Background

Plaintiff Debra Flynn (" Plaintiff" ) brings this action under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (" ERISA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 1001, et seq., alleging that Defendants Ascension Health Long Term Disability Plan (" the LTD Plan" ) and Sedwick Claims Management Services, Inc. (" Sedwick CMS" ) improperly denied her claim for long term disability benefits in breach of the terms of the LTD Plan, and Defendants' fiduciary duties. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, an accounting, injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees.

Plaintiff asserts in her Complaint that the Court has jurisdiction over her claims pursuant to ERISA, and alleges that, " [a]t all relevant times, the Plan was an employee welfare benefit plan within the meaning of ERISA § 3(1), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1), sponsored and funded by Ascension Health." [Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 5].

However, eight months after initiating this action, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion, requesting that the Court dismiss her Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that the LTD Plan should be deemed a " church plan" and, thus, be exempted from ERISA. Defendants counter that the LTD Plan is not an exempt church plan, and that, even if it was so classified, the Plan is subject to ERISA because Ascension filed an election under 26 U.S.C. § 410(d) with respect to the Plan, seeking to opt into ERISA regulation.

Rule 41(a)(2) Voluntary Dismissal Standard

Rule 41(a)(2) provides, in pertinent part, that " [e]xcept as provided in Rule 41(a)(1), an action may be dismissed at the plaintiff's request only by court order, on terms that the court considers proper." Because Defendants have filed an answer, Rule 41(a)(1) does not apply here. Therefore, Plaintiff may dismiss this action only pursuant to Court order.

" 'It is axiomatic that a dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) is not one of right but is rather a matter for the discretion of the trial court.'" Great Rivers Co-op. of Southeastern Iowa v. Farmland Industries, Inc., 198 F.3d 685, 689 (8th Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Gunc, 435 F.2d 465, 467 (8th Cir. 1970)). " In exercising that discretion, a court should consider factors such as whether the party has presented a proper explanation for its desire to dismiss, whether a dismissal would result in a waste of judicial time and effort, and whether a dismissal will prejudice ...


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