United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendant Liberty Life
Assurance Company of Boston's August 4, 2017 motion to
dismiss (#8). Plaintiff has not responded, and the time to do
so has expired.
was an employee of Uniliver, Inc. She seeks relief on the
basis of benefits allegedly due to her under a long-term
disability contract. That contract was the Group Disability
Income Policy (the “Policy”) issued by defendant
that insured benefits pursuant to the Uniliver United States,
Inc. Long Term Disability Plan (the “Plan”) which
provides long term disability benefits to employees of
Uniliver. Plaintiff seeks recovery under a cause of action
for bad faith, as well as violations of Missouri's Unfair
Claim Settlement Practices Act, and she filed her petition in
the Circuit Court of New Madrid County, Missouri. Defendant
removed the case to this Court based upon this Court's
federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331,
1349, and 1441(a).
contends that plaintiff's state law causes of action are
preempted by Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974,
29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (“ERISA”) and that
the petition must be dismissed.
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint
so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally
flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby
sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and
trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles,
244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially
plausible, meaning that the ‘factual content. . .
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'”
Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)). The Court must “accept the
allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.”
Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d
1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)). However, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
complaint includes two counts. In Count I, plaintiff seeks a
declaratory judgment setting forth the rights and
responsibilities of plaintiff and defendant arising out of
the Policy. In Count II, plaintiff claims bad faith and
vexatious refusal to pay under the Missouri Unfair Claim
Settlement Practices Act, § 375.1000 RSMo, et seq.
explicitly and completely preempts state law. Its preemption
provision declares that ERISA shall “supersede any and
all state laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to
any employee benefit plan.” 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a).
Defendant contends that the Policy at the heart of this case
is an “employee welfare benefit plan” as defined
by ERISA, and, as a result, that ERISA preempts all of
plaintiff's claims. ERISA's definition includes
“any plan, fund, or program…established or
maintained by an employer…to the extent such plan,
fund, or program was established…for the purpose of
providing for its participants…benefits in the event
of …disability.” 29 U.S.C. §1002(1). The
Policy here, sponsored by plaintiff's employer, extended
long term disability benefits to plaintiff and is undoubtedly
covered by ERISA's definition as an “employee
welfare benefit plan.” Plaintiff's lawsuit thus
“relate[s] to [an] employee benefit plan.”
Id. at § 1044(a); Metropolitan Life Ins.
Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 62 (1987). And “it is
based upon common law of general application that is not a
law regulating insurance.” Metropolitan Life,
481 U.S. at 62. “Moreover, as a suit by a beneficiary
to recover benefits from a covered plan, it falls directly
under § 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA, which provides an
exclusive federal cause of action for resolution of such
disputes.” Id. at 62-63. The Supreme Court is
clear that lawsuits like plaintiff's are preempted by
ERISA. See id.; see also Pilot Life Ins. Co. v.
Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 57 (1987).
plaintiff did not respond to defendant's motion to
dismiss in any way. She therefore does not contest that the
Policy is a covered employee welfare benefit plan, nor does
she argue that ERISA does not somehow preempt her state-law
claims. Taking all of plaintiff s allegations as true, it is
clear that plaintiffs complaint is preempted by ERISA and
must be dismissed. See id.
motion to dismiss will be granted.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant's