benefits to which he was entitled. He seeks recovery of those
Defendant Plasmaco moves to dismiss the claims against it on
the grounds that a claim for benefits under ERISA must be brought
against UNUM, because UNUM — not Plasmaco — was the administrator
of the plan.
Plaintiff moves to dismiss UNUM's counterclaim for
reimbursement of certain benefits on the grounds that such
reimbursement is prohibited by the plain terms of the benefit
For the reasons stated below, Plasmaco's motion to dismiss the
claims against it is granted. Plaintiff's motions to dismiss the
counterclaim, or for a more definitive statement, are denied.
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
for dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. The standard of review on a motion
to dismiss is heavily weighted in favor of the plaintiff. The
Court is required to read a complaint generously, drawing all
reasonable inferences from the complaint's allegations.
California Motor Transport Co. v. Trucking Unlimited,
404 U.S. 508, 515, 92 S.Ct. 609, 30 L.Ed.2d 642 (1972). "In ruling on a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted, the court is required to accept the material
facts alleged in the complaint as true." Frasier v. General
Electric Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir. 1991). The Court must
deny the motion "unless it appears beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which
would entitle him to relief." Stewart v. Jackson & Nash,
976 F.2d 86, 87 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)).
1. Defendant Plasmaco's Motion to Dismiss is Granted
In a recovery of benefits claim, only the plan and its
administrators may be held liable. Leonelli v. Pennwalt Corp.,
887 F.2d 1195, 1199 (2d Cir. 1989). In this case, UNUM is the
claim administrator and the only party obligated to pay any
Plaintiff concedes that Plasmaco is not a proper party
defendant with respect to his cause of action for benefits under
ERISA § 1132. He nevertheless attempts to keep Plasmaco in the
suit by arguing that Plasmaco breached its contract with him,
with malice, and that he should therefore be entitled to
consequential and punitive damages. However, such claims are
preempted by ERISA because they "relate to" the benefit plan at
issue in this case. See Saks v. Franklin Covey Co.,
117 F. Supp.2d 318, 329-30 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); Devlin v. Transp. Comm.
Int'l Union, 173 F.3d 94, 101 (2d Cir. 1999). ERISA is a
comprehensive statute, designed by Congress to regulate all
aspects of employee welfare benefit programs. See Nealy v. U.S.
Healthcare HMO, 844 F. Supp. 966, 970 (S.D.N.Y. 1994). It
therefore preempts all state laws that "relate to" self-insured
employee benefit plans, such as the one at issue in this case.
See 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a).
The phrase "relate to" is given the broadest common sense
meaning; that is, a state law relates to a benefit plan if it has
a connection with or reference to such a plan. See Nealy, 844
F. Supp. at 971. Thus, ERISA preempts any state laws or causes of
action that "provide alternative enforcement mechanisms" for
rights secured by the federal statute. Plumbing Indus. Bd. v.
E.W. Howell Co., 126 F.3d 61, 67 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting New
York State Conf. of Blue Cross & Blue Shield
Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co., 514 U.S. 645, 658, 115 S.Ct. 1671,
131 L.Ed.2d 695 (1995)); Lopresti v. Terwilliger, 126 F.3d 34,
41 (2d Cir. 1997) (holding that "alternative theor[ies] of
recovery for conduct actionable under ERISA" are preempted by
ERISA). It has long been held that a plaintiff has no claim for
breach of contract for failing to award benefits, because such
claims are squarely preempted by ERISA. See Devlin, 173 F.3d at
101; Kolasinski v. Cigna Healthplan of Conn., Inc.,
163 F.3d 148, 149 (2d Cir. 1998).
Plaintiff's claims of breach of contract, "malicious
interference with contract," and for specific performance, are
all claims that stem from the denial of benefits under the Long
Term Disability Plan. Such claims "relate to" the ERISA benefit
plan at issue in this case, and are therefore preempted by the
broad sweep of that statute. Because Plasmaco is not a proper
party defendant with respect to plaintiff's ERISA claims,
defendant Plasmaco's motion to dismiss the claims pending against
it is granted.
2. Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Defendant Unum's Counterclaim is
In its counterclaim, UNUM alleges that plaintiff has been
eligible to receive, or has received, approximately $870 per
month in retirement payments that are deductible sources of
income under the terms of the policy. According to UNUM, those
pension benefits should have been deducted from payments which
UNUM made to the plaintiff.