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Fehn v. Group Long Term Disability Plan for Employees of JP Morgan Chase Bank

June 30, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conner, Sr. D.J.



Plaintiff, Donna Fehn, brings this suit against defendants Group Long Term Disability Plan for Employees of JP Morgan Chase Bank ("LTD Plan"), JP Morgan Chase Bank ("JPMC"), Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company ("Hartford"), Krista Dudeck ("Dudeck"), Daniel Berta ("Berta"), Kara Morett ("Morett") and Desmond Doe ("Doe") pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") 29 U.S.C. §§ 1104(a), 1132(a)(1)(B), (a)(3). Plaintiff alleges that defendants denied her benefits and breached their fiduciary duties in violation of ERISA. Defendant JPMC brings a counterclaim against plaintiff for recovery of money which it alleges plaintiff was paid but was not entitled to under the disability plan. Plaintiff moves to dismiss the claim against her pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) and to amend the Complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a). For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The following facts, taken from JPMC's Counterclaim and those allegations set forth in the Complaint that JPMC admits, are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion.

Plaintiff commenced her employment with The Chase Manhattan Bank, predecessor in interest to JPMC, on July 24, 1978. (Answer ¶ 11.) At times, plaintiff received promotions, bonuses and salary increases during her employment from July 24, 1978 through February 18, 2005. (Id. ¶ 13.) In or about January 2005, plaintiff submitted her resignation to JPMC, at which time she was the Assistant Branch Manager of the Somers, New York branch and received an annual salary of $62,000.00. (Complt. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff's last day at JPMC was February 18, 2005, and at the time of her resignation plaintiff was a participant in JPMC's various employee benefits plans, including defendant LTD Plan. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)

In or about September 2005, plaintiff and Dudeck discussed an opening for a Branch Manager at JPMC's Patterson, New York branch. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff informed Dudeck that she wanted JPMC to treat her as though she never left the company in connection with her employee benefits and seniority; she wanted credit for her twenty-three years of service and wanted the benefits to which she was entitled prior to leaving restored as of her original hire date. (Id. ¶ 21.) On October 12, 2005 plaintiff met with Berta, Senior Vice President at JPMC, who told plaintiff that JPMC wanted her back but that JPMC could not match her current annual salary of $72,000. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff and Berta also discussed the possibility of plaintiff being rehired as a reinstated employee to a Branch Manager position. (Answer ¶ 23.)

On October 31, 2005, plaintiff reported for work at JPMC's Patterson branch. (Complt. ¶ 33.) After her rehire date and the onset of her alleged illness on or about November 2, 2005, plaintiff was paid $33,749.51 in short-term disability benefits under JPMC's Short-Term Disability Plan ("STD Plan"). (Countercl. ¶ 1.) Pursuant to the STD Plan then in effect, plaintiff was not eligible to receive salary continuation because she had not yet met the Introductory Period, as defined by the STD Plan. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff was entitled only to receive statutory benefits of $170 per week paid to employees working in New York if they were not eligible for salary continuation, in which case she would have been paid only $4,420. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) JPMC claims that plaintiff was overpaid in the amount of $29,329.51, the erroneous payment of salary continuation by JPMC, and therefore it is entitled to recover that amount because plaintiff was not entitled to it under the STD Plan. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.)


I. Legal Standard

A motion brought under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) posits that the plaintiff has failed "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). On a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), the issue is "not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Eternity Global Master Fund Ltd. v. Morgan Guar. Trust Co. of N.Y., 375 F.3d 168, 177 (2d Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The fact pleading standard is "a flexible 'plausibility standard' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible." Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original); see Ello v. Singh, 531 F. Supp. 2d 552, 562 (S.D.N.Y. 2007). Allegations that are so conclusory that they fail to give notice of the basic events and circumstances of which plaintiff complains are insufficient as a matter of law. See Martin v. N.Y. State Dep't of Mental Hygiene, 588 F.2d 371, 372 (2d Cir. 1978).

When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a counterclaim, the Court must take as true the facts as alleged in the counterclaim, and may consider documents incorporated in the counterclaim by reference, matters of which judicial notice may be taken, or documents that the counter-plaintiff relied on in bringing suit. See Arista Records LLC v. Lime Group LLC, 532 F. Supp. 2d 556, 566 (S.D.N.Y. 2007). The Court must construe the counterclaim liberally and draw all reasonable inferences in the counter-plaintiff's favor. Id.

II. JPMC Fails to State a Claim Under ERISA

Section 502(a)(3)(B) of ERISA authorizes a civil action "by a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary (A) to enjoin any act or practice which violates . . . the terms of the plan, or (B) to obtain other appropriate equitable relief (i) to redress such violations or (ii) to enforce any provisions of . . . the terms of the plan." 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3). The Supreme Court has held that the term "'equitable relief'" in § 502(a)(3) refers to "'those categories of relief that were typically available in equity.'" Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co. v. Knudson, 534 U.S. 204, 210 (2002) (quoting Mertens v. Hewitt Assoc., 508 U.S. 248, 256 (1993)) (emphasis in original). Suits seeking to compel the payment of a sum of money are suits for "'money damages,' as that phrase has traditionally been applied, since they seek no more than ...

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