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O'Donnell v. Metlife Disability Insurance Co.

March 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge


Barbara O'Donnell ("Plaintiff"), pro se, filed this action on February 4, 2008 against Defendants Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") and International Business Machines Corporation ("IBM") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging that Defendants violated the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., by wrongfully terminating Plaintiff's disability benefits pursuant to a MetLife insurance policy she purchased while employed by IBM. Defendants move to dismiss, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on grounds that Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

The Court assumes the Parties' familiarity with the factual and procedural background of this case as it is thoroughly set forth in Magistrate Judge George A. Yanthis's Report and Recommendation dated February 20, 2009 ("R&R").*fn1 In his R&R, Magistrate Judge Yanthis recommended that Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted. (R&R 1.) Plaintiff submitted what the Court will assume, for purposes of this Motion, to be timely written objections to the R&R ("Pl.'s Obj.").*fn2

For the reasons stated herein, the Court adopts the R&R and dismisses Plaintiff's Complaint.

I. Standard of Review

A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation

A district court reviewing a magistrate judge's report and recommendation addressing a dispositive motion "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Donahue v. Global Home Loans & Fin., Inc., No. 05-CV-8362, 2007 WL 831816, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 15, 2007). Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), parties may submit objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The objections must be "specific" and "written," Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2), and must be made "[w]ithin 10 days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition," id.; see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), plus an additional three days when service is made pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(C)-(F), see Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d).

Where a party submits timely objections to a report and recommendation - as the Court assumes Plaintiff did here - the district court reviews de novo the parts of the report and recommendation to which the party objected. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); Donahue, 2007 WL 831816, at *1. The district court "may adopt those portions of the . . . report [and recommendation] to which no 'specific written objection' is made, as long as the factual and legal bases supporting the findings and conclusions set forth in those sections are not clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Eisenberg v. New England Motor Freight, Inc., 564 F. Supp. 2d 224, 226 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2)).

B. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

"On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint, the court must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in [the plaintiff's] favor." Gonzalez v. Caballero, 572 F. Supp. 2d 463, 466 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); see also Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) ("We review de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), accepting all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." (internal quotation marks omitted)). "In adjudicating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must confine its consideration to facts stated on the face of the complaint, in documents appended to the complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference, and to matters of which judicial notice may be taken." Leonard F. v. Isr. Disc. Bank of N.Y.,199 F.3d 99, 107 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Supreme Court has held that "[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal citations omitted) (second alteration in Twombly). Instead, Plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974. If Plaintiff "ha[s] not nudged [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [her] complaint must be dismissed." Id.; see also Iqbal v. Hasty,490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007) ("After careful consideration of the Court's [Twombly] opinion . . . , we believe the Court is not requiring a universal standard of heightened fact pleading, but is instead requiring 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." (emphasis in original)).

II. Discussion

In his R&R, Magistrate Judge Yanthis assumed that a six-year limitations period applies to Plaintiff's ERISA claim. (R&R 5-6.) Plaintiff, who had argued for a six-year limitations period in opposition to Defendants' motion, did not object to this assumption or otherwise suggest that a longer limitations period governs.*fn3 The Court finds that there was no error in Magistrate Judge Yanthis's conclusion that the governing limitations period does not exceed six years, and the Court adopts the R&R's assumption that a six-year period controls. See Miles v. N.Y. State Teamsters Conference Pension & Ret. Fund Employee Pension Benefit Plan, 698 F.2d 593, 598 (2d Cir. 1983) ("As ERISA does not prescribe a limitations period . . . , the controlling limitations period is that specified in the most nearly analogous state limitations statute. Here, the six-year limitations period prescribed by New York's C.P.L.R. § 213 controls." (internal citation omitted)); Burke v. PriceWaterHouseCoopers LLP Long Term Disability Plan, 537 F. Supp. 2d 546, 548 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) ("[I]n New York, the six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract claims generally governs ERISA claims for denial of benefits . . . .").

Magistrate Judge Yanthis concluded that Plaintiff's cause of action accrued no later than October 30, 2001, and that her Complaint (filed on February 4, 2008) was therefore time-barred. (R&R 8.) In her objections to the R&R, Plaintiff stated: "I respectfully disagree with [Magistrate Judge] Yanthis . . . . On February 4, 2002 I had yet to receive notification that IBM had terminated my employment and all my benefits." (Pl.'s Obj. at third unnumbered page.) The Court interprets this statement as a proper objection to the R&R's finding ...

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