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Rice v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co.

April 13, 2009

DALE W. RICE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Neal P. McCurn, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM, DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Dale W. Rice ("Rice") brings this action against defendant, Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company ("Hartford") alleging violations of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.*fn1 Presently before the court is a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) by Hartford. Rice opposes, and Hartford replies. The pending motion is decided on the papers submitted without oral argument.

II. Background

For purposes of deciding the present motion, the court will, as it must, accept the allegations of fact in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. World Religious Relief, Inc. v. Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., No. 05-CV-8257, 2007 WL 2261549, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 7, 2007) (quoting Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir.1994)). Further, Rice incorporates into his complaint by reference certain documents which the court will consider when deciding the present motion. See infra, at 4.

Rice is a former employee of Wal Mart Stores, Inc., who is not a party to this action. On February 7, 2007, Rice became disabled and unable to work. Rice thereafter applied for, and received benefits pursuant to a long term disability plan ("the Plan") through his employer, which was insured by Hartford. Rice received benefits from May 11, 1997 until August 31, 2002, at which time Hartford terminated same after written notification to Rice on September 3, 2002. Rice appealed Hartford's decision to terminate his benefits, and Hartford upheld said decision by written notification to Rice on January 31, 2003. Thereafter, Rice requested a redetermination of Hartford's decision to terminate his benefits, and Hartford again notified Rice that his benefits will remain terminated effective August 31, 2002. This final letter was issued to Rice on July 21, 2003.

On March 27, 2008, Rice commenced the present action setting forth causes of action for wrongful denial of benefits pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) and breach of fiduciary duty pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3).

III. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

The standard to be applied when deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) is identical to that of a motion to dismiss for failure to state claims upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). See Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994).

As previously mentioned, when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept the allegations of fact in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See supra, at 2. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) may not be granted so long as the complaint includes "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007).*fn2 The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has interpreted the foregoing language to require that lower courts apply "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). In accordance with this standard, the plaintiff is required, "at a bare minimum, . . . [to] provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56 -57 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing ATSI Commc'ns., Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007)) (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965))).

In certain circumstances, the court may permissibly consider documents other than the complaint in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, such as those documents that are attached to the complaint or incorporated in it by reference. See Roth v. Jennings, 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir. 2007). Moreover, "even if not attached or incorporated by reference, a document 'upon which [the complaint] solely relies and which is integral to the complaint' may be considered by the court in ruling on such a motion." Id. (quoting Cortec Industries, Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir.1991)(emphases added), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 960, 112 S.Ct. 1561 (1992)). Here, Hartford submits a copy of the Plan to which Rice refers in his complaint, as well as several letters, also referred to by Rice in his complaint. See Decl. of Carol B. Dekshenieks, June 27, 2008, & Exs. A-G thereto, Dkt. No. 11. As such, the court will consider the contents of said documents, as well as the allegations in the complaint, when deciding Hartford's motion.

B. Analysis

Hartford seeks judgment on the pleadings in its favor, arguing first that both causes of action are untimely, and second that Rice's breach of fiduciary duty claim is duplicative of his claim for wrongful denial of benefits. Because the court finds that both of Rice's claims are barred by the ...


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