The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Munley, United States District Judge.
Before the court for disposition is the defendants' motion to dismiss
in this case involving long-term disability employment benefits. The
plaintiff is June Hartman, and the defendants are Wilkes-Barre General
Hospital, and Wyoming Valley Health Care Systems and UNUM Life Insurance
Company of America. The matter has been fully briefed and argued. For the
reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted.
The defendant Wilkes-Barre General Hospital a/k/a Wyoming Health Care
Systems (hereinafter "hospital") employed the plaintiff from October 1981
through June 2000. The hospital provided short- and long-term disability
benefits as well as retirement benefits to the plaintiff.
In October 1999, plaintiff suffered a massive cerebral vascular
accident. Apparently, plaintiff discontinued working for a time, but then
returned and suffered two transient ischemic attacks that resulted in her
total disability and inability to continue any substantial gainful
employment as of June 29, 2000. The Social Security Administration
adjudicated plaintiff as totally disabled as of June 9, 2000.
Plaintiff applied for, and received, nine weeks of short-term
disability benefits through the hospital. She received the benefits from
August 19, 2000 until October 11, 2000. On July 27, 2000, plaintiff
applied for long-term disability benefits through Defendant UNUM Life
Insurance Company of America, the hospital's third-party insurance
carrier. UNUM denied the benefits. Plaintiff appealed the decision and
UNUM denied the appeal. Again in May 2001, plaintiff requested a review
by Defendant UNUM. UNUM denied the request in July 2001. Plaintiff has
received no long-term disability benefits.
Plaintiff instituted the instant action to recover the long-term
disability benefits. The Defendant Wilkes Barre General Hospital is an
employer within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security
Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., and the policy at issue is
an employee benefit plan within the meaning of ERISA. She claims that the
decision to deny her benefits is improper as well as a violation of the
defendants' fiduciary duties under ERISA. She also asserts the following
state law causes of action: breach of contract; promissory estoppel;
unjust enrichment; negligence; and breach of the duty
of good faith and
fair dealing. In addition, plaintiff seeks punitive damages.
The defendants have all moved to dismiss the claims for breach of
fiduciary duty, the state law claims, and the punitive damages claim
pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). After a careful review, we will
grant the defendants' motion.
We have jurisdiction over the instant case pursuant to
29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1) (providing United States District Courts
jurisdiction over ERISA actions) and 29 U.S.C. § 1331 (providing
United States District Courts with jurisdiction over "all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of a complaint's
allegations are tested. The issue is whether the facts alleged in the
complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In
deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual
allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all
reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion
School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Defendants cite cases
that hold that all of the state law claims that the plaintiff is pursuing
are pre-empted by ERISA.
Defendant's motion to dismiss raises issues that can be broken down
into three categories: 1) state law claims; 2) fiduciary claims; and 3)
punitive damages ...