The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McCLURE, Jr., United States District Judge
The sole issue before us is whether a claim under Pennsylvania's
bad-faith statute, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371, is preempted by ERISA.
Plaintiffs Michael and Cassandra Snook (the Snooks) filed a three-count
amended complaint against the Penn State Geisinger Health Plan
(Geisinger), their ERISA-controlled employee benefit plan. The complaint
focuses on a dispute over Geisinger's failure to provide coverage for
their son Austin's brain surgery. Count I of the complaint alleges a
cause of action under ERISA's civil enforcement provision, § 502(a),
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a). Count II is an ERISA claim for breach of
fiduciary duty. See 29 U.S.C. § 1104(a)(1)(B). Count III sets forth a
state-law claim under § 8371 for bad-faith denial of insurance
Specifically, we find that (1) § 8371 does not come within the
purview of the saving clause; and (2) Congress's intention that ERISA's
civil enforcement provisions provide for exclusive remedies leads to the
conclusion that § 8371, which offers remedies in addition to those
provided by ERISA, is preempted. For either of these reasons, the Snooks'
bad-faith claim is preempted, and Count III will be dismissed.
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) admits the well-pleaded
allegations of the complaint but denies their legal sufficiency. Hospital
Building Co. v. Trustees of the Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976).
In reviewing a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6), the court must accept as
true all factual allegations of the complaint and draw all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Board of
Trustees of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 6 of New Jersey v.
Wettlin Assoc., Inc., 237 F.3d 270, 272 (3d Cir. 2001) (citation
omitted). But "[c]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading
as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss."
General Motors Corp. v. New A.C. Chevrolet, 263 F.3d 296, 333 (3d Cir.
2001) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
"A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief
could be granted under any set of facts that could be proven consistent
with the allegations." Ramadan v. Chase Manhattan Corp., 229 F.3d 194,
195-96 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Alexander v. Whitman, 114 F.3d 1392, 1398
(3d Cir. 1997)). "The issue [under Rule 12(b)(6)] is not whether a
plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to
offer evidence to support the claims." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472,
482 (3d Cir. 2000) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
According to Count III of the complaint, Geisinger, the Snooks'
employee benefit plan, acted in bad faith in denying coverage for
Austin's brain surgery. Pennsylvania's bad-faith statute, 42 Pa.C.S.
§ 8371, controls this claim. It provides:
Actions on insurance policies
In an action arising under an insurance policy, if the court finds that
the insurer has acted in bad faith toward the insured, the court may take
all of the following actions:
(1) Award interest on the amount of the claim from the
date the claim was made by the insured in an amount
equal to the prime rate of interest plus 3%.
(2) Award punitive damages against the insurer.
(3) Assess court costs and attorney fees against the
ERISA, which regulates employee benefit plans, contains an expansive
Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section,
the provisions of this subchapter and subchapter III
of this chapter shall supersede any and all State laws
insofar as they may now or ...