Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Steffy v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston

October 7, 2009

DAVID M. STEFFY, BY HIS ATTORNEY IN FACT, AND LILA T. STEFFY, HIS WIFE PLAINTIFF,
v.
LIBERTY LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF BOSTON, NATIONAL CITY CORPORATION WELFARE BENEFITS PLAN, AND NATIONAL CITY CORPORATION DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Defendants Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston ("Liberty"), National City Corporation Welfare Benefits Plan (the "Plan"), and National City Corporation ("National City"), (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint ("amended complaint"), docket entry no. 14, in this ERISA case.*fn1 Based on the reasons discussed in the opinion below, I am denying the Defendants' motion without prejudice with leave to renew by motion for summary judgment at the close of discovery.

OPINION

A. Standard and Scope of Review

Defendants filed their motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding whether to grant or deny a 12(b)(6) motion the Supreme Court has held:

While 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 entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). (Cites and footnote omitted). See also, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (a plaintiff's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level).

Recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S.___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court held, "... a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at1949 (citations omitted).

In Iqbal, the Court specifically highlighted the two principles which formed the basis of the Twombly decision: First, for the purposes of a motion to dismiss, courts must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint, but courts are not bound to accept as true any legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Id. at 1949-1950. See also, Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, ___ F.3d ___ (3d Cir. 2009), 2009 WL 2501662. Second, a complaint will only survive a motion to dismiss if it states a plausible claim for relief, which requires a court to engage in a context-specific task, drawing on the court's judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 1950. Where well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but has not shown, the complainant is entitled to relief. Id., citing, F.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

In addition to the above, based on the arguments and the various documents submitted by the Defendants in this case, I note that I may "consider certain narrowly defined types of material without converting the motion to dismiss" to a motion for summary judgment. In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props. Inc. Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999). I may consider "a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint" or "an undisputedly authentic document... if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document." Id.*fn2

B. Factual Allegations*fn3

Plaintiff, David Steffy ("Mr. Steffy"), worked for National City as a vice president from May of 1996 to June 1, 2007 and sold mortgage-backed securities and short-term investments on National City's behalf. (Amended complaint, ¶¶ 7-8). In 2006, National City took note that Mr. Steffy was losing his focus, his memory, and having cognitive problems which caused his supervisor to relieve him of some his accounts, which led to a decrease in his sales production. (Amended complaint, ¶ 9). Mr. Steffy sought and obtained a diagnosis, underwent medical treatment, and notified his superiors of this treatment. (Amended complaint, ¶ 11, 13). Despite receiving medical treatment, his symptoms did not improve. (Amended complaint, ¶ 14). A National City human resources representative "forced" him to sign an agreement on June 1, 2007, the day National City terminated Mr. Steffy from his employment due to his mental health condition. (Amended complaint, ¶ 15).

According to Defendants, this agreement indicated that Mr. Steffy waived "any and all rights and claims" he had against National City arising out of his employment or termination. (Defendants' brief, p. 2).

Subsequent to his termination, National City put Mr. Steffy "in touch with" a job coach who could not place him in another position due to his mental condition. Although National City maintained a short term disability ("STD") program, the amended complaint alleges Mr. Steffy was unaware of it and National City did not inform him of his rights under the STD Plan when he was terminated. (Amended complaint, ¶¶ 19-20). National City also maintained a long term disability ("LTD") program. (Amended complaint, ¶¶ 21-22, 26).

In April of 2008, Steffy was diagnosed with dementia. In May of 2008, Mrs. Steffy contacted her husband's former assistant at National City who reported that during the last few months of his employment, Mr. Steffy suffered from total lapses of memory. Also, in May of 2008, Mrs. Steffy discovered that National City had a disability plan and she applied for STD benefits on behalf of her husband. By way of a letter dated June 13, 2008, Liberty denied the claim for STD benefits on the grounds that Mr. Steffy was not actively employed by National City in May of 2008 when the application was made. (Amended complaint, ¶¶ 30-34).

In October of 2008, Mr. Steffy's neurologist diagnosed him with Alzheimer's disease and opined that Mr. Steffy had been afflicted with the disease for five years. In November of 2008, Mrs. Steffy appealed Liberty's denial of benefits and included the new information from Mr. Steffy's neurologist. In December of 2008, Liberty informed the Steffys that it would uphold its prior decision to deny STD benefits, again noting that Mr. Steffy was not actively employed by National City at the time a claim for benefits was first made. This notification also indicated, for the first time, that the disability plan required an applicant to file a claim within 14 days from the date of disability. Mr. Steffy alleges he ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.