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Lanegan v. Unum Life Insurance Co. of America

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 10, 2017

WILLIAM KEITH LANEGAN, individually and/or in his capacity as ADMINISTRATOR and/or EXECUTOR of the ESTATE OF ROGER RAY LANEGAN, Plaintiff,


          Schmehl, J.

         Before the Court are the motions to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, of Defendants, Unum Life Insurance Company of America, Ruth Freeman and Advance Billing, LLC and Daimler Trucks North America, LLC, and Freightliner Affiliates Retirement Savings Plan. Plaintiff, William Keith Lanegan, individually and/or in his capacity as Administrator and/or Executor of the Estate of Roger Ray Lanegan (“Lanegan” or “Plaintiff”) has opposed the motions, Defendants have filed replies and supplemental briefing was permitted. Having read the parties' extensive briefs and after oral argument on the motions, I will grant Defendants' motions to dismiss and dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants to contest a claim determination under an ERISA-governed life insurance benefits plan. Plaintiff takes issue with Unum's determination that his two sons, rather than Lanegan himself, were the proper beneficiaries of two life insurance policies insuring the life of Lanegan's father, a Plan participant who died in January of 2005. In short, Lanegan alleges that Unum incorrectly relied on a beneficiary designation form naming his two sons that was allegedly fraudulently created by his former wife, Defendant Ruth Freeman.


         Lanegan's father, Roger Ray Lanegan, passed away on or before January 15, 2005. (Compl. at ¶¶ 16-19.) At the time of his death, Roger Lanegan was employed by Freightliner LLC and/or American LaFrance and participated in an ERISA-governed plan (the “Plan”) that provided life insurance benefits through two Unum Life polices, policy numbers 28915 and 28916 (the “Policies”). (Compl. at ¶¶ 20-21.)

         According to the Complaint, on February 12, 2005, after Roger Lanegan's death, Unum sent Lanegan a letter confirming that a claim for benefits under Policy 28915 had been submitted “on behalf of minor child, Aaron Lanegan.” (Compl. at ¶ 25, Exh. E.) This letter set out that benefits were approved for Aaron, but that Unun would hold the proceeds until Aaron reached 18 or a court-appointed guardian requested the benefits. (Id.)

         Lanegan did not arrange for nor direct these benefits to be distributed to his son Aaron. (Compl. at 26, 29.) Lanegan claims that he should have received the benefits in question, but that they were improperly awarded to his sons. (Id. at ¶¶ 29, 46, 47 and 50.) Thereafter, in September of 2009, Lanegan contacted Unum and requested clarification on the distribution of benefits to his sons, as Lanegan believed that he alone was the beneficiary on the policies as designated by Roger Lanegan. (Id. at ¶ 31.) On September 11, 2009, Tracy McKenzie, an employee of Unum, informed Lanegan via email that the benefits were paid according to a January 20, 2005 on-line beneficiary designation form from Roger Lanegan's employer. (Compl. at ¶ 32, Exh. G.) Lanegan alleges that his former spouse, Defendant Freeman, fraudulently prepared the January 2005 beneficiary designation using his father's online account passwords for his employer's online system. (Compl. at ¶¶ 33-37, 40.)

         On March 13, 2015, Unum sent Lanegan a letter confirming its decision that Lanegan was not the beneficiary under the Policies, and denying his claim for benefits. (Compl. at ¶ 41, Ex. K.) On March 19, 2015, Lanegan appealed Unum's decision, and his appeal was denied on April 14, 2015 because it was untimely. (Compl. at ¶¶ 42-43, Exs. L and M.) Lanegan then filed the instant action on April 11, 2016.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must allege facts that “ ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.' ” Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir.2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007.) In determining whether a complaint is sufficient, the court must accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)).

         Although “conclusory” or “bare-bones allegations” will not survive a motion to dismiss, Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210, a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Nonetheless, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotations omitted).


         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint as time-barred by the statute of limitations and the Policies' contractual limitation of action provisions. Defendant Freeman also moves to dismiss the Complaint because she and her company, Advanced Billing, LLC, are not fiduciaries under ERISA and are not the ERISA plan. For the reasons that ...

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