United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
RAMONA DIXON, et al.
ERIC WASHINGTON, et al.
MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED
the second occasion this Court has had to evaluate the
plausibility of the claim of Plaintiffs, congregants and
former congregants, against their former pastor and others
for breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). Defendants
now move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint.
Because the Court has previously outlined the factual
background of this case in a prior memorandum (ECF 6), it
refrains from doing so a second time. For the reasons that
follow, Defendants' Motion is granted.
filed their original complaint in July 2018. (ECF 1.) In
October 2018, the Court granted without prejudice
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, permitting amendment
solely with regard to Plaintiffs' ERISA claims. (ECF 7.)
Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on November 6, 2018
(ECF 9), and Defendants moved to dismiss, alleging that
Plaintiffs do not have standing under ERISA to bring their
claim. (ECF 10.) Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File
a Second Amended Complaint on December 19, 2018 (ECF 13),
which the Court granted (ECF 20), although the Court
requested a supplemental brief explaining how Plaintiffs have
standing to sue under ERISA. (ECF 15.)
April 18, 2019, the Court ordered minimal discovery on the
issue of whether Plaintiffs have standing to sue under ERISA.
(ECF 20.) Five days later, Defendants filed a Motion to
Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (Mot., ECF 21.)
Plaintiffs responded on June 10, 2019. (Resp., ECF 22.)
Court held oral argument on June 11, 2019, and after it was
apparent that Plaintiffs' counsel did not receive the
limited ERISA standing-related discovery until the day before
the hearing, the Court permitted Plaintiffs to file a
supplemental legal memorandum in response to the Motion to
Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (ECF 23.) Plaintiffs
filed a supplemental response on July 3, 2019. (Suppl. Resp.,
ECF 26.) On the same day, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel
(ECF 27) and a Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended
Complaint (ECF 28.) The Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion
to Compel. (ECF 29.) On July 18, 2019 Defendants filed a
reply brief to its Motion to Dismiss (Reply, ECF 30), and a
day later filed a response in opposition to Plaintiffs'
Motion for Leave to file a Third Amended Complaint (ECF
ruling on a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, the Court must first determine whether
the defendants allege a facial or factual deficiency. CNA
v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008). A
facial attack “concerns ‘an alleged pleading
deficiency,' whereas a factual attack concerns ‘the
actual failure of a plaintiff's claim to comport
factually with the jurisdictional prerequisites.'”
Id. (citing U.S. ex rel. Atkinson v. Pa.
Shipbuilding Co., 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2007)). A
facial attack looks to whether “the allegations on the
face of the complaint, taken as true, allege facts sufficient
to invoke the jurisdiction of the district court.”
Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181,
188 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Turicentro, S.A. v. Am.
Airlines Inc., 303 F.3d 293, 300 (3d Cir. 2002)).
Conversely, a factual attack looks to whether the court
“in fact lacks subject matter jurisdiction, no matter
what the complaint alleges.” NE Hub Partners, L.P.
v. CNG Transmission Corp., 239 F.3d 333, 341 n. 7 (3d
Cir. 2001). Where a Rule 12(b)(1) motion alleges sufficient
factual allegations to establish standing, it is
“properly understood as [a] facial attack.”
In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class
Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012).
central argument here is that Plaintiffs lack statutory
standing under the ERISA statute. “A motion to dismiss
for want of standing is . . . properly brought pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(1), because standing is a jurisdictional
matter.” In re Schering, 678 F.3d at 243
(quoting Ballentine v. United States, 486 F.3d 806,
810 (3d Cir. 2007)). However, “[i]n evaluating whether
a complaint adequately pleads the elements of standing,
courts apply the standard of reviewing a complaint pursuant
to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim: ‘Courts must accept as true all material
allegations set forth in the complaint, and must construe
those facts in favor of the nonmoving party.'”
Id. (quoting Ballentine, 486 F.3d at 810).
Accordingly, the Court evaluates Defendants' standing
arguments under the 12(b)(6) standard.
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
“we accept all factual allegations as true [and]
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc.,
643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Pinker v. Roche
Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2002)).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). However, the Court in Iqbal does
explain that while factual allegations must be treated as
true, legal conclusions must not. 556 U.S. at 678.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555).
Plaintiffs have not alleged that there was an ERISA
establishes standards that apply to retirement and health
benefits plans. The ERISA statute defines “employee
welfare plan” as
any plan, fund or program which was heretofore or is
hereafter established or maintained by an employer or by an
employee organization, or by both, to the extent that such a
plan, fund, or program was established or is maintained for
the purpose of providing for its participants or their
beneficiaries, through the purchase of insurance or
otherwise, (A) medical, surgical, or hospital care or
benefits, or benefits in the event of sickness, accident,
disability, death or unemployment, or vacation benefits,
apprenticeship or training programs, or day care centers,
scholarship funds, or prepaid legal services, ...