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Esposito v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

August 19, 2014

DOUGLAS ESPOSITO, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC. and HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE CO., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

MARTIN REIDINGER, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Hartford's Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiff's Third through Sixth Causes of Action [Doc. 19]; Defendant Wal-Mart's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 22]; Defendants' Joint Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Affidavit [Doc. 27]; and Defendant Hartford's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Jury Trial Demand [Doc. 20].

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was filed on June 14, 2013, setting forth six causes of action, all pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). [Doc. 17]. Plaintiff was an employee of Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart"). Defendant Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company ("Hartford") issued a long-term disability insurance policy to Wal-Mart to cover its employees, including Plaintiff. He contends in this matter that he became totally disabled while working for Wal-Mart, [Id.], and that Hartford wrongfully determined that Plaintiff was not totally disabled. He asserts that Hartford's determination was wrongful because it had previously concluded that he was totally disabled and paid him short-term benefits therefor. [Id.].

On July 1, 2013, Hartford moved to dismiss Plaintiff's third through sixth causes of action. [Doc. 19]. Additionally, Hartford moved to strike the jury demand contained in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. [Doc. 20]. On that same day, Wal-Mart moved to dismiss all of the claims against it contained in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. [Doc. 22]. Like Hartford, Wal-Mart moved to strike Plaintiff's jury demand. [Id.].

Plaintiff responded to the Defendants' motions to dismiss by opposition memoranda and attachments filed July 19, 2013. [Docs. 23; 24]. One such attachment was an affidavit executed by the Plaintiff. [Docs. 23-1; 24-1]. On July 29, 2013, Defendants filed a Joint Motion to Strike the affidavit Plaintiff filed with his oppositional memoranda. [Doc. 27]. All of Defendants' pending motions are now ripe for the Court's consideration.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " with "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). Generally, when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must "accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The Court is not, however, required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences" or "allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit." Veney v. Wyche , 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted).

DISCUSSION

The issues regarding Plaintiff's first two causes of action can be addressed summarily. These claims are, in substance, contract claims. Plaintiff asserts that he was disabled and thus entitled to disability benefits pursuant to the terms of the Plan. Defendant Hartford does not move to dismiss these claims, conceding that they state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff concedes that these causes of action state no claim against Defendant Wal-Mart, and consents to a dismissal thereof against Wal-Mart. [Doc. 24 at 1]. Therefore, these claims will be dismissed as against Wal-Mart but not as to Defendant Hartford.

In his third cause of action, Plaintiff asserts a claim against both Defendants for breach of fiduciary duty. This and his remaining three claims sound in equity. All of these claims are asserted pursuant to 29 U.S.C. ยง 1132(a)(3)(B) which states, in pertinent part, that a civil action may be brought:

by a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary to obtain other appropriate equitable relief (i) to redress [any act or practice which violates any provision of this subchapter or the terms of the plan] or (ii) to enforce any provisions of this subchapter or the terms of the plan[.]

Id., (emphasis added).

Turning to Plaintiff's third cause of action, ...


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