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Figlioli v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

February 12, 2018




         For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the defendants' Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. No. 18).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 10, 2017, the plaintiff, Richard Figlioli (“Figlioli”), sued the defendants, Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (“Liberty Life”) and Group Life Insurance and Disability Plan of United Technologies Corporation (“the Plan”) (Dkt. No. 1), alleging that, while working at Pratt & Whitney as a Materials Supervisor in Bridgeport, West Virginia, he became unable to work on September 17, 2007, due to injuries sustained when he fell from a tree. Figlioli's internist issued medical restrictions outlining that he was “unable to work on a consistent basis . . . due to a severe disorder of the spine, including arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis and degenerative disk disease as a result of vertebral fractures resulting in the compromise of the nerve root.” Id. at 2.

         The defendants paid long-term disability benefits for Figlioli for approximately eight years, finding he was “unable to perform, with reasonable continuity, the material and substantial duties of any occupation.” However, in reliance on a “non-examining paper-review, ” Liberty Life denied Figlioli further benefits as of March 7, 2017. Following an appeal, Liberty Life issued a final denial letter on September 5, 2017. Figlioli has not received monthly benefits since March 6, 2017. Id. at 1-2.

         Following the final denial of benefits, Figlioli requested “a complete copy of the applicable plan(s), summary plan descriptions, policies and claims file, including but not limited to the documents” further described in his letter (Dkt. No. 19-3 at 2). He specifically requested that the defendants provide those documents contemplated by 29 U.S.C. §§ 1024, 1029, and 1132, as well as 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503. Id. In response, Liberty Life provided a copy of the claim files and the applicable policies, but advised that other documents must be sought from the plan administrator (Dkt. No. 19-4 at 2).

         Figlioli claims he is entitled to disability benefits under the Plan, and that the defendants failed to comply with their statutory and regulatory duties to provide an adequate response to his document request. Id. at 3-7. Consequently, Count One makes a claim for benefits under the Plan, while Count Two makes a claim related to the defendants' alleged duty to provide documents under 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(A) and (c)(1). Id. Figlioli seeks 1) a declaration that the defendants must pay his past due benefits, 2) the assessment of a $110 per day penalty for failing to provide Plan documents, 3) an order requiring the defendants to provide all relevant documents, 4) an award of retroactive long-term disability benefits and the reinstatement of future benefits, and 5) attorneys' fees and costs. Id. at 7.

         On January 19, 2018, the defendants moved for judgment on Count Two (Dkt. No. 18), arguing that they cannot be held liable for statutory penalties under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c) because neither is the “Plan Administrator, ” and that statutory penalties are unavailable with regard to document production mandated by regulation (Dkt. No. 19). Figlioli has withdrawn his request for statutory penalties, but continues to seek discovery of the documents at issue (Dkt. No. 21).


         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) provides that, “[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” “The standard of review for Rule 12(c) motions is the same standard applied to Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss.” Carter v. Nat'l City Mortg., Inc., No. 1:14CV70, 2015 WL 966260, at *3 (N.D.W.Va. Mar. 4, 2015) (citing Independence News, Inc. v. City of Charlotte, 568 F.3d 148, 154 (4th Cir. 2009)). As the Court has noted, “[t]he only difference between a Rule 12(c) motion and a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is timing.” Id.

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move for dismissal on the grounds that a complaint does not “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). “While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citation omitted). A court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

         In order to be sufficient, “a complaint must contain ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Anderson, 508 F.3d at 188 n.7 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A motion to dismiss “does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992).

         In deciding on the motion, the Court need not confine its inquiry to the complaint; it may also consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). “A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). The Court may also consider documents attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). The defendants attached the following documents to their motion for judgment on the pleadings: the policy, the summary plan description, Figlioli's letter requesting documents, and Liberty Life's response (Dkt. Nos. 19-1; 19-2; 19-3; 19-4). Given that these documents are integral to the complaint, and Figlioli does not contest their authenticity, the Court will consider them.

         III. ...

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