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MADAFFARI v. METROCALL COMPANIES GROUP

July 1, 2004.

CHERYL MADAFFARI, Plaintiff,
v.
METROCALL COMPANIES GROUP, Policy GL, H-21163-0, PLAN NUMBER 501; RELIASTAR LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; ING NORTH AMERICA INSURANCE CORPORATION; and ING GROEP N.V., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendants ReliaStar Life Insurance Company ("ReliaStar") and Metrocall Companies Group Policy GL, H-21163-0, Plan Number 501 ("Plan 501") request dismissal of Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ReliaStar and Plan 501 also move to strike Plaintiff's jury demand For the reasons set forth below, ReliaStar's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is granted in part; Plan 501's motion to dismiss is denied; and Defendants' motions to strike Plaintiff's jury demand are granted.

LEGAL STANDARDS

  A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint. It is not designed to resolve the case on the merits. Petri v. Gatlin, 997 F. Supp. 956, 963 (N.D. Ill. 1997) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356, at 294 (2d ed. 1990)). When determining whether to grant a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Jang v. A.M. Miller & Assocs., 122 F.3d 480, 483 (7th Cir. 1997). A court must also draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Id. A complaint should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) only if "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 2232, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984). A plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements, however, merely by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts, which fail to outline the basis of their claims. Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991).

  FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  Metrocall, Inc. ("Metrocall") employed Plaintiff Cheryl Madaffari as a sales manager. As part of her employment benefits, Metrocall provided Plaintiff with health and disability insurance. In late 1997, Plaintiff stopped working because of health problems and began claiming disability under the group insurance policy. Plaintiff collected disability benefits from March 1997 until November 2000, when ReliaStar reviewed Plaintiff's claim and concluded that she was no longer disabled according to the terms of the insurance policy. Plaintiff appealed her denial of benefits to ReliaStar, which denied Plaintiff's appeal in March 2001. Plaintiff then requested that ReliaStar reconsider its denial of Plaintiff's claim. In July 2001, ReliaStar again refused Plaintiff's claim.

  Plan 501 is an insured employee welfare benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Securities Act ("ERISA").*fn1 Plan 501 has no assets except to the extent an insurance policy issued by ReliaStar can be considered an asset of the plan. As issuer of this policy, ReliaStar makes all determinations pertaining to claims regarding termination of disability benefits, including all decisions surrounding Plaintiff's claim for benefits and the following appeals. Neither Metrocall nor any entity other than ReliaStar made any determinations in connection with benefits claims. Further, ReliaStar was also responsible for the actual disbursement of benefits under the policy.

  On June 12, 2002, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Plan 501, seeking compensation for benefits improperly denied. On November 6, 2002, the Court entered an order for default judgment against Plan 501. On January 13, 2003, the Court awarded damages of $3,335.75 per month until Plaintiff reaches the age of 65 and attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $305,976.74. On March 3, 2003, the Court amended its order to reflect the cumulative amount of the monthly payments, both prospective and delinquent. That order required total payment of $1,223,307.99 from Plan 501.

  On August 25, 2003, Plan 501 moved to vacate the Court's default judgment, and to join ReliaStar as a defendant pursuant to Rule 19(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On January 9, 2004, the Court vacated its default judgment, ruling that Plaintiff had not effectively served Plan 501. Further, the Court found that because of ReliaStar's complete control over the analysis and funding of benefits claims under the policy, ReliaStar was an indispensable party under Rule 19(a).*fn2

  On February 13, 2004, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint including ReliaStar and its parent corporations, ING North America Insurance Corporation and ING Groep N.V., as Defendants along with Plan 501. Plaintiff added claims for breach of contract, vexatious delay, and bad faith against the new Defendants. Defendants now move for dismissal of all claims under Rule 12(b)(6) and for the Court to strike Plaintiff's jury demand

  ANALYSIS

  I. ReliaStar is a Proper Defendant

  Citing Jass v. Prudential Health Care Plan, Inc., 88 F.3d 1482 (7th Cir. 1996), ReliaStar moves for dismissal of Plaintiff's ERISA claim, contending that "only the Plan is a proper defendant in an action to recover ERISA plan benefits." Id. at 1490. ReliaStar argues that because it is merely the insurer, and not the plan itself, Plaintiff may not recover from ReliaStar in its action for benefits.*fn3

  Finding a proper defendant is one of the more interesting questions arising out of ERISA litigation. See Rivera v. Network Health Plan of Wis., No. 02 CV 1055, 1004 WL 1240913 (E.D. Wis. May 28, 2004). Plaintiff's Count I seeks "judgment against Defendant[s] . . . in an amount that will fully compensate her for injuries and damages" in connection with the termination of her disability benefits under ERISA. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(d)(2) states that "[a]ny money judgment under this subchapter against an employee benefit plan shall be enforceable only against the plan as an entity and ...


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