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Coleman v. Supervalu, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 31, 2013

Eboni COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERVALU, INC. SHORT TERM DISABILITY PROGRAM, et al., Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Michael Bartolic, The Law Offices of Michael Bartolic, LLC, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Michael A. Warner, Jr., Lindsey M. Marcus, William R. Pokorny, Franczek Radelet PC, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MILTON I. SHADUR, Senior District Judge.

Eboni Coleman (" Coleman" ) has brought this two-count action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (" ERISA" ) against Supervalu, Inc. (" Supervalu" ) and the Supervalu Inc. Short Term Disability Program (the " Program" ). As a participant in the Program, Coleman claims in Count I that she has been denied benefits due under its terms and in Count II that Supervalu violated ERISA when it failed to provide her with requested Program documents.

Both defendants have asked this Court to dismiss Coleman's claims due to improper venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. (" Rule" ) 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). [1] Defendants maintain that Coleman agreed to a forum selection clause that named a different jurisdiction as the only proper venue for litigation connected to the Program. As an alternative to dismissal, defendants seek a transfer to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Defendants have also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Count II— the alleged failure to deliver Program documents— for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, defendants' motions under Rule 12(b)(3) and Section 1406(a) are denied, while their Rule 12(b)(6) motion is granted, thus calling for dismissal of Count II.

Standard of Review

Section 1406(a) allows for the transfer or dismissal of a plaintiff's suit, but it is applicable only if that suit is filed in the " wrong division or district." In re LimitNone, LLC, 551 F.3d 572, 575 (7th Cir.2008) teaches that a forum selection clause cannot render venue " wrong" if venue would be proper in the clause's absence, at least for the purposes of Section 1406(a). Because Defendants do not contend that venue would be improper absent the existence of the forum selection clause at issue, Section 1406(a) cannot serve as the basis for transfer or dismissal of Coleman's suit.[2]

Rule 12(b)(3), however, allows for the dismissal of a suit when venue is chosen in contradiction to an enforceable forum selection clause. As Continental Cas. Co. v. Am. Nat. Ins. Co., 417 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir.2005) states:

Under Rule 12(b)(3), the district court [is] not obligated to limit its consideration to the pleadings nor to convert the motion to one for summary judgment.

Instead evidence submitted outside the pleadings may be considered to the extent that it sheds light on whether a court's venue is proper

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( Faulkenberg v. CB Tax Franchise Sys., LP, 637 F.3d 801, 809-10 (7th Cir.2011)). This Court must nonetheless take Coleman's well-pleaded facts as true ( id. at 806).

As for Rule 12(b)(6), by now it is stale news that over five years ago Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562-63, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) repudiated as overly broad the then half-century-old formulation in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) " that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Instead Twombly, id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 teaches that a complaint must provide " only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Or put otherwise, " [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level" ( id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). As with Rule 12(b)(3), Rule 12(b)(6) requires this Court to accept as true all of Coleman's well-pleaded factual allegations, with all reasonable inferences drawn in her favor ( Christensen v. County of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 457 (7th Cir.2007) (per curiam)). What follows in this opinion adheres to those principles.

Background

Coleman is a retail pharmacist at a Supervalu-owned Jewel-Osco store located in northern Illinois (Compl. ¶ 9).[3] Through her employment Coleman is a participant in the Program, which is self-administered by Supervalu ( id. ¶¶ 6, 9). In accordance with ERISA dictates Supervalu has issued a Summary Plan Description (the " Summary" ) explaining the terms of the Program in effect at the time of Coleman's disability claim (the Summary, which is D. Mem. Ex. 1, is cited by page number). First among the Summary provisions relevant to this action is this forum selection clause (the " Clause," Summary at 15):

All litigation in any way related to the Program (including but not limited to any and all claims brought under ERISA, such as claims for benefits (as described below) and claims for breach of fiduciary duty) must be filed in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.
Another provision— relevant to Count II— establishes Supervalu as the Plan Administrator and provides a P.O. box in Minnesota as its address ( id. at 21). In addition the Summary explains that Supervalu as Plan Administrator " has delegated certain duties ... to the SUPERVALU Benefit Programs Committee, which has in turn delegated certain duties to the SUPERVALU Health and Welfare Programs Administrative Committee" ( id. at 16).

Coleman has filed at least two disability claims in connection with the Program. In 2007 she was forced to stop working due to severe pain caused by enlarged uterine fibroids that occurred during the final trimester of a pregnancy (Compl.¶¶ 14-15). She applied for short-term disability benefits under the Program, and those benefits were granted ( id. ). In October 2011 Coleman, again pregnant, experienced the same uterine-fibroid-induced pain that had occurred during her 2007 pregnancy and again applied for disability benefits under the Program ( id. ¶¶ 16-20). Despite the fact that Coleman submitted the same type of paperwork from her physician in 2011 that she had proffered for her 2007 claim, her request for benefits was denied ( id. ). Coleman filed two appeals, but those too

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were denied ( id. ¶¶ 28-29). In July 2012 the last of those denials, which constituted a final administrative ...


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