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Lamkins v. Dress Barn, Inc.

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

May 27, 2015

Cheryl Lamkins and Morton A. Segall, Plaintiffs,
The Dress Barn, Inc., et al., Defendants.



This is a class action brought by Plaintiffs Cheryl Lamkins and Morton Segall against Defendants for failure to pay certain medical expenses under a health insurance policy. Defendants are the employer of Ms. Lamkins, The Dress Barn, Inc. ("dressbarn"); its parent company, Ascena Retail Group, Inc.; and the insurers who apparently administered the health insurance plan.

Defendants move to dismiss [11] Plaintiffs' state law and class action claims, principally arguing that the claims are preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). Plaintiffs, in turn, move to remand [23] this case to state court. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss [11] is granted, and Plaintiffs' motion to remand [23] is denied.

I. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), this Court must construe the Complaint [1-1] in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw reasonable inferences in their favor. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013); Long v. Shorebank Development Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). Statements of law, however, need not be accepted as true. Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. Rule 12(b)(6) limits this Court's consideration to "allegations set forth in the complaint itself, documents that are attached to the complaint, documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice." Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). It is proper for this Court to take judicial notice of matters of public record. General Electric Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080181 (7th Cir. 1997).

To survive Defendant's motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. "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." Id.

II. Facts[1]

Plaintiffs procured insurance from Defendants sometime on or before January 1, 2013. Complaint, Count I ¶ 1. The insurance policy was not attached to the Complaint, but Plaintiffs do not dispute that Defendants attached the correct policy to their motion to dismiss. That policy is titled: "Benefit Booklet for Administrative Committee of the Ascena Retail Group, Inc. Benefits Plan PPO" ("Benefits Plan"). Ascena Retail Group, which issued the Benefits Plan, is dressbarn's parent company. Ascena Retail Group Form 10-K at 3. Ascena Retail Group and dressbarn are two of the Defendants in this action. Ms. Lamkins was employed by dressbarn. Complaint, Count I ¶ 3. Mr. Segall (whose relationship to Ms. Lamkins is not specified in the Complaint) was not employed by dressbarn or the other Defendants, yet nonetheless was a beneficiary under the Benefits Plan. Complaint, Count I ¶ 3, Count III ¶ 16

From the time they acquired the Benefits Plan, Plaintiffs paid approximately $144.29 bi-monthly as a premium. Complaint, Count I ¶ 1. At an unspecified time, Plaintiffs incurred "medical, hospital and ancillary expenses." Complaint, Count I ¶ 4. Plaintiffs do not describe these expenses in the Complaint. Also at an unspecified time, Plaintiffs made a claim under the Benefits Plan for payment of these expenses. Complaint, Count I ¶ 6. However, Defendants denied the claim at a date left unknown. Complaint, Count I ¶ 7.

This purported class action arises from Defendants denying Plaintiffs' claim. Plaintiffs bring the action on behalf of themselves and a similarly situated class of persons who acquired the Benefits Plan. Complaint, Count II. Plaintiffs allege that in denying their claim, Defendants breached the Benefits Plan (Count I) and misrepresented the coverage under the Benefits Plan, giving rise to claims for violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act ("ICFA") (Count III) and common law fraud (Count IV).

Plaintiffs' last count (Count V) is for discovery under 735 ILCS 5/2-402. Section 2-402 is a feature of Illinois civil procedure that allows plaintiffs to designate in their pleadings non-defendants who may have relevant information for discovery. Count V does not bear on the substance of Plaintiffs' claims and does not bear on this Court's decision.

III. Analysis

Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint. Defendants principally argue that Plaintiffs' state law claims are preempted by ERISA, but also argue that Plaintiffs, who are proceeding pro se, cannot maintain a class action and that their fraud claims do not meet Rule 9(b)'s heightened pleading standards. This Court addresses these arguments in turn, as well as ...

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