United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.
Black alleges that Lincoln National Life Insurance violated
the Employment Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”) when it failed to pay him the proceeds
of his late father's life insurance policy. R. 30.
Lincoln National has moved to dismiss for failure to state a
claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
R. 39. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.
12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint. See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal
Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820
(7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must provide “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient
to provide defendant with “fair notice” of the
claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard
“demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
“labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must
“contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘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.'” Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872,
877 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all
well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Mann,
707 F.3d at 877.
father died on August 10, 2011. R. 30 ¶ 2. At the time
of his death, Black's father was employed by Superior Air
Ground Ambulance Service, and was insured under Superior
Air's Lincoln Financial Group Insurance Policy, which
provided $125, 000 to the policy's beneficiaries.
Id. ¶¶ 2-3. The policy included both $15,
000 in Basic Life coverage and $110, 000 in voluntary life
coverage. R. 40-1; R. 40-2; R. 40-3; R. 40-4; R. 40-5; R.
40-6. The Basic Life policy included a three-year contractual
limitations period for bringing civil suits. R. 40-1 at 25.
alleges that his stepmother fraudulently obtained the
proceeds of his father's life insurance policy and
deposited them into an MB Financial bank account.
See R. 30. In September 2013, Black sued Lincoln
National, MB Financial Bank, and his stepmother in the
Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois to recover the
proceeds. See R. 11-1. Lincoln National moved to
dismiss, arguing that Black's claims were preempted by
ERISA. See R. 15-1 at 4-14. Black did not file a
response, and the state court granted the motion.
See R. 11-2 at 2. The state court eventually
resolved Black's claims against his stepmother and MB
Financial, by ordering MB Financial to turn over the
remaining $37, 700.54 balance in the bank account to Black,
and by entering a $100, 000 judgment against his stepmother
for “conversion and fraud.” See R. 11-3;
then filed another complaint in Illinois state court on
January 12, 2016, seeking to recover the full $125, 000
amount of the policy benefits from Lincoln National. R. 1.
Black alleged that Lincoln National violated ERISA and
breached the terms of the policy when it paid the proceeds to
his stepmother. Id. Lincoln National removed that
complaint to this Court in May 2016, and filed a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 10. The Court granted the
motion as to the breach of contract claim, but denied it with
respect to the ERISA claim. R. 18 (Black v. Lincoln Nat.
Life Ins., 2016 WL 6582582 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 7, 2016)).
then filed an amended complaint on March 15, 2017. R. 30.
Black alleges in his amended complaint that Lincoln National
violated ERISA by paying the proceeds of the life insurance
policy to his stepmother, who allegedly obtained them by
forging both his signature and his father's signature on
various policy documents. R. 30 ¶¶ 5-7.
Specifically, Black alleges that his stepmother forged his
father's signature on the enrollment form naming the
minor daughter of Black's stepmother and father, as a 50%
co-beneficiary on the $110, 000 Voluntary Life policy. R. 30
¶ 6. Additionally, Black alleges that his stepmother
forged Black's signature on a claim form in order to have
Lincoln National deposit the proceeds of the Voluntary Life
policy into the MB Financial joint bank account. R. 30 ¶
National argues that Black's claims should be dismissed
for the following reasons: (1) Black fails to allege a viable
legal theory to support his claim for benefits under the
Basic Life policy; (2) the Basic Life policy's three-year
contractual limitation provision makes Black's claim
untimely; (3) Black's forged Enrollment Form theory rests
on the false premise that ERISA imposes strict liability on
administrators for losses due to forged signatures; and (4)
Black's claim against Lincoln National for payment of the
$55, 000 Voluntary Life Benefit also depends on that same
Basic Life Policy
National argues that Black fails to allege a right to the
Basic Life policy's proceeds. Because the Basic Life
policy and the voluntary life policy documents, enrollment
forms, and claim forms are central to and form the basis of
Black's claim, the Court may take judicial notice of
these documents. See Citadel Grp. Ltd. v. Wash. Reg'l
Med. Ctr., 692 F.3d 580, 591 (7th Cir. 2012).
alleges that he is the “sole beneficiary” of his
late father's entire $125, 000 life insurance coverage,
including both the $15, 000 Basic Life coverage and the $110,
000 voluntary life coverage. However, although Black claims a
right to the entire $125, 000, he makes no allegations with
regard to the Basic Life Policy in particular. Rather, all of
his allegations focus on allegedly fraudulent signatures
relevant to distribution of the $110, 000 Voluntary Life
proceeds. Moreover, Black does not address Lincoln
National's argument that he is not entitled to the Basic
Life proceeds. This is likely because the express terms of
the Basic Life policy enrollment form name his stepmother,
Miavria Black, as the “100%” beneficiary. R.
40-5. Additionally, Black admitted that “Ms. Black was
the intended beneficiary of $15, 000 in ...