United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JACOB P. FEAZEL, Plaintiff,
AMEREN LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN FOR NON-UNION EMPLOYEES, AND AMEREN SERVICES COMPANY AS PLAN ADMINISTRATOR, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, District Judge
the Court is defendants Ameren Long Term Disability Plan For
NonUnion Employees and Ameren Services Company's
(“defendants”) motion to dismiss, or in the
alternative, to stay, plaintiff Jacob P. Feazel's
complaint pending exhaustion of administrative remedies (Doc.
16). For the reasons explained below, the Court
GRANTS the defendants' motion to dismiss
for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
April 1, 1983, plaintiff Jacob P. Feazel
(“Feazel”) retired from his employment at Union
Electric Company, a predecessor of Ameren (Doc. 1,
¶¶ 8, 12-13). Upon retirement, Feazel received a
letter informing him that he was entitled to a monthly
disability payment under the applicable Union Electric Long
Term Disability Plan (Doc. 1, Ex. A). The letter stated that
Feazel would receive a monthly benefit of $389.72 for the
rest of his life, assuming he remained disabled
(Id.). Feazel received this benefit pursuant to the
Union Electric Plan, and later the Ameren Long Term
Disability Plan for Non-Union Employees (the
“Plan”) (Id. at ¶ 17). On August
18, 2017, Feazel received a letter from Ameren stating that
an internal audit revealed that Feazel had been improperly
receiving benefits for a period beyond the Plan's Maximum
Benefit Period (Doc. 1, Ex. B). The letter advised Feazel that
the Plan would not seek repayment of the benefits he had
improperly received, but that the date of his final payment
under the Plan would be September 1, 2017 (Id.).
However, on November 1, 2017, Ameren apparently deposited
$370.43 into Feazel's bank account (Id. at
¶¶ 25, Ex. E). Consistent with the termination of
Feazel's Plan benefits, Ameren recouped the deposit a few
hours later, but several hours thereafter, an “unknown
entity” reversed the withdrawal and credited
Feazel's account with the original deposit amount of
$370.43 (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27, Ex. E).
week later, on November 7, 2017, Feazel initiated this action
by filing a complaint (Doc. 1) alleging that he is entitled
to benefits under the Plan and seeking penalties for the
defendants' failure to provide requested Plan documents
(Id. at ¶¶ 1, 1, 23-28, 35-38). Feazel
also alleges that Ameren breached its fiduciary duties in two
ways. First, he alleges that Ameren caused him emotional
distress by discontinuing his benefits and reversing the
November 1, 2017 deposit (Id. at ¶¶
29-34). Second, he alleges that Ameren failed to provide him
with requested Plan documents (Id. at ¶¶
defendants argue that Feazel's complaint should either be
dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), or stayed, because Feazel has failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies as required by the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) (Doc. 17, pp.
4-6; Doc. 25, pp. 2-3). The defendants also argue that
Feazel's complaint should be dismissed because his
fiduciary breach claims are duplicative and seek damages that
are not available under ERISA (Doc. 17, pp. 6-8; Doc. 25, pp.
Motion to Dismiss
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a motion to dismiss
a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police
Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).
The Supreme Court explained in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly that Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is warranted if the
complaint fails to set forth “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although federal pleading standards
were retooled by Twombly and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), notice pleading remains all
that is required in a complaint. Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008)
(“A plaintiff still must provide only ‘enough
detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests, and, through his
allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely
speculative, that he is entitled to relief.'”). In
determining whether the allegations in the plaintiff's
complaint are sufficient “to raise a right to relief
above a speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555, the Court assumes the truth of all well-pleaded
factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in
the plaintiff's favor. See Virnich v. Vorwald,
664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011); Rujawitz v.
Martin, 561 F.3d 685, 688 (7th Cir. 2009).
these principles in mind, the Court now turns to address the
merits of the defendants' motion to dismiss.
Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
concedes that he has neither exhausted nor attempted to
exhaust administrative remedies under the Plan, but argues
that such failure should be excused, either because
exhaustion would be futile, or because he was wrongfully
denied meaningful access to administrative procedures (Doc.
22, pp. 6-7). Feazel contends that excusal from the usual
exhaustion requirement is warranted in this case because the
defendants have failed to demonstrate the existence of
adequate administrative remedies, and because the
defendants' failure to supply him with certain Plan
documents “leaves ample possibility . . . that there is
no such appeal procedure” (Id.). The
defendants respond that they have demonstrated the existence
of available administrative procedures by referring to them
in the August 18, 2017 letter (Doc. 1, Ex. B) and subsequent
correspondence with Feazel (Doc. 22, Ex. A, p.1), and that
Feazel has failed to show that exhaustion would be futile
because he has not alleged any facts tending to show that
those claims and appeals procedures would not redress his
grievances (Doc. 17, p.5).
provides that “[a] civil action may be brought . . . by
a participant . . . to recover benefits due to him under the
terms of his plan, to enforce his rights under the terms of
the plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under
the terms of the plan.” 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B);
Edwards v. Briggs & Stratton Ret. Plan, 639 F.3d
355, 360 (7th Cir. 2011). Although ERISA allows an aggrieved
plan participant to file a civil action, the statute does not
explicitly state “whether exhaustion of administrative
remedies is a precondition to filing that action.”
Edwards, 639 F.3d at 360. “However, because
ERISA directs employee benefit plans to provide adequate
written notice of the reasons for denials of claims by plan
participants and to create procedures for the review of such
denials of claims, ” the Seventh Circuit has