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Wildy v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America

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

August 26, 2019

LEE K. WILDY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA and CONAGRA FOODS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Lee K. Wildy brought this lawsuit against his employer, ConAgra Foods, Inc. (“ConAgra”), and The Prudential Life Insurance Company of America (“Prudential”), alleging violations of § 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), as well as negligent misrepresentation. ConAgra and Prudential have each moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated herein, the motions [12][28] are granted.

         Background [1]

         Plaintiff began working for ConAgra in June 2015. Compl. at 2, [2] ECF No. 1-1. At that time, Plaintiff enrolled in an employee benefit plan (“the Plan”) through ConAgra and elected to take out a $100, 000 life insurance policy on his wife, Joyce Wildy. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he did not know the life insurance was provided through Prudential. Id. at 2-3.

         Plaintiff states that, from June to September 2015, he paid the premium for the spousal life insurance policy through payroll deductions. Id. at 3-4. According to Plaintiff, ConAgra told him on July 8, 2015, that “the $100, 000.00 spousal life insurance policy on Joyce Wildy was in place.” Id. at 4.

         Joyce Wildy passed away on September 23, 2015. Id. at 3. When Plaintiff notified Prudential of his wife's death, Prudential paid out only $20, 000 for life insurance coverage. Id. This was because Prudential determined that Plaintiff had not provided any evidence of insurability as to Joyce Wildy. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that he was not aware of the requirement to submit such evidence and that ConAgra never told him about it. Id. at 3-4.

         In addition, Plaintiff alleges that, while appealing the benefits determination to Prudential, he was informed that ConAgra had told Prudential that it previously had not provided employees with “life insurance that required evidence of insurability.” Id. at 4. Furthermore, Plaintiff states, ConAgra told Prudential that “their system did not adequately prompt to inform employees when evidence of insurability was required.” Id. Accordingly, ConAgra “[took] steps to [e]nsure that this situation would not happen again.” Id.

         Plaintiff states that he has exhausted his internal appeals with Prudential. Id. at 3. Accordingly, he filed this action in the Circuit Court of Lasalle County on July 24, 2018. Id. at 2. Plaintiff seeks $80, 000 in unpaid life insurance benefits under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B) (Count I), as well as damages for negligent misrepresentation on the part of ConAgra (Count II). Defendants filed a notice of removal on December 17, 2018, invoking this Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

         Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In addition, when considering motions to dismiss, the Court accepts “all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and view[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Lavalais v. Vill. of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013). At the same time, “allegations in the form of legal conclusions are insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). As such, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Analysis

         I. ERISA Claim (Count I)

         Prudential and ConAgra (together, “Defendants”) seek dismissal of Count I on the basis that Plaintiff is not entitled to additional benefits under the terms the Plan. Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not provide any evidence of insurability for his wife as required. For his part, Plaintiff does not dispute that he failed to provide evidence of insurability; however, he argues that Prudential's actions “amount to a waiver of the requirement to ...


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