Linda Bennett v. OFEGLI
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 1:14-cv-00137-JAB-JLW Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. . Mailed to: Linda Bennett. [16-1306]
Pg: 1 of 8
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
LINDA M. BENNETT, Executrix for the Estate of Elizabeth H.
Maynard and on behalf of herself and others similarly
Plaintiff - Appellant,
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; OFFICE OF PERSONNEL
Defendants - Appellees.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle
District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. James A. Beaty, Jr.,
Senior District Judge. (1:14-cv-00137-JAB-JLW)
October 28, 2016
March 28, 2017
Before NIEMEYER and HARRIS, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior
instructions by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Linda M. Bennett, Appellant Pro Se.
Elizabeth J. Bondurant,
WOMBLE CARLYLE SANDRIDGE & RICE, PLLC, Atlanta, Georgia;
Katherine Thompson Lange, WOMBLE CARLYLE SANDRIDGE & RICE, PLLC,
Charlotte, North Carolina; Joan Brodish Childs, Assistant United
States Attorney, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellees.
Pg: 2 of 8
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
Pg: 3 of 8
Executrix of the Estate of Elizabeth H. Maynard and on behalf of
magistrate judge and dismissing her claims against the Office of
Personnel Management (“OPM”) as barred by sovereign immunity and
Insurance Company (“MetLife”). 1
We affirm the district court’s
dismissing as moot the claims against MetLife, and remand this
case for further proceedings.
Before deciding whether the doctrines of sovereign immunity
and mootness apply in this case, we must first determine the
nature of Bennett’s claims.
While Bennett’s complaint asserted
various causes of action against Defendants arising out of their
handling of Bennett’s claim for life insurance benefits under
Maynard’s policy, Defendants contend that Bennett may only raise
a claim under the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Act
Bennett also named the Office of Federal Employee’s Group
Life Insurance (“OFEGLI”) as a defendant.
Because OFEGLI is
part of MetLife, we refer to both OFEGLI and MetLife simply as
MetLife. We refer to OPM, OFEGLI, and MetLife, collectively, as
Pg: 4 of 8
(“FEGLIA”), 5 U.S.C.A. §§ 8701 to 8716 (West 2007 & Supp. 2016).
FEGLIA provides that
[t]he provisions of any contract under [FEGLIA] which
relate to the nature or extent of coverage or benefits
(including payments with respect to benefits) shall
supersede and preempt any law of any State or
political subdivision thereof, . . . which relates to
group life insurance to the extent that the law . . .
is inconsistent with the contractual provisions.
5 U.S.C.A. § 8709(d)(1).
In interpreting a similar preemption
provision in the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a) (2012), 2 we have concluded
that ERISA preempts a state law claim when the “claim may fairly
allegedly due under ERISA.”
Gresham v. Lumbermen’s Mut. Cas.
Co., 404 F.3d 253, 258 (4th Cir. 2005).
Similarly, the Second
Circuit has found a claim was not preempted by FEGLIA when it
mechanism to obtain benefits under a FEGLIA policy.”
United States, 352 F.3d 525, 544 (2d Cir. 2003).
dissatisfaction with Defendants’ handling of her claim, all of
her claims related to Maynard’s insurance policy.
ERISA preempts “any and all State laws insofar as they
. . . relate to any employee benefit plan.”
Pg: 5 of 8
policy, Bennett would have no right to enforce any claims of
Bennett expressly sought benefits under the policy and further
contends that MetLife has improperly paid another beneficiary.
Thus, we conclude Bennett’s claims arise solely under FEGLIA.
We review a district court’s dismissal of an action for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction de novo.
States, 814 F.3d 681, 687 (4th Cir. 2016).
Pornomo v. United
“The district courts
of the United States have original jurisdiction . . . of a civil
action or claim against the United States founded on [FEGLIA].”
5 U.S.C.A. § 8715.
Our sister Courts of Appeals have found that
See, e.g., Lewis v. Merit Sys. Prot. Bd., 301 F.3d
1352, 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2002); Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Atkins, 225
F.3d 510, 513 (5th Cir. 2000); Barnes v. United States, 307 F.2d
655, 657-58 (D.C. Cir. 1962).
We agree with the magistrate judge and the district court
that the United States has not waived its sovereign immunity
center on Bennett’s allegation that Maynard’s beneficiary forms
were invalid because of undue influence.
“Neither FEGLIA nor
Pg: 6 of 8
Argent v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., No. 96 Civ. 2516, 1997
WL 473975, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 1997).
Rather, OPM’s duties
under FEGLIA are limited to “maintain[ing] the designation of
beneficiary forms turned over to its care.”
Atkins, 225 F.3d at
Therefore, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of
Turning to the district court’s order dismissing MetLife,
“[a] case becomes moot when the issues presented are no longer
live or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the
Williams v. Ozmint, 716 F.3d 801, 809 (4th Cir. 2013)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
When a case or controversy
ceases to exist, thereby mooting the litigation, the federal
court no longer possesses jurisdiction to proceed.
requisite personal interest that must exist at the commencement
of the litigation . . . must continue throughout its existence
. . . .”
Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S.
43, 68 n.22 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
settlement, which included tendering a check for the benefits
Bennett asserted she was due, mooted Bennett’s claims.
named plaintiff’s individual claim [is insufficient] to render a
Pg: 7 of 8
plaintiff and a class of persons similarly situated.”
We note that the magistrate judge did not have the benefit
of Campbell-Ewald when recommending dismissal as moot of the
claims against MetLife.
In light of Campbell-Ewald, we conclude
that Bennett’s claims are not moot.
However, we conclude that
the district court did not err in dismissing Bennett’s class
claims because Bennett failed to comply with M.D.N.C.R. Civ. P.
See United States ex rel. Drakeford v. Tuomey, 792
court’s ruling on any ground apparent in the record.”).
Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s order adopting
the magistrate judge’s recommendation and dismissing OPM, vacate
claims with prejudice.
By this disposition, we express no view
on the merits of Bennett’s individual claims or whether future
Pg: 8 of 8
this court and argument would not aid the decisional process.
AFFIRMED IN PART,
VACATED IN PART, AND
REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?