Rowlett v. Brennan Hart Construction Co et al
ORDER denying 5 Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Thomas Rowlett has thirty days to amend his complaint to properly state an ERISA violation. Signed by Chief Judge Brian S. Miller on 2/5/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CASE NO. 3:13CV00246 BSM
CONSTRUCTION CO et al.
Defendant Coventry Health and Life Insurance Company’s (“Coventry”) motion to
dismiss [Doc. No. 5] is denied, and plaintiff Thomas Rowlett has thirty days to amend his
complaint to properly state an ERISA violation. Rowlett filed suit against his former
employer and Coventry, the administrator of his health insurance plan, seeking relief under
general state law tort and contract theories. Coventry moves to dismiss, arguing that
Rowlett’s state law claims are preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (“ERISA”).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when the plaintiff fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To meet the 12(b)(6) standard, a complaint
must sufficiently allege facts that will entitle the plaintiff to the relief sought. See Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). Although detailed factual allegations are not required,
threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, are insufficient. Id.
Coventry’s motion to dismiss is denied, however it is noted that Rowlett’s state law
claims are preempted by ERISA because they relate to an employee benefit plan. Estes v.
Federal Express Corp., 417 F.3d 870, 872. (8th Cir. 2005). A claim relates to an ERISA
plan when “it premises a cause of action on the existence of an ERISA plan.” Id. Thus, state
common law tort and contract claims stemming from “improper processing of a claim for
benefits” under an ERISA plan are preempted. Parkman v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America,
439 F.3d 767, 771 (8th Cir. 2006).
In his response, Rowlett acknowledges that this action is governed by ERISA. Instead
of addressing preemption, however, Rowlett raises several issues about the substance of the
Coventry plan and exhaustion requirements. In doing so, Rowlett puts the cart before the
horse. The issue of whether Rowlett exhausted his administrative remedies is not ripe, as
Rowlett’s complaint does not state any violations of ERISA. Accordingly, Rowlett will be
given thirty days in which to amend his complaint to properly state an ERISA violation.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 5th day of February 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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