Murray v. Fidelity Investments Institutional Operations Company, Inc.
ORDER AND REASONS granting 15 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. The case is dismissed without prejudice, to allow the plaintiff to pursue whatever administrative remedies are available. Signed by Judge Martin L.C. Feldman on 2/22/17. (clc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
INSTITUTIONAL OPERATIONS, CO., INC.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is the defendant’s motion to dismiss the
plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Rule 12(b)(6), and alternatively a motion to strike plaintiff’s
claims for monetary, compensatory, punitive damages, and a trial
by jury, pursuant to Rule 12(f). For the following reasons, the
motion to dismiss is GRANTED, without prejudice.
This lawsuit arises out of an Employee Retirement Income
Security Act claim.
distribution dispute with her former husband, Otis Murray, in
Terrebone Parish. Ms. Murray believes that Fidelity Investments is
the holder of several retirement accounts that belong to her exhusband. As part of the community property partition, Ms. Murray
determine what portion, if any, is owed to her as a result of the
divorce. Ms. Murray alleges that she has been unsuccessful in her
attempts to gain full access to these retirement accounts. She
alleges that her ex-husband’s retirement accounts with Fidelity
have been “hidden and/or withheld in a manner which is contrary to
the ERISA statute.”
The plaintiff alleges that Fidelity’s failure to grant full
access to these retirement accounts has caused her money damages,
loss of benefits, mental and emotional distress, and compensatory
and punitive damages. Additionally, the plaintiff makes a jury
plaintiff’s complaint, or alternatively, to strike the plaintiff’s
claims for monetary, compensatory, and punitive damages and to
strike the plaintiff’s jury demand. The defendant contends that
the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and to
state a claim for which relief can be granted because she brought
alternatively moves to strike certain damages and jury requests
because ERISA does not provide for such requests.
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows
a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Such a motion is rarely
granted because it is viewed with disfavor.
See Lowrey v. Tex. A
& M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997) (quoting Kaiser
Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d
1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982)).
Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 8).
unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. at
678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
"accepts 'all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff.'"
See Martin K. Eby Constr. Co.
v. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999)).
deciding whether dismissal is warranted, the Court will not accept
conclusory allegations in the complaint as true.
Kaiser, 677 F.2d
Indeed, the Court must first identify allegations that
are conclusory and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
A corollary: legal conclusions "must
be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 678.
veracity of the well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court must
then determine "whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief." Id. at 679.
"'To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d
600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
"Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even
if doubtful in fact)."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and
"A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("The plausibility
standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
This is a "context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
Id. at 679.
"Where a complaint pleads facts that are
merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of
the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief." Id. at 678 (internal quotations omitted) (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557).
"[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the
'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief'" thus "requires more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555 (alteration in original) (citation omitted).
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider
documents that are essentially "part of the pleadings."
any documents attached to or incorporated in the plaintiff's
complaint that are central to the plaintiff's claim for relief.
Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th
Cir. 2004) (citing Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d
defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part of
the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff’s complaint
(internal citations omitted).
The Fifth Circuit “requires that claimants seeking benefits
from an ERISA plan must first exhaust available administrative
remedies under the plan before bringing suit to recover benefits.”
Bourgeois v. Pension Plan for Emps. Of Santa Fe Int’l Corps., 215
F.3d 475, 479 (5th Cir. 2000); see also Denton v. First Nat’l Bank
of Waco, Tex., 765 F.2d 1295, 1300-01 (5th Cir. 1985) (explaining
that ERISA benefits claimants are required “to exhaust their
administrative remedies prior to seeking federal court review of
a benefit denial . . . based . . . on legislative history of
plaintiff has pursued administrative remedies. 1 To the contrary,
the defendant submits evidence that the plaintiff requested, and
Fidelity granted, access to the retirement accounts in question
through the related state court proceedings in Terrebone Parish.
The plaintiff’s brief complaint also does not allege facts
that allow the Court to find that her claim even falls within an
Bourgeois, 215 F.3d at 479 (“[The Fifth Circuit] has recognized an
administrative remedies when such attempts would be futile.”).
Where a claimant fails to pursue administrative review of an ERISA
claim, the Fifth Circuit bars the claimant from pursuing the claim
Longshoremen’s Ass’n, 583 F. App’x 495, 499 (5th Cir. 2013). The
plaintiff quite simply fails to state a claim for which relief can
be granted by this Court. See id. 2
In its motion to dismiss, Fidelity attaches the procedures
associated with the BP Employee Savings Plan and the BP Retirement
Accumulation Plan, both of which the plaintiff’s ex-husband
participated in. The two plans contain similar provisions
explaining the procedures for filing a claim and for filing an
appeal of an adverse benefit determination. The plans require that
claimants first pursue claims through the plans’ administrative
processes. Here, the plaintiff attempts to be a claimant to these
plans but has seemingly failed to comply with the plans’
Although the plaintiff states that she “has exhausted her
administrative remedies for any claim for benefits under a plan
sponsored or administrated by Fidelity”, she also states that
IT IS ORDERED that the defendant’s motion to dismiss is
GRANTED. The case is dismissed without prejudice, to allow the
New Orleans, Louisiana, February 22, 2017
MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
defendant never gave her an option to pursue an administrative
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