Smith v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 20 Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Signed by Judge Marvin J. Garbis on 3/21/2017. (bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
WILEY JOSEPH SMITH
THE PNC FINANCIAL SERVICES
GROUP, et al.
CIVIL ACTION NO. MJG-15-2232
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: DISMISSAL MOTION
The Court has before it Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint [ECF No. 20], incorporated by
reference in Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No.
31] and the materials submitted relating thereto.
finds that a hearing is unnecessary.
The procedural posture of the instant case requires
remedial action to eliminate apparently unnecessary issues.
the pending Amended Complaint [ECF No. 11],1 Plaintiff identified
the Defendants as Liberty Life Assurance Company Of Boston
(“Liberty”) and “PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. as
Administrator of the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., and
As in the Complaint [ECF No. 1] except that, in the
Complaint, PNC is referred to as the “sponsor” of the plan.
Affiliates Long-Term Disability Plan (“PNC”).” Plaintiff did not
name the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., and Affiliates
Long-Term Disability Plan (“the Plan”) as a defendant.
In response to the Amended Complaint, Defendants PNC and
Liberty filed the instant motion seeking dismissal of claims
However, the Plan – although not named in the
Amended Complaint as a defendant – represented by the same
counsel as Liberty and PNC - filed Defendant’s Answer to
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint [ECF No. 19].2
There are pending cross-motions for summary judgment, but
the Plan is not a party to these.
Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment [ECF No. 31] is filed by PNC and Liberty (but
not the Plan) and Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment
[ECF No. 34] seeks summary judgment against PNC and Liberty (but
not the Plan).
ERISA § 502, 29 U.S.C. § 1132 provides, in pertinent part:
An employee benefit plan may sue or be
sued under this subchapter as an entity. . .
. Any money judgment under this subchapter
against an employee benefit plan shall be
enforceable only against the plan as an
entity and shall not be enforceable against
any other person unless liability against
Moreover, the Court docket lists the Plan as a defendant.
such person is established in his individual
capacity under this subchapter.
Thus, if the Plan wrongly denied Plaintiff his claimed
benefits, he could obtain a money judgment against the Plan.
ERISA § 503 requires plan administrators to provide
participants with a “full and fair review” of any adverse
benefits determination. 29 U.S.C. § 1133; 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503–
1(f)–(g); Clarke v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am., 852 F. Supp. 2d
663, 676 (D. Md. 2012).
In cases where there is a procedural
ERISA violation, the appropriate remedy is to remand the matter
to the plan administrator so that a “full and fair review” can
Gagliano v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.,
547 F.3d 230, 240 (4th Cir. 2008).
Thus, should Plaintiff
prevail on his denial of a full and fair review claim, he may
obtain a remand to the plan administrator.
While the matter may not be free from doubt, the Court
finds that the Amended Complaint can be read to provide a
plausible claim3 against PNC and/or Liberty with regard to
Plaintiff’s procedural ERISA claim.
Therefore, that claim is
pleaded adequately to avoid dismissal.
However, the Court is
A complaint must allege sufficient facts to “cross ‘the
line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief.’” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
not, by any means, deciding herein that PNC and/or Liberty would
not prevail on the pending cross-motions for summary judgment.
III. STATUS OF THE PLAN
As matters now stand, there may be a question whether the
Plan is, or is not, a party to the instant case.
the Plan is not named as a party to the pending cross-motions
for summary judgment.
The parties can – and should in the Court’s view - remedy
the situation and avoid possible jurisdictional and other
This can be done by agreeing that the Plan can be made
a party to the case and the pending summary judgment motions
nunc pro tunc.
Absent such an agreement, the Court shall
require briefing and proceed to resolve the issues presented
regarding the status of the Plan.
For the foregoing reasons:
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended
Complaint [ECF No. 20] is DENIED.
By April 7, 2017, the parties shall either:
Agree that the Plan shall be made a party to
the case and the pending summary judgment
motions nunc pro tunc, or
Arrange a telephone conference to discuss
further proceedings herein.
SO ORDERED, on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
Marvin J. Garbis
United States District Judge
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