THE ESTATE OF MARK JENNINGS et al v. DELTA AIR LINES, INC. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/30/2017. (tf, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
THE ESTATE OF MARK JENNINGS, et
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 15-962 (JBS/AMD)
DELTA AIR LINES, INC., et al.,
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
In this action, Emily Jennings, individually and as
administratrix of the Estate of Mark Jennings, asserts claims
for breach of fiduciary duty under the Employment Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) against Delta Air Lines,
Inc. (“Delta”) and Xerox Business Services, LLC (“Xerox”), as
successor of Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (“ACS”), for
their roles in the allegedly wrongful denial of the Estate’s
life insurance claim. Following her husband’s unexpected death,
Ms. Jennings filed a claim under his life insurance policy
provided by his employer, Delta, as part of a group employee
benefits plan. Xerox was the records custodian for the plan, and
in this capacity, interacted with Mr. Jennings and made
eligibility decisions regarding his life insurance benefits.
On June 28, 2016, this Court granted in part and denied in
part Defendants’ motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint,
finding that certain of Plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred by
ERISA’s 3-year statute of limitations for claims of which the
plaintiff had actual knowledge of the breach or violation, but
that others were timely under ERISA’s later 6-year limitations
period. See Estate of Mark Jennings, et al. v. Delta Air Lines,
et al., Civil No. 15-962, 2016 WL 3537197 (D.N.J. June 28,
2016). Before the Court are motions for reconsideration of this
Court’s dismissal order filed by Defendants Xerox Business
Services, LLC (“Xerox”) [Docket Item 43] and Delta Air Lines,
Inc. (“Delta”). [Docket Item 44]. For the reasons that follow,
the Court will deny both motions.
Dismissal Opinion. In its June 28, 2016 Opinion and
Order, the Court recited, at length, the factual background
relative to Xerox and Delta’s involvement in the allegedly
wrongful denial of the Estate’s life insurance beneficiary
claim, see Estate of Mark Jennings, 2016 WL 3537197, at *1-*3;
the framework for assessing the timeliness of a breach of
fiduciary duty claim under ERISA, see id. at *3-*4; and the
specific allegations in the Amended Complaint regarding Ms.
Jennings’ knowledge of any alleged breaches. See id. at *4-*5.
Specifically, this Court determined that Plaintiffs’
allegations that Delta breached its fiduciary duty to continue
making life insurance premium payments during Mr. Jennings’
military leave were time-barred by ERISA’s 3-year statute of
limitations because Plaintiffs became aware in the spring of
2009 that Delta had stopped making payments when Mr. Jennings
received a billing invoice for his insurance premiums. The Court
determined that Plaintiffs’ other claims, alleging, inter alia,
that Xerox disregarded Mr. Jennings’ instructions to cancel only
some of his insurance coverage and failed to inform him of the
cancellation of his life insurance policies, and that Delta
misrepresented his employment status, were timely under the
later limitations period because Ms. Jennings “cannot
unequivocally be ascribed with actual knowledge of Xerox and
Delta’s alleged shortcomings” until 2013, when discovery was
exchanged in Ms. Jennings’ suit against MetLife, the claims
administrator for Mr. Jennings’ insurance plan. Accordingly, the
Court found that, because ERISA’s later six-year limitations
period applied, Plaintiffs’ remaining claims in the Amended
Complaint were timely.
Xerox now argues that this Court’s determination that
Plaintiffs’ claims against Xerox, inter alia that Xerox failed
to accurately interpret and honor Mr. Jennings’ written
instructions and that Xerox failed to notify Mr. Jennings that
his life insurance was cancelled, are timely conflict with its
findings of fact in the Opinion and Order granting summary
judgment in Estate of Jennings ex rel. Jennings v. Metropolitan
Life Ins. Co., Case No. 13-5376, 2014 WL 4723147 (D.N.J. Sept.
22, 2014) (“the MetLife action”), and that this Court
incorrectly interpreted what is necessary to trigger ERISA’s
earlier 3-year limitations period because a plaintiff need not
know the exact identity of a fiduciary in order to start the
clock. Delta, in turn, argues that this Court’s determination
that Plaintiffs’ claim that Delta allegedly misrepresented Mr.
Jennings’ employment status is timely is “a clear error of fact”
for three reasons: first, because Plaintiffs cannot plausibly
allege that they did not know about the misrepresentation any
later than 2011; second, because the misrepresentation claim
fails to state a claim because no independent harm resulted from
that breach; and third, like Xerox, because a plaintiff does not
need to know the exact identity of a fiduciary in order to
trigger the earlier 3-year ERISA statute of limitations.
Plaintiffs oppose both motions, arguing that Defendants have
failed to satisfy the standard set forth for reconsideration.
Standard of Review. Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) governs
the Court’s review of the moving parties’ motions for
reconsideration. In order to prevail on a motion for
reconsideration, the party seeking reconsideration must, as
relevant here, demonstrate “‘the need to correct a clear error
of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.’”1
Sunrise Sr. Living, Inc., 993 F. Supp. 2d 475, 478 (D.N.J. 2014)
(citations omitted); Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669
(citation omitted) (3d Cir. 2010) (same).
the moving party must set forth the “dispositive factual matters
or controlling decisions of law” it believes the Court
overlooked when rendering its initial decision.
Twp. of Willingboro Mun. Gov’t, 913 F. Supp. 2d 62, 78 (D.N.J.
2012) (internal citation omitted).
In that way, a party seeking reconsideration must meet
a high burden.
See United States v. Jones, 158 F.R.D. 309, 314
(D.N.J. 1994); Maldonado v. Lucca, 636 F. Supp. 621, 629 (D.N.J.
Even more critically, though, reconsideration does not
provide “an opportunity for a second bite at the apple,” Tishcio
v. Bontex, Inc., 16 F. Supp. 2d 511, 532 (D.N.J. 1998), nor a
vehicle “to relitigate old matters.”
NL Indus., Inc. v.
Commercial Union Ins. Co., 935 F. Supp. 513, 516 (D.N.J. 1996).
Indeed, mere disagreement with the court’s decision –
particularly its reasoning and distillation of the applicable
law and facts – should be aired through the appellate process.
A party seeking reconsideration could, in the alternative,
identify an intervening change in law and/or the availability of
previously unavailable evidence. See Andreyko, 993 F. Supp. 2d
at 478 (citations omitted). The moving parties here, however,
advance no such arguments.
See Andreyko, 993 F. Supp. 2d at 478; see also Shevline v.
Phoenix Life Ins., No. 09-6323, 2015 WL 348552, at *1 (D.N.J.
Jan. 23, 2015) (same).
Discussion. The essence of a motion for
reconsideration is an opportunity for a party to present to the
Court a matter or controlling decision of law that the Court
“overlooked” in the prior decision: that is, a matter that was
presented to the Court but not considered in the initial motion
practice, which might reasonably have resulted in a different
conclusion. SPIRG v. Monsanto Co., 727 F. Supp. 876, 878 (D.N.J.
1989), aff’d, 891 F.2d 283 (3d Cir. 1989). Xerox predicates its
request for reconsideration on two bases: that this Court’s
findings in the dismissal order in this case allegedly conflict
with findings made in its summary judgment opinion in a related
case (to which Xerox was not a party), the MetLife action,
Estate of Jennings ex rel. Jennings v. Metropolitan Life Ins.
Co., Case No. 13-5376, 2014 WL 4723147 (D.N.J. Sept. 22, 2014),
and that a plaintiff need not know the identity of a fiduciary
in order to trigger the 3-year statute of limitations. Only
Xerox’s second point was presented to the Court on its initial
motion to dismiss, and therefore it is the only point addressing
a matter that this Court potentially “overlooked.”
The Court will not reconsider its finding that
Plaintiffs’ claims against Xerox are timely on the grounds that
this conflicts with findings made in the MetLife action. At no
point in its earlier dismissal motion practice did Xerox raise
this argument, that factual findings in the MetLife action can,
and should, govern this case: at most, Xerox appended a copy of
this Court’s summary judgment from the earlier case, without
addressing its significance in briefing on statute of
Moreover, Xerox would ask this Court to address
factual matters by going outside the pleadings, which is
inconsistent with the Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal motion Xerox
elected to bring. While it is certainly true that dismissal on
statute of limitations grounds is proper in a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion where the date of accrual of the cause of action is
ascertainable from the complaint and undisputed documents
annexed to, or relied on, in the complaint, Schmidt v. Skolas,
770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014), Xerox would invite this Court
to find facts contrary to those pled in the complaint. Perhaps
that can be done in a later summary judgment motion after
sufficient time for discovery, but it cannot be done in this
underlying Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal motion.
Nor will the Court will reconsider its finding that
Plaintiffs’ claims against Xerox are timely on the grounds that
there are cases holding that a plaintiff need not know the exact
identity of a fiduciary in order to trigger the limitations
period. Here, Xerox merely rehashes its earlier points on its
motion to dismiss. Moreover, because Xerox relies only on Brown
v. Owens Corning Inv. Review Committee, 622 F.3d 564 (6th Cir.
2010) in support of its position on this point, a case not
binding on this Court, Xerox has failed to set forth a
controlling matter of law overlooked. See Engers v. AT&T Corp.,
Case No. 98-3660, 2006 WL 3359722, at *4 (D.N.J. Nov. 20, 2006)
(“Further, the Second and Eleventh Circuit cases cited to by
Plaintiffs, as well as the District Court cases, clearly do not
constitute ‘controlling decisions’ sufficient to establish a
proper basis for reconsideration.”). The Court will not grant
reconsideration on this ground.
Delta has predicated its reconsideration request on
only one matter raised earlier: its third point, that a
plaintiff need not know the identity of a fiduciary in order to
trigger the 3-year statute of limitations. As above, the Court
will not reconsider its finding on this basis. Delta’s other
grounds for contesting the timeliness of Plaintiffs’
misrepresentation allegations, that these allegations are not
plausible and fail to state a claim because they did not give
rise to any independent harm, are new to this motion. Local Rule
7.1(i) limits reconsideration to matters overlooked by the Court
on the first motion in order to “encourage parties to present
their positions as completely as possible, and to prevent
parties from filing a second motion, with the hindsight provided
by the court’s analysis, covering issues that should have been
raised in the first set of motions.” United States v. Jones, 158
F.R.D. 309, 314 (D.N.J. 1994) (citing United States v. Torres,
Crim. No. 89-240 (D.N.J. March 30, 1990)). The Court may deny
reconsideration on this basis alone.
An accompanying order will be entered.
January 30, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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