Smith et al v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company
ORDER denying as moot 5 Motion to Dismiss and denying 13 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Plaintiffs' demand for a jury trial is STRIKEN. Signed by Senior Judge W. Earl Britt on 5/3/2017. (Marsh, K)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
FREDERICK E. SMITH and BETH SMITH,
RELIANCE STANDARD LIFE INSURANCE
This matter is before the court on defendant Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company’s
motions to dismiss. (DE ## 5, 13.) Plaintiff filed a response to the motions. (DE # 17.)
Defendant did not file a reply, and the time within which to do so has expired.
On 5 January 2017, plaintiffs Frederick E. Smith and Beth Smith filed this action in
North Carolina state court, alleging state law claims arising out of defendant’s denial of longterm disability benefits for plaintiff Frederick E. Smith and waiver of life insurance policy
premiums for the benefit of plaintiff Beth Smith. (DE # 1-1.) On 31 January 2017, defendant
removed the action to this court and filed its initial motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant contends that plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed
because the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et
seq., completely preempts plaintiffs’ state law claims.
On 9 February 2017, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. (DE # 12.) They
incorporated by reference the factual allegations and claims in the original complaint and added a
claim alleging violations of ERISA. On 1 March 2017, defendant filed a second motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). In this motion, defendant requests that the court dismiss the
action in its entirety, claiming that plaintiffs have failed to state a viable claim under ERISA and
incorporating by reference the arguments made in its initial motion to dismiss and supporting
memorandum. However, in its memorandum in support of the motion, defendant argues only for
the dismissal of plaintiffs’ state law claims incorporated by reference in the amended complaint
and for the striking of plaintiffs’ jury trial demand. (See DE # 14.) Therefore, the court
considers whether plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged their state law claims and whether their
demand for a jury trial should be stricken.
The filing of the amended complaint moots defendant’s initial motion to dismiss. See
Dykes v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 306 F.R.D. 529, 530 (E.D. Va. 2015) (“It is well
settled that an amended pleading supersedes the original, and motions directed at superseded
pleadings must be denied as moot.” (citations omitted)). As for defendant’s second motion to
Plaintiffs concede that their state law claims are governed, and preempted, by
ERISA, but respectfully contend that said claims should not be dismissed; rather,
they should be treated as federal ERISA claims so as to preserve the factual
allegations upon which the state law claims (and, through incorporation thereof,
Plaintiffs’ ERISA claims) are based.
(Resp., DE # 17, at 3.) Also, plaintiffs do not object to the striking of their jury trial demand.
(Id. at 6.)
Accordingly, defendant’s initial motion to dismiss is DENIED as moot. Plaintiffs have
failed to sufficiently allege any claim under state law. However, rather than dismissing
plaintiffs’ state law claims, the court deems them claims under ERISA, see Darcangelo v.
Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 292 F.3d 181, 195 (4th Cir. 2002) (“[W]hen a claim under state law is
completely preempted and is removed to federal court because it falls within the scope of § 502,
[29 U.S.C. § 1132, ERISA’s civil enforcement provision,] the federal court should not dismiss
the claim as preempted, but should treat it as a federal claim under § 502.”), and defendant’s
second motion to dismiss is therefore DENIED. Plaintiffs’ demand for a jury trial is STRIKEN.
This 3 May 2017.
W. Earl Britt
Senior U.S. District Judge
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?