Rodriguez v. Hartford Life And Accident Insurance Company
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 25 MOTION to Dismiss 24 Second Amended Complaint. (Signed by Judge Sim Lake) Parties notified.(gclair, 4)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTR ICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
May 17, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
RICARDO RODRIGUEZ and Al1
Others Sim ilarly Situated ,
CIVIL A CTION NO . H -16-3186
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT
MEMOKAHDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pehding before the court
') Docket Entry No.
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
For the reasons stated below, the
motion will be granted .
Factual and Procedural Backqround
Plaintiff, Ricardo Rodriguez, initiated this suit against
Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company
recover disability benefits under a policy Hartford issued to
Rodriguez's former emp loyer , Wal-Mart Stores, Inc . In his Second
Amended Complaint, Rodriguez has abandoned his benefits claim and
now seeks, on behalf of h imself and all others similarly situated ,
to have Hartford enjoined from imposing a contractual limitations
period on long-term disability claims shorter than that permitted
by Arkansas law and to reform Hartford 's Group Long Term Disability
Plan (nthe Policy' .
The Policy contains the following General
Legal action cannot be taken against (
1) sooner than 60 days after the date Proof of Loss is
given ; or
2) 3 years after the date written Proof of Loss is
required to be given according to the term s of The
5 1l32 ( 3), which empowers a plan participant, beneficiary, or
fiduciary to bring a civil action n(
enjoin any act or
practice wh ich violates any provision of this subchapter or the
terms of the Plan , or ( to obtain other appropriate equitable
to redress such violations or
provisions of this subchapter or the terms of the plan .' Rodriguez
also alleges a breach of '
fiduciary duty prem ised on the same
contractual limitations period .
Hartford has moved to dism iss
Rodriguez's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12( 6).
plaintiff 's legal theory is incorrect : 'When a complaint raises an
arguable question of law which the district court ultimately finds
lThe Policy , Exhibit A to Defendant 's Motion to Dismiss ,
Docket Entry No . 27-2, p . 19 .
Neitzke v . Williams ,
Rule 12 ( ( grounds is appropriate
1O9 S . Ct . 1827, 1833 (
' ( hen the allegations in a
complaint, however true , could not raise a claim of entitlement to
relief, this basic deficiency should
be exposed at the point
of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the
Bell Atlantic Corr . v . Twomb ly , 127
Ct . 1955, 1966
citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
111 . Application
Rodriguez advances claims for breach of fiduciary duty and
Employee Retirement Income Security Act violations premised on the
invalidity of the Policy 's contractual limitations period . Because
the court concludes that the Arkansas statute at issue does not
apply to policies which , like Hartford's Policy , do not insure
property or life , Rodriguez's claims fail.
The court therefore
does not reach the parties' remaining arguments .
limitation on legal actions is void because it requ ires that an
action on the Policy be brought within a shorter time than the
statutory five-year limitations period mandated by Arkansas Code
5 23-79-202, which states :
( An action may be maintained in the courts of this
state by an insured or any other person on his or her
behalf to recover on any claim or loss arising under a
policy of insurance on property or life against the
insurer issuing the policy or against the sureties on any
bond filed by the insurer as a cond ition precedent to its
right to do business in this state , at any time within
the period prescribed by 1aw for bringing actions on
prom ises in writing .
b) Any stipulation or provision in the policy or
contract requiring the action to be brought within any
shorter time or be barred is void .
Hartford argues that the statute does not apply to its disability
policy because the statute is plainly limited to policies of
insurance on uproperty or life ,' categories which do not apply to
the Policy . See Dodqe v . Hartford Life and A ccident Insurance Co .,
2017 WL 412633, at *2 ( . . Ark. Jan . 30, 2017) (
23-79-202 4 did not apply to disability policies based on the
plain language of the statute).
Rodriguez responds that the Arkansas Supreme Court has held
that in uan action by an insured against the insurer to recover a
claim arising under a policy of insurance
statute of limitations applies .' shelter Mutual Insurance Co . v .
Nash, l84 S.
W.3d 425, 428 (
2004). The trial court in Shelter held
that the five-year lim itations period for actions arising under
contracts, Arkansas Code 5 16-56-111, rather than the three -year
limitations period on tort actions , applied to an action on an
underinsured motorist insurance policy .
Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed .
Id . at 426-27 .
Id . at 426 .
In addition to
holding that the limitations period for contracts was correctly
applied, the Arkansas Supreme Court referenced 5 23-79-202(
noting that the claim arose under a policy of insurance .
Id . at
Rodriguez argues that the language in Shelter supports his
position that 5 23-79-202 applies to any claim arising under a
policy of insurance .
The court disagrees.
motorist provision at issue in Shelter was part of an automobile
policy , wh ich is a policy on property .
23-79-202 applies to such policies .
involve a contractually
is undisputed that
Moreover , Shelter did not
limitations period . Because
neither the parties nor the court in Shelter raised the issue of
the scope of 5 23-79-202 , the broad language in Shelter that
Rodriguez relies on offers no guidance on the scope of the statute
in the present case .
Rodriguez argues that cases like Dodqe , in which the district
court determ ined that 5 23-79-202 does not apply to disability
policies, are not persuasive because they do not follow the Shelter
holding .z The court d isagrees for reasons stated above and finds
Dodqe persuasive . But ev en without the benefit of Dodqe , the court
would reach the same interpretation of the statute . Under Arkansas
law, ' iqf the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous and
conveys a clear and definite meaning ,
is unnecessary to resort
to the rules of statutory interpretation .' Simpson v . Cavalry SPV
1, LLC, 440 S. .
W 3d 335, 338 (
citing Brown v . State,
W.3d 288 (
The Arkansas Supreme Court 'construes
Doc 27J, Docket Entry No. 31, pp . 5-6.
insignificant , and .
gives meaning and effect to every word in
Id . (
citing Calaway v. Practice
Manaqement Services, Incw
2010 Ark. 432).
unambiguously states that
applies to actions on Apolic l
insurance on property or life .' The phrase 'on property or life'
clearly limits the statute 's application .
construction , that the statute applies to all insurance policies ,
wou ld render the qualifying language superfluous .3
IV . Conclusion and Order
Rodriguez has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted . Defendant 's Motion to Dism iss Plaintiff 's Second Amended
Docket Entry No. 25) is therefore GRANTED, and this
action will be DISMISSED with prejudice.
SIGNED at Houston , Texas, on this the 17th day of May , 2017 .
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
3Because Rodriguez 's Second Amended Complaint seeks only an
injunction and reformation of the Policy, the court need not
address whether his earlier claims would be time-barred or whether
he lacks standing to sue for breach of fiduciary duty on behalf of
himself or any purported class .
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