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Smith v. Iron Workers District Council of Southern Ohio & Vicinity Pension Trust

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 26, 2018

DEBORAH SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
IRON WORKERS DISTRICT COUNCIL OF SOUTHERN OHIO & VICINITY PENSION TRUST and GARLAND SMITH, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to File Amended Complaint [DE 28], filed by Plaintiff Deborah Smith[1] on December 19, 2017. Defendant Iron Workers District Council of Southern Ohio & Vicinity Pension Trust (the “Fund”) filed a response on December 21, 2017. Smith filed a reply on December 28, 2017. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Smith originally brought her claims in a Third Party Complaint filed on August 3, 2017, in Whitley County, Indiana, Circuit Court. Smith alleges that she was injured by and is entitled to relief because of the Fund's actions taken in regard to Domestic Relations Orders, which were issued by the state court in dissolution of marriage proceedings and which awarded to Smith a percentage of the monthly pension payments that her ex-husband receives from the Fund.

         The Fund removed the Third Party Complaint to this Court on August 25, 2017. On August 31, 2017, the Fund filed a Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record, a Motion to Transfer Venue, and its Answer to Smith's Complaint. The Motion to Transfer Venue became fully briefed. Smith did not respond to the Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record before her deadline to do so expired.

         The Fund requested a status conference regarding the unopposed Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record, indicating that it might consider withdrawing its Motion to Transfer Venue if the Court deemed the Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record ripe for ruling. On November 17, 2017, the Court denied the request for a status conference and indicated that the response deadline for the Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record had passed. The Fund filed a Motion to Withdraw the Motion to Transfer Venue on the same day. The Court granted that motion. Approximately one month later, Smith filed the instant Motion to File Amended Complaint.

         Smith brings two claims in the original complaint. Count I is titled “Equitable Relief” and cites no specific legal authority under which it is brought, and Count II brings a tort claim of conversion pursuant to Indiana Code 34-24-3-1. Smith seeks to bring four claims in the proposed amended complaint. Count I alleges a claim for benefits under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), Count II requests equitable relief under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), Count III-the only claim brought against proposed new Defendant Board of Trustees of the Iron Workers District Council of Southern Ohio & Vicinity Pension Trust-alleges a breach of fiduciary duty under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2), and Count IV brings the same claim of conversion pursuant to Indiana Code 34-24-3-1 brought in Count II of the original complaint.

         ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that, in the procedural posture of the instant case, a party “may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave” and that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The United States Supreme Court has explained that “freely give” means that a court should not deny leave to file an amended complaint in the absence of any apparent or declared reasons, “such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Bausch v. Stryker Corp., 630 F.3d 546, 562 (7th Cir. 2010). The decision whether to grant or deny a motion to amend lies within the sound discretion of the district court. See Campbell v. Ingersoll Milling Mach. Co., 893 F.2d 925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990).

         Smith states that she “seeks leave to file the Amended Complaint to make a claim for breach of fiduciary duty . . . .” (Pl.'s Br. 3, ECF No. 29). She further clarifies that she believes that she “should be granted leave to make all claims available to her under [29] U.S.C. § 1132, and not only those available under Indiana state law or [29] U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B).” Id. In response to Smith's motion, the Fund argues that Smith should not be granted leave to amend because the proposed amended complaint is futile, redundant, and brought in bad faith and would cause undue prejudice and delay. The Court addresses these arguments below.

         A. Futility and Redundancy

         The standard for futility is the same standard of legal sufficiency that applies under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Townsel v. DISH Network LLC, 668 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 2012); Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1085 (7th Cir. 1997). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint must first comply with Rule 8(a) by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). Second, the “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1082 (7th Cir. 2008).

         1. Count I - Claim for Benefits & Count II - Equitable Relief

         In the proposed amended complaint, Count I and Count II are brought on allegations that were part of Count I in the original complaint. The proposed Count I alleges a claim for benefits under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), and the proposed ...


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