United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Defendant's, Central
States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
[ECF No. 13], the Plaintiff's, Jimella Harris, Motion for
Judgment of Partial Findings [ECF No. 21], and the
Plaintiff's Request for Sanctions [ECF No. 20].
Plaintiff was married to a participant in the Defendant's
pension plan from August 25, 1995 to August 27, 2003.
(Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1.) After the Plaintiff
became aware that her ex-husband retired from the
Defendant's employ, she contacted the Defendant on August
23, 2004 to state that she was entitled to her
ex-husband's pension. (Id. ¶ 8.) The
Plaintiff claimed her divorce decree from the Allen County
Superior Court entitled her to her ex-husband's pension.
The Plaintiff requested a lump sum payment of the money owed
and verification of her beneficiary status. (Id. at
September 14, 2004, the Defendant informed the Plaintiff that
she was not entitled to benefits from the Defendant.
(Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 4, ECF No.
14.) The Defendant stated that the Plaintiff's divorce
decree was not a Qualified Domestic Relations Order
(QDRO) and a QDRO was needed because her
ex-husband's pension was an ERISA regulated plan.
(Id.) The Plaintiff would not be an alternate payee
entitled to pension benefits until the Defendant received a
QDRO. The Defendant then explained the requirements for a
QDRO to the Plaintiff. (Id.)
Plaintiff obtained a QDRO until May 2008. (Pl.'s Compl.
¶ 9.) On June 14, 2008, the Plaintiff sent the Defendant
two versions of domestic relations orders, which she
requested the Defendant qualify as QDROs. (Def.'s Reply
to Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Findings at 3, ECF No. 30.) On
June 10, 2008, the Defendant informed the Plaintiff it had
received the two proposed QDROs and informed her that it
would establish an escrow account for up to 18 months to
determine whether the parties were able to submit an order
that the Defendant considered a QDRO. (Id. at 4.) On
September 17, 2008, the Defendant received a letter from the
Plaintiff, which requested that the Defendant discontinue the
escrow account established pursuant to the June 10, 2008
letter “because the May 22, 2008 Court Order was not
submitted as a QDRO.” (Id.) On September 18,
2008, the Defendant informed the Plaintiff's ex-husband
that it would release the escrowed amounts. (Id.)
The Defendant received a signed and notarized statement from
both the Plaintiff and her ex-husband that requested the
release of the escrowed amounts. (Id.) The
Defendants ultimately determined that the remaining proposed
QDRO was defective. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to
Dismiss at 6.)
Plaintiff's ex-husband died in November 2008 (Pl.'s
Compl. at 75) and the Plaintiff appealed the denial of
benefits in 2009. (Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Mot. for
Partial Findings at 6.) The Defendant advised the Plaintiff
on June 17, 2009 that she was not eligible to receive any
pension benefit and the proposed QDROs were defective.
(Id.) The Defendant determined that the Plaintiff
was not eligible for a surviving spouse benefit because she
was not married to her ex-husband at the time of his death.
Since she had not submitted a QDRO assigning her surviving
spouse rights and the Plaintiff's Decree of Dissolution
of Marriage did not constitute a QDRO, she was not eligible
for a surviving spouse benefit. (Id.) The Plaintiff
later had a new proposed domestic relations order that could
have qualified as a QDRO, but the Defendant needed a
certified copy of the signed order entered by the Court.
(Id.) The Defendant never received such an order.
Plaintiff requested that the Defendant reopen her appeal in
2018. On January 4, 2018, the Defendant informed the
Plaintiff that while her appeal had been denied on June 9,
2009, it would review new information provided.
(Id.) The Plaintiff, however, failed to provide any
new information and the Defendant denied her request to
reopen her 2009 appeal. (Id.) On February 1, 2018,
the Plaintiff submitted an appeal in the administrative
appeal process, which the Defendant's Benefit Claims
Appeals Committee denied on March 21, 2018. (Id.)
The Plaintiff then appealed to the Trustees and her appeal
was denied again. (Id.)
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint [ECF No. 1]
and Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis [ECF No. 2]
on September 11, 2018. The Plaintiff lists several causes of
action but all her arguments center around her claim that the
Defendant breached its fiduciary duty to her as she was a
beneficiary to the Defendant's plan. (Pl.'s Compl.
¶ 11.) The Plaintiff also alleges that there was willful
concealment of material information on two fronts: (i) the
Defendant willfully concealed its possession of the
Plaintiff's divorce decree; and (ii) failed to notify the
Plaintiff of the pension plan procedures. (Id.
¶¶ 13-14, 23(A)-(B).) Finally, the Plaintiff argues
that the Defendant withheld $4, 000 in an escrow fund for the
Plaintiff and then required the funds to be returned to the
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 20.)
November 16, 2018, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss
[ECF No. 13] pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2) and 12(b)(6). First, the Defendant contends that the
Plaintiff's Complaint failed to present a short and plain
statement of her claim showing that she is entitled to relief
pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2). (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to
Dismiss at 1.) Second, the Defendant argues that the
Plaintiff's claims are barred by the three-year statute
of limitations for fiduciary breaches. (Id.) The
Plaintiff filed a response [ECF No. 19], the Defendant filed
a reply [ECF No. 24], the Plaintiff filed a sur-response [ECF
No. 26], and the Defendant filed an additional reply [ECF No.
November 26, 2018, the Plaintiff filed a Request for
Sanctions [ECF No. 20] and a Motion for Judgment on Partial
Findings [ECF No. 21]. The Plaintiff requests sanctions
against the Defendant for failure to provide timely service
and requests that the Court order that all future copies of
filings are sent via express mail. (Pl.'s Mot for
Sanctions at 1-2.) In her Motion for Judgment on Partial
Findings, the Plaintiff argues that the Defendant should pay
$4, 000 due to loss of funds as a direct result of the
Defendant's errors. (Pl.'s Mot. for J. on Partial
Findings at 1-2.) The Defendant filed a response [ECF No. 28]
to the Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on Partial
Findings and the Plaintiff filed a reply [ECF No. 30].
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” This
pleading standard “does not require ‘detailed
factual allegations,' but it demands more than an
accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “A pleading that offers
‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint does not
suffice “if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]'
devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
12(b)(6) “challenges the viability of a complaint by
arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers,
Inc.,761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court
presumes that all well-pleaded allegations are true, views
these well-pleaded allegations in the light most favorable to
the Plaintiff, and accepts as true all reasonable inferences
that may be drawn from the allegations. Whirlpool Fin.
Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc.,67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir
1995). The Complaint need not contain detailed facts, but
surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion “requires more than
labels and conclusions . . . . Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “A
claim has facial ...