United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
W. RICHARD DEIWERT, JR., Plaintiff,
CIGNA INSURANCE, Defendant.
ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings filed pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(c). (ECF No. 24.) Former Federal Express
Corporation (“FedEx”) employee, W. Richard
Deiwert, Jr. (“Dei-wert”), brought a state-law,
breach-of-contract claim against Defendant Cigna Health and
Life Insurance Company (“Cigna”). (ECF No. 1-2 at
3-4.) Cigna removed the action to this court, contending that
Plaintiff's claims are completely preempted by the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C.
§ 1001 et seq. (“ERISA”). Cigna
moves for judgment on the pleadings, and Deiwert offers no
response. For the following reasons, Cigna's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings is GRANTED.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for
judgment after the parties have filed a complaint and an
answer. Rule 12(c) motions are analyzed under the same
standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Silha v.
ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d 169, 173-74 (7th Cir.
2015); Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d
629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007); Frey v. Bank One, 91 F.3d
45, 46 (7th Cir. 1996). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must
allege facts that are “enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or
“formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of
action” are insufficient. Id. In other words,
the complaint must include “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th
Cir. 2009). To be facially plausible, the complaint must
allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
factual allegations in the complaint are viewed in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party; however, the court is
“not obliged to ignore any facts set forth in the
complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claim or to
assign any weight to unsupported conclusions of law.”
Id. (quoting R.J.R. Serv., Inc. v. Aetna Cas.
& Sur. Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989)).
Although courts may not typically consider evidence outside
the pleadings on a Rule 12(c) motion, they may consider
documents referenced in the complaint and central to the
plaintiff's claim without converting the motion to one
for summary judgment. Tierney v. Vahle, 304 F.3d
734, 738 (7th Cir. 2002). “When a complaint fails to
state a claim for relief, the plaintiff should ordinarily be
given an opportunity . . . to amend the complaint to correct
the problem if possible.” Bogie v. Rosenberg,
705 F.3d 603, 608 (7th Cir. 2013). Nonetheless, leave to
amend need not be given if the amended pleading would be
futile. See id.; Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S.
178, 182 (1962).
is a retired former FedEx employee who alleges that he
received Cigna health insurance as part of certain retiree
benefits “provided by FedEx.” (ECF No. 1-2 at 3,
¶ 2.) Deiwert was a participant in the FedEx Corporation
Retiree Group Health Plan (“RGHP” or the
“Plan”), which also provided coverage for his
wife. (Compl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 1-2 at 3.) The Plan's
summary document, portions of which Cigna attached to its
motion, defines (1) the Plan “Administrator” and
the “Company” as FedEx, (2) the
“Plan” as the FedEx Corporation Retiree Group
Health Plan, and (3) the “Claims Paying
Administrator” as Cigna. (ECF No. 25-1 at 7, 12.) In
addition, the Plan gave Cigna “discretionary authority
to determine eligibility for benefits and to construe the
terms of the FedEx Corporation Retiree Group Health
Plan.” (ECF No. 12 at 3, ¶¶ 6-7.)
alleges that between November 2014 and June 2017, FedEx
“withheld monthly payments from [his] retirement
benefits and [paid these] sums . . . to . . . Cigna.”
(ECF No. 1-2 at 3, ¶ 5.) Deiwert also alleges that
although $24, 560.00 in “[insurance coverage] premiums
were deducted from [his] retirement benefits[, ]” Cigna
refused to pay for one of his wife's medical procedures.
(ECF No. 1-2 at 3-4, ¶¶ 4-7.) Deiwert claims that
Cigna's refusal to pay constitutes a breach of contract
to provide medical coverage insurance and requests that the
Court direct Cigna to pay the outstanding medical claim
submitted by his wife's medical provider, Southern
Indiana Orthopedics. (ECF No. 1-2 at 4, ¶ 10.)
disputes that it is the proper defendant in this matter and
argues that Dei-wert “erroneously alleges he was
provided retiree health insurance through Cigna, ” when
Deiwert was actually a “participant in the FedEx . . .
Retiree Group Health Plan . . .” (ECF No. 25 at 1-2.)
Cigna further argues that because it is merely the
“claims paying administrator of the [Plan], ”
Deiwert cannot assert benefit claims against Cigna, and
instead must assert such claims against the Plan itself. (ECF
No. 25 at 2; ECF No. 12 at 3, ¶ 6.) Cigna answered
Deiwert's Complaint and asserted the affirmative defenses
that Deiwert failed to join the Plan as an indispensable
party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7) and that
Deiwert fails to state a claim because he failed to exhaust
his administrative remedies under ERISA before bringing the
present suit. (ECF No. 12 at 3, ¶¶ 2, 9.) Deiwert
failed to respond to Cigna's Rule 12(c) motion.
requests that this Court dismiss it from the present action
or dismiss Dei-wert's complaint, arguing that (1)
Deiwert's breach-of-contract claim is preempted by ERISA
and (2) Cigna is not a proper defendant under ERISA. Deiwert
failed to respond to Cigna's Motion, so he has waived any
argument in opposition to it. While the Court could grant
Cigna's Motion on this basis alone, it nonetheless
considers the merits of Cigna's argument. See
Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 721 (7th
Cir. 2011) (“Longstanding under our case law is the
rule that a person waives an argument by failing to make it
before the district court. We apply that rule . . . where a
litigant effectively abandons the litigation by not
responding to alleged deficiencies in a motion to
dismiss”) (citations omitted); Bonte v. U.S. Bank,
N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Failure
to respond to an argument-as the [plaintiffs] have done
here-results in waiver”).
claim fails because his state-law, breach-of-contract claim
is preempted by ERISA. Claims by a beneficiary for wrongful
denial of benefits, such as Deiwert's claim, “fall
[ ] directly under § 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA [29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(a)(1)(B)], which provides an exclusive federal
cause of action for resolution of such disputes.”
See Vallone v. CAN Fin. Corp., 375 F.3d
623, 638 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Metro. Life Ins. Co. v.
Taylor, 480 U.S. 58, 62-62 (1987)); see also Pilot
Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 42 (1987).
Indeed, “[a]ny state-law cause of action that
duplicates, supplements, or supplants ERISA civil enforcement
remedy conflicts with clear congressional intent to make
ERISA remedy exclusive, and is therefore pre-empted.”
Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200 (2004).
Deiwert's only recourse is to seek to recover benefits
under ERISA's exclusive cause of action, 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(1)(B). But his claim fails as an action under ERISA
on two counts. First, “in a suit for ERISA benefits,
the plaintiff is limited to a suit against the Plan.”
Mote v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 502 F.3d 601, 610 (7th
Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Blickenstaff v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. Short Term
Disability Plan, 378 F.3d 669, 674 (7th Cir. 2004)).
Here, Cigna is not the Plan. The Seventh Circuit has
recognized a narrow exception to this rule, allowing
plaintiffs to proceed against an employer where plan and
employer are closely intertwined. See Mein v.
Carus Corp., 241 F.3d 581, 584-85 (7th Cir. 2001)
(allowing plaintiff to sue employer to recover ERISA benefits
because employer and the plan were closely intertwined);
Riordan v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 128 F.3d 549,
551 (7th Cir. 1997) (permitting plaintiff to sue employer to
recover ERISA benefits because plan documents referred to
employer and plan interchangeably). But Cigna is not
Deiwert's employer, and there is no indication that Cigna
and the Plan are closely intertwined. Deiwert therefore
cannot maintain an ERISA suit against Cigna, and his claims
against Cigna are dismissed.
there is no indication that Deiwert has exhausted his
administrative remedies under ERISA. Thus, even if Deiwert
had timely amended his complaint to name the Plan as a
defendant, his complaint would be subject to dismissal
without prejudice to Deiwert exhausting his administrative
remedies under ERISA, or showing that such exhaustion would
be futile, before filing suit in this Court. See Robyns
v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 130 F.3d 1231, 1235
(7th Cir. 1997) (“a district court may properly require
the exhaustion of remedies before a plaintiff may file a
claim alleging the violation of an ERISA statutory
provision”); Lindemann v. Mobil Oil Corp., 79
F.3d 647, 650 (7th Cir. 1996) (In order to come under
futility exception to ...