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Brown v. Rawlings Financial Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 30, 2016





         Plaintiff, Jennifer L. Brown, sued Defendants, The Rawlings Company, LLC (improperly named Rawlings Financial Services, LLC in the state court action, hereinafter “Rawlings”), Aetna, Inc. and William W. Backus Hospital, alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1331 et seq. Brown's Complaint has three counts, each of them alleging an identical violation of ERISA's disclosure requirement, 29 U.S.C. 1132(c), on the part of one of the three defendants. Compl. Counts 1-3, ¶¶1-16, ECF No. 1-1.

         Ms. Brown initially brought her case in Connecticut Superior Court and Rawlings removed the case to this Court. All of the defendants then filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.


         Ms. Brown is a participant in the Benefit Plan (the “Plan”), which provides healthcare benefits to employees of Backus Hospital. Compl., Ct. 1, ¶4. In 2012, Ms. Brown filed a lawsuit for injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in 2010. Compl. Cts. 1- 3, ¶3. After Ms. Brown initiated this lawsuit, Rawlings sent Ms. Brown a notice of subrogation interest/health insurance lien for payment of certain medical expenses relating to the 2010 accident. Id. at ¶¶7-8.

         Ms. Brown, through her counsel, sent a request to Rawlings for Plan information on Dec. 13, 2012. Id. at ¶5. Ms. Brown sent two additional requests for Plan information to Rawlings, on June 13, 2013 and July 8, 2014. Id. at ¶¶5-6. On January 15, 2015, Rawlings responded in part to Ms. Brown's request. Id. at ¶¶10-11. Rawlings provided a complete copy of the Plan documents on February 17, 2015. Id.

         Ms. Brown alleges that Rawlings violated ERISA's disclosure requirement, which makes any “plan administrator” who fails or refuses to respond to a request from plan participants or beneficiaries about their health plan personally liable for statutory damages. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1); Compl. Ct. 1, ¶16. She claims that the remaining defendants are similarly liable because Rawlings was acting as an agent, servant or employee of these defendants. Id. at Cts. 1-3, ¶5.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is facially plausible if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, a complaint must offer more than “labels and conclusions, ” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007).

         The Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir. 2007), and generally may consider only “the facts as asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference.” McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007).

         ERISA gives benefit plan participants a cause of action for failure to respond to requests for information, but does not provide a statute of limitations for such claims. 29 U.S.C § 1132(a)(1)(A); Harless v. Research Inst. of Am., 1 F.Supp.2d 235, 239 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). For this reason, the Court should apply the most analogous state statute of limitations from the state in which the court sits. Miles v. New York State Teamsters Conference, 698 F.2d 593, 598 (2d Cir. 1983) (“As ERISA does not prescribe a limitations period for actions under §1132, the controlling limitations period is that specified in the most nearly analogous state limitations statute”). The parties disagree about the appropriate state statute of limitations that the Court should apply in this case.


         Ms. Brown seeks penalties against the Plan's Administrator under ERISA § 502(c) (“Section 502(c)”), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1), which provides for penalties of up to $110 per day to punish plan administrators for failing to comply with a plan participant's request for certain plan documents within thirty days.[1] ...

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