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Wertheim v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 16, 2017

EUNICE WERTHEIM, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          DONALD C. NUGENT United Stales District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant's, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's (hereafter "MetLife"), Motion to Dismiss Count Two of Plaintiffs Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF #9). Plaintiff, Eunice Wertheim (hereafter "Ms. Wertheim"), filed an Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (ECF #14), and MetLife filed a Reply brief. (ECF #15). After careful consideration of the briefs and all relevant authority, MetLife's Motion to Dismiss Count Two of Plaintiffs Complaint is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Ms. Wertheim is the surviving spouse and designated beneficiary of Richard A. Wertheim (the "Decedent"). (ECF #1, ¶ 3). On November 27, 2015, the Decedent sustained a head injury which caused paralysis and a subdural hematoma. (Id. at ¶¶ 12 and 14). The Decedent died as a result of these injuries on December 5, 2015.

         The Decedent was a federal employee working for the Internal Revenue Service at the time of his death, and was covered for life insurance benefits under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program (hereafter "FEGLI"). (Id. at ¶¶ 12 and 61). Claims for FEGLI benefits are submitted to the Office of the Federal Employees Benefit Group Life Insurance ("OFEGLI"), which is ''an office of MetLife." (Id. at ¶ 7). On January 4, 2016, MetLife was notified of the Decedent's passing. (Id. at ¶ 21).

         At the time of filing the Complaint, MetLife had not fully paid the benefits available to Plaintiff pursuant to Mr. Werthemr's FEGLI Contract (hereafter the "Contract"). (See ECF #9, p.4 and Ex. A). Plaintiff alleged in the Complaint Breach of Contract (Count One) against all Defendants and Bad Faith (Count Two) against MetLife only.

         MetLife asks this Court to dismiss Count Two of the Complaint.

         II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         In considering a motion to dismiss brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), this Court must accept all material allegations contained in the complaint as true, and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Top Flight Ent., Ltd. v. Schuette, 729 F.3d 623, 630 (6th Cir. 2013); Bishop v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., 520 F.3d 516, 519 (6th Cir. 2008). To survive a motion to dismiss, a "complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations with respect to all material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Mezibov v. Allen, 411 F.3d 712, 716 (6th Cir. 2005). Conclusory allegations or legal conclusions cloaked as factual allegations will not suffice to survive a motion to dismiss. Id.

         A complaint containing a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion of a legally cognizable right of action is insufficient; "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007); see also Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007). A complaint must be facially plausible, containing "sufficient factual matter ... to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         B. Dismissal of Count Two

         MetLife argues that the bad faith claim should be dismissed because it is preempted by federal law. Section 8709(d)(1) of the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act ("FEGLIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 8701 et seq., provides that the provision of the insurance Contract "shall supercede and preempt any law of any state ... which relates to group life insurance to the extent that the law or regulation is inconsistent with the contractual provisions."

         The Contract also contains a preemption clause, which provides that "the Act, Regulations, and this Contract supercede and preempt any law or regulation of any State which relates to the provision and administration of group life insurance." (ECF #8-1, Sec. 1.3(d)). Other relevant language within the Contract limits the damages, fees and other monies recoverable in any lawsuit involving the FEGLI program. Specifically, Section 1.17 of the Contract states that "the claimant will be limited in the amount of recovery to the benefit that would be payable" under the program, and that "no extra-contractual, punitive, compensatory, consequential damages, or attorney's fees shall be recoverable under the FEGLI ...


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