United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. ADAMS JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim (Doc. # 10) filed by Defendant,
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”).
For the reasons that follow, MetLife's motion is GRANTED
for failure to state a claim.
Factual and Procedural History
basic facts underlying MetLife's motion are
straightforward and not in dispute. Darrell S. Ross is
deceased. During his life Mr. Ross was employed by
FirstEnergy Corporation. Doc. # 1-1, ¶ 3. As a benefit
of employment, Mr. Ross was issued an insurance policy by
MetLife through his employer, FirstEnergy Corp. Doc. # 1-1,
¶ 8. The copy of the FirstEnergy Employee Compensation
and Benefits Handbook attached to the Complaint informs
employees of their Group Life Insurance Plan rights under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”), the option to file in federal court,
and contact information for the Department of Labor for any
questions about ERISA rights. Doc. # 1-1, p. 26. Also
attached to the Complaint is a beneficiary designation form
identifying Laura A. Slivers as the sole beneficiary of
Darrell S. Ross's Life Insurance Plan. Doc. #1-1, p. 31.
The form appears to have been executed by Darrell S. Ross on
April 23, 2007. Doc. #1-1, p. 31. Plaintiff, Darrell Cain,
believes he, not Laura A. Slivers, is the intended
beneficiary of the policy. Mr. Cain brought suit in Cuyahoga
Common Pleas Court seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to
O.R.C. Chapter 2721 establishing his right to the proceeds of
the policy. MetLife and FirstEnergy removed the complaint to
this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) because the
subject matter of the action is an ERISA-regulated employee
welfare benefit plan. MetLife now seeks dismissal of this
action because ERISA preempts state law remedies for
regulated plans. MetLife also seeks dismissal with prejudice
for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Mr. Cain
agrees that the FirstEnergy Corporation Group Life Insurance
Plan is governed by ERISA. Doc. #11, p. 8.
Legal Standard and Analysis
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is “appropriate when
a plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” When evaluating a motion to dismiss under the
rule a district court assumes the factual allegations in the
complaint are true and “‘draw[s] all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff.'” Bassett
v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d
426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Directv, Inc. v.
Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). In so doing,
the court “may consider the Complaint and any exhibits
attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the
record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant's
motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the
Complaint and are central to the claims contained
therein.” Id. “‘As a general rule,
matters outside the pleadings may not be considered in ruling
on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss unless the motion is
converted to one for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
56.'” In re Fair Finance Co., 834 F.3d
651, 656 fn. 1 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Jackson v. City
of Columbus, 194 F.3d 737, 745 (6th Cir. 1999)).
asserts and Mr. Cain does not meaningfully dispute that the
decedent's FirstEnergy Corp. Group Life Insurance Plan
meets the definition of a “welfare benefit plan”
as set forth in 29 U.S.C. §1002 (1) and § 1003
§ 1002 (1) The terms “employee welfare benefit
plan” and “welfare plan” mean any plan,
fund, or program which was heretofore or is hereafter
established or maintained by an employer or by an employee
organization, or by both, to the extent that such plan, fund,
or program was established or is maintained for the purpose
of providing for its participants or their beneficiaries,
through the purchase of insurance or otherwise, (A) medical,
surgical, or hospital care or benefits, or benefits in the
event of sickness, accident, disability, death or
unemployment, or vacation benefits, apprenticeship or other
training programs, or day care centers, scholarship funds, or
prepaid legal services, or (B) any benefit described in
section 186(c) of this title (other than pensions on
retirement or death, and insurance to provide such pensions).
[. . .]
§ 1003. Coverage [. . .] this subchapter shall apply to
any employee benefit plan if it is established or maintained
- (1) by an employer engaged om commerce or in any industry
or activity affecting commerce; or (2) by any employee
organization or organizations representing employees engaged
in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting
commerce; or (3) by both.
such, the plan at issue in this matter is governed by ERISA
which was enacted “to ‘protect . . . the
interests of participants in employee benefit plans and their
beneficiaries' by setting out substantive regulatory
requirements for employee benefit plans and to ‘provide
for appropriate remedies, sanctions, and ready access to the
Federal courts.'” Aetna Health, Inc. v.
Davila, 542 U.S. 200, 208 (2004) quoting 29 U.S.C.
§ 1001(b). The United States Supreme Court further
explains: “[t]he purpose of ERISA is to provide a
uniform regulatory regime over employee benefit plans. To
this end, ERISA includes expansive preemption provisions . .
. which are intended to ensure that employee benefit plan
regulation would be ‘exclusively a federal
concern.'” Id. (quoting Alessi v.
Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 451 U.S. 504, 523 (1981)).
Consequently, “any state-law cause of action that
duplicates, supplements, or supplants the ERISA civil
enforcement remedy conflicts with the clear congressional
intent to make the ERISA remedy exclusive and is therefore
true even where a state law “can arguably be
characterized as ‘regulating insurance'” if
the state law “provides a separate vehicle to assert a
claim for benefits outside of, or in addition to, ERISA's
remedial scheme.” Davila, 542 U.S. at 217-18.
Although Mr. Cain acknowledges that ERISA governs the plan at
issue, he contends that the Court should proceed with his
declaratory judgment action under O.R.C. Chapter 2721 but
apply federal law as though the claim were made under ERISA.
However, he did not plead and has not sought to amend his
pleading to indicate that he has satisfied the ERISA
exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement prior to
filing suit. Coomer v. Bethesda Hosp., Inc., 370
F.3d 499, 504 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Miller v.
Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 925 F.2d 979, 986 (6th Cir.
1991) “[t]he administrative scheme of ERISA requires a
participant to exhaust his or her administrative remedies
prior to commencing suit in federal court.”). Thus,
were the Court to construe Mr. Cain's stated claim as he
wishes, it would remain unavailing. See Doran v. Joy
Global, 183 F.Supp.3d 891 (E.D. Tenn. 2016). Where, as
here, Congress has specified an exclusive avenue for remedy a
prayer for relief under an alternate authority is
insufficient to state a cause of action and must be
dismissed. Gardner v. Heartland Indus. Partners, LP,
715 F.3d 609 (6th Cir. 2013). Accordingly, MetLife's
motion to dismiss is GRANTED as to Mr. Cain's failure to
state a claim on which relief can be granted.
addition to seeking dismissal for failure to state a claim,
MetLife also seeks dismissal with prejudice for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies and cites a number of cases
in which such relief was granted upon motions for summary
judgment. See Harris v. Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc.,
438 F.Supp.2d 7285 (E.D. Ky. 2006). Having resolved the
matter pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6), the Court
declines to create a new issue for resolution by adding
material to the record. Accordingly, MetLife's motion to
dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is