United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.
Carol Forester Innes filed this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461, claiming that the defendants failed to pay retirement benefits to which she was entitled. The defendants moved to dismiss this claim on the ground that Innes failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the defendants' motion.
Innes was employed by Barclays American Corporation from July 16, 1979 to March 31, 1981. She then worked for Barclays Commercial Corporation from April 1, 1981 to March 1, 1994. "As a senior member of the management teams at Barclays American Corporation and Barclays Commercial Corporation, Plaintiff's total compensation and collective years of service qualified her to be vested in two retirement plans, the Restated Retirement Plan of Barclays American Corporation ("Restated Retirement Plan") and the Barclays American Corporation Retirement Restoration Plan ("Retirement Restoration Plan")." Compl. ¶ 10, Docket No. 1.
In May of 1994, Innes received a letter regarding her deferred vested pension benefits under the Plans. The letter indicated that Innes would receive a monthly payment in the amount of $2, 804.58 under the Restated Retirement Plan, and a monthly payment in the amount of $1, 585.84 under the Retirement Restoration Plan, beginning on December 1, 2013. Three months later, Innes received a revised letter concerning her pension benefits, which "omit[ted] the [monthly] benefit previously promised... from the [Retirement] Restoration Plan." Compl. ¶ 12. The letter indicated that "[t]he current value of [her] Restoration Plan benefit in the amount of $101.20 [would] be paid in the form of a total lump sum distribution cash-out." Defs.' Ex. C-2, Docket No. 7-3.
On or about September 13, 2013, Innes received a letter from Barclays Pension Service Center that included various forms for her to complete in order to begin receiving pension benefits effective December 1, 2013. The letter referenced the monthly benefits that she was eligible to receive under the Restated Retirement Plan, but did not refer to any benefits due under the Retirement Restoration Plan.
On September 20, 2013, Innes, by her attorney, forwarded the Barclays Pension Service Center a letter requesting copies of the Restated Retirement Plan and the Retirement Restoration Plan. The letter also requested an explanation of Innes' pension benefits, including any benefits under the Retirement Restoration Plan. After Innes failed to receive a response to the letter, her attorney sent a second letter in October of 2013, reiterating the requests made in the earlier letter.
On November 22, 2013, having received no response to either letter, Innes submitted her completed application for benefits under the Restated Retirement Plan. Innes indicated that she was "expressly reserving all rights to pursue her entitlement to benefits that she was promised under the Retirement Restoration Plan in May 1994." Compl. ¶ 20.
In February of 2014, Innes received two checks for monthly benefits to which she was entitled under the Restated Retirement Plan. As of the date her complaint was executed, "no payment ha[d] been made... under the Retirement Restoration Plan." Id . ¶ 22.
Innes filed the instant action on March 5, 2014, alleging, inter alia, that the defendants improperly failed to pay benefits due under the Retirement Restoration Plan. On July 1, 2014, the defendants moved to dismiss this claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), based in part upon the plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The court held a hearing on the defendants' motion on October 16, 2014. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.
Standard of Review
"The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To survive a motion to dismiss filed under this rule, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider exhibits attached to or referred to in the complaint. See Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir. 1991); Phillips v. LCI Int'l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999).
With few exceptions, "[a]n ERISA welfare benefit plan participant must both pursue and exhaust plan remedies before gaining access to the federal courts." Gayle v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 401 F.3d 222, 226 (4th Cir. 2005); see also Makar v. Health Care Corp., 872 F.2d 80, 82 (4th Cir. 1989) (exhaustion of administrative remedies is "a prerequisite to an ERISA action for denial of benefits"). Courts require exhaustion of administrative remedies "to help reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits under ERISA; to promote the consistent treatment of claims for benefits; to provide a nonadversarial method of claims settlement; and to minimize the costs of claims settlement for all concerned." Harrow v. Prudential Ins. Co., 279 F.3d 244, 249 (3d Cir. 2002). "Exhaustion also enables plan fiduciaries to efficiently manage their funds; correct their errors; interpret plan provisions; and assemble a factual record which will assist a court in reviewing the ...