United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MARSHA W. BATTEN, Plaintiff,
AETNA LIFE INSURANCE CO., Defendant.
HANNAH LAUCK JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Aetna Life
Insurance Company's ("Aetna") Motion to
Partially Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint ("Partial Motion
to Dismiss") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (ECF No. 3.) Plaintiff Marsha Batten
("Batten") has responded to the Partial Motion to
Dismiss. (ECF No. 5.) Aetna has not replied, and the time to
do so has expired. The Court dispenses with oral argument
because the materials before the Court adequately present the
facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the
decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court will grant Defendant's
Partial Motion to Dismiss.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C.
v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. applicability of
defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin,
980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5 A Charles A.
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion
to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs
well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint
is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th
Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This
principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and
"a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to
begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[ ] only 'a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give
the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'" BellAtl Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (omission in original)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints
containing only "labels and conclusions" or a
"formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a
plaintiff must assert facts that rise above speculation and
conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is
"plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570;
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Therefore, in
order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for
failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege
facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her
claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours &
Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citations
Factual and Procedural Background
Summary of Allegations in Batten's
Marsha Batten formerly worked for Bank of America as a
Customer Relations Manager. (Compl. ¶ 7.) During her
employment there, Batten enrolled in the Bank of America Long
Term Group Disability Insurance Policy ("Disability
Policy"). (Compl. ¶ 3.) Defendant Aetna underwrote
the plan and served as its Claims Administrator. (Compl.
¶¶ 3, 4.)
the Disability Policy, you are disabled if "[y]ou are
not able to perform the material duties of your own
occupation solely because of: disease or injury; and
[y]our work earnings are 80% or less of your adjusted
predisability earnings." (Compl. ¶ 8 (emphasis
added).) After the first 18 months, the Disability Policy
provides that "you will be deemed to be disabled on any
day if you are not able to work at any reasonable
occupation solely because of: Disease; or Injury."
(Id. (emphasis added).)
suffers from a variety of physical and mental ailments.
(Compl. ¶ 9.) On April 13, 2011, Batten received a
diagnosis of cervical disk herniation with low-grade
myelopathy. (Compl. ¶ 9.) On June 27, 2011, she suffered
from ongoing cervical disk disease with radiculopathy and
evidence of possible median nerve compression at the wrist.
(Id.) Batten also suffered from morbid obesity and
used narcotics regularly to control pain. (Id.) On
March 18, 2012, the Social Security Administration indicated
that it deemed Batten disabled as of October 4, 2010. (Compl.
January 4, 2010, Batten stopped working for Bank of America
because of various health problems. (Compl. ¶ 10.) She
applied for and received long-term disability benefits from
Aetna from April 4, 2011, until October 3, 2012. (Compl.
¶¶ 10, 12.) On October 4, 2012, Aetna terminated
Batten's long-term disability benefits. (Compl. ¶
15.) Batten alleges that Aetna did not consider all of her
relevant medical information and therefore incorrectly
concluded that she did not qualify for additional benefits
under the Disability Policy. (Id.) Batten's
medical condition has continued to deteriorate since January
4, 2010, and had not improved as of October 4, 2012, when
Aetna terminated coverage. (Compl. ¶ 13.)
appealed the termination of her long-term disability benefits
in accordance with the terms of the Disability Policy.
(Compl. ¶ 17.) She submitted additional medical
documentation from her treating physicians confirming that
she remained physically unable to perform the duties of her
previous job or any other full-time occupation. (Compl.
¶ 18.) Despite the presentation of additional evidence,
Aetna refused to reconsider its decision to deny Batten
further disability benefits. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Batten has
exhausted all administrative remedies under ERISA and the
Disability Policy. (Compl. ¶ 29.)
August 25, 2015, Batten filed suit against Aetna in this
Court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et
seq. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Batten raises two claims
against Aetna seeking relief under two separate subsections
of ERISA § 502(a), codified at 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a). First, she alleges that Aetna wrongly
denied her benefits under the Disability Policy in violation
of ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(1)(B). (Compl. ¶¶ 27-30.) Second,
Batten alleges that Aetna breached its fiduciary duty under