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Advanced Physicians S.C. v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 27, 2018




         Before the court is the motion of the defendants Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Cigna Healthcare Management Inc., Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Great-West Healthcare-Cigna, and the NFL Player Insurance Plan (the “Plan”) to dismiss the claims stated in the plaintiff Advanced Physicians, SC (“AP”)'s latest amended complaint (docket entry 84). For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A full recitation of the factual and procedural background of this case is provided in the court's memorandum opinion and order issued on October 27, 2017. See generally Memorandum Opinion and Order (docket entry 80). In that order, the court dismissed without prejudice the plaintiff's first, second, and fourth claims against the defendants. Id. at 25. However, the court afforded the plaintiff an opportunity to amend its complaint to cure the deficiencies contained therein. Id. On November 7, 2017, in compliance with this court's order, AP filed a new amended complaint. Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (“Fourth Amended Complaint”) (docket entry 81).

         On November 28, 2017, the defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (“Defendants' Motion”) at 1. On December 8, 2017, AP filed a response to the motion. Advanced Physicians, SC Response to Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (“AP's Response”) (docket entry 85). Shortly thereafter, the defendants filed a reply. Defendants' Reply in Support of their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (“Defendants' Reply”) (docket entry 86). The defendants' motion is now ripe for decision.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1182 (2008). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks, brackets, and citation omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” In re Katrina Canal, 495 F.3d at 205 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id. (quoting Martin K. Eby Construction Company, Inc. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Supreme Court has prescribed a “two-pronged approach” to determine whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The court must “begin by identifying the pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. The court should then assume the veracity of any well-pleaded allegations and “determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief.” Id. The plausibility principle does not convert the Rule 8(a)(2) notice pleading standard to a “probability requirement, ” but “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” will not defeat a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. The plaintiff must “plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not ‘show[n]' -- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The court, drawing on its judicial experience and common sense, must undertake the “context-specific task” of determining whether the plaintiff's allegations “nudge” its claims against the defendants “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” See id. at 679, 683.

         B. Application

         From the outset, it appears that the plaintiff now concedes the futility of repleading, in identical form, its claim for relief under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3). See AP's Response at 6. In light of the plaintiff's concession, the court finds it appropriate to dismiss that claim with prejudice. As such, the only remaining issue before the court is whether AP's claims under § 1132(a)(1)(B) are sufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge.

         In asserting claims for benefits under ERISA, a plaintiff must allege in its complaint enough facts about an ERISA plan's provisions to make a § 1132 claim plausible and provide the defendant notice as to which provisions it allegedly breached. Texas General Hospital, LP v. United Healthcare Services, Inc., No. 3:15-CV-2096-M, 2016 WL 3541828, at *4 (N.D. Tex. June 28, 2016) (Lynn, Chief J.) (citing Encompass Office Solutions, Inc. v. Ingenix, Inc., 775 F.Supp.2d 938, 969 (E.D. Tex. 2011)). “Absent such allegations, a complaint fails to state a claim under [29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B)].” Id. (citing Paragon Office Services, LLC v. United Healthcare Insurance Company, Inc., No. 3:11-CV-2205-D, 2012 WL 5868249, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 20, 2012) (Fitzwater, Chief J.)).

         “A plaintiff who brings a claim for benefits under ERISA must identify a specific plan term that confers the benefit in question.” Paragon Office Services, 2012 WL 5868249, at *2; see also Innova Hospital San Antonio, L.P. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc., 995 F.Supp.2d 587, 601-02 (N.D. Tex. 2014) (O'Connor, J.) (“Plaintiffs' general allegations that [the defendants] did not reimburse the amounts due under the terms of the plans, without further factual assertions about the plans' terms, fall short of the plausibility requirement.”). In some previous cases, however, even after failing to provide specific plan terms, plaintiffs nonetheless were able to withstand Rule 12(b)(6) challenges based on the sufficiency of their factual allegations. In Texas General Hospital, for example, the court rejected the defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion where the plaintiffs made, in the court's view, sufficient factual allegations as to the terms of the plans the defendant had allegedly violated, and provided both the number of the alleged violations, and the time period during which they occurred, to place the defendants on notice. Texas General Hospital, 2016 WL 3541828, at *4.

         In another case, Grand Parkway Surgery Center, LLC v. Health Care Service Corporation, No. H-15-0297, 2015 WL 3756492 (S.D. Tex. June 16, 2015), the Southern District of Texas concluded that the plaintiff's factual allegations -- in particular, “that the plan terms ‘allow for reimbursement of reasonable and necessary medical expenses at usual and customary rates' and that [the defendant] made reimbursement at drastically reduced rates” -- were sufficient to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge. Id. at *4. Even though the plaintiff in Grand Parkway failed to identify which of its claims involved ERISA plans and ...

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