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Lacy v. Valmont Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

May 24, 2016

HOWARD LACY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VALMONT INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN M. GERRARD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the defendant Valmont Industries, Inc.'s motion to dismiss (filing 14), and motion to strike (filing 29). For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant both motions.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiffs are suing the defendant under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) and (c). Filing 1 at 1. The plaintiffs' allegations are, briefly summarized, as follows. The plaintiff Howard Lacy was employed by the defendant Valmont Industries, Inc. until he was involuntarily terminated on December 31, 2013 as a result of injuries that prevented him from continuing to work. Filing 1 at 2. Throughout his employment, he was a participant in the health, dental, and vision insurance plan offered by the defendant. Filing 1 at 2. The other plaintiffs were all beneficiaries of his insurance plan. Filing 1 at 5, 7, 8, 10, 12. The plaintiffs allege that after Lacy was terminated, he was entitled to notice of his rights under COBRA to continue insurance coverage. Filing 1 at 2. However, the plaintiffs allege that the defendant failed to timely provide such notice as required by ERISA and COBRA, prejudicing the plaintiffs. Filing 1 at 2.

         The plaintiffs allege that they sought the assistance of the Department of Labor. Filing 1 at 2. At the prompting of a Department of Labor representative, the defendant provided the COBRA notice to the plaintiffs on March 18, 2015. Filing 1 at 2. The plaintiffs allege that the Department of Labor representative and the defendant agreed-without the plaintiffs' knowledge or permission-that COBRA coverage would be extended beginning March 18, provided that the plaintiffs paid the required premiums. Filing 1 at 3. The plaintiffs had made a premium payment on March 10. Filing 1 at 3. But although the defendant accepted the payment, the plaintiffs' insurance carrier advised the plaintiffs on April 8 that their coverage had been terminated at the defendant's request. Filing 1 at 3.

         The plaintiffs have allegedly incurred medical expenses since Lacy's termination, but the defendant has not provided coverage for those expenses under the insurance plan. Filing 1 at 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12. The plaintiffs allege that they have been unable to obtain alternate insurance with the same or a similar extent of coverage, and therefore continue to incur medical expenses. Filing 1 at 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12. The plaintiffs are seeking payment of insurance benefits, an order designating the plaintiffs as eligible participants under the insurance plan, attorney fees and costs, statutory penalties, and a refund of the premium the plaintiffs paid on March 10, 2015. See filing 1 at 5, 6-7, 8, 9-10, 11-12, 13.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must set forth a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This standard does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned accusation. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than labels and conclusions; and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not suffice. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). For the purposes of a motion to dismiss a court must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, but is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Id.

         And to survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must also contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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. Where 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 shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 679.

         Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will require the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. The facts alleged must raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to substantiate the necessary elements of the plaintiff’s claim. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. The court must assume the truth of the plaintiff’s factual allegations, and a well-pleaded complaint may proceed, even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that recovery is very remote and unlikely. Id. at 556.

         DISCUSSION

         The defendant has moved to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not plead administrative exhaustion in their complaint. Filing 14. Additionally, the defendant has moved to strike evidence the plaintiffs attached to their brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss. Filing 29.

         A. Motion to Strike

         As an initial matter, the defendant has moved to strike the evidence the plaintiffs submitted in opposition to the motion to dismiss. Filing 29. These exhibits include Lacy's affidavit, correspondence between the parties, medical bills, and insurance documents, among other evidence. See filing 28. The defendant contends that these exhibits are not embraced by ...


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