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Braden v. Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 14, 2014

AMANDA BRADEN, Plaintiff,
v.
UTILITY TRAILER MANUFACTURING CO., INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

W. KEITH WATKINS, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action against Defendant Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., Inc. ("Utility Trailer"), pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. Before the court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counts Four and Five. (Doc. # 16.) Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion, although permitted to do so under the General Briefing Order (Doc. # 8), thus, indicating that she has "no opposition to the motion" (Doc. # 11, § 6). Upon an independent review of the motion to dismiss, the court finds that it is due to be granted.

I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's action against Utility Trailer is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1132(e). The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must take the facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Resnick v. AvMed, Inc., 693 F.3d 1317, 1321-22 (11th Cir. 2012). To survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to 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)). "[F]acial plausibility" exists "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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

III. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Amanda Braden's father died in February 2007, when Plaintiff was thirteen years old. Plaintiff's father was a long-time employee of Utility Trailer in Enterprise, Alabama, and a participant in his employer's profit sharing plan (the "Plan"). At the time of her father's death, Plaintiff was a fifty-percent beneficiary of her father's Plan funds.

In May 2007, Plaintiff's maternal grandparents, Ray and Ruth Jerkins, [1] filed a petition on Plaintiff's behalf in the Juvenile Court of Coffee County, Alabama, requesting the appointment of a guardian ad litem for Plaintiff. The petition requested an order directing the appointed guardian ad litem to "take all steps necessary to determine the amounts available for the child, and to petition the Probate Court of Coffee County, Alabama, to name a Conservator for the Estate of the minor child." (Petition (Ex. A to 2d Am. Compl.); see also 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) In June 2007, the juvenile court granted the petition and appointed a guardian ad litem. (Order (Ex. B to 2d Am. Compl.).)

After reaching the age of majority and having not yet received her fifty-percent share of her father's Plan benefits, Plaintiff obtained the services of an attorney. Acting on Plaintiff's behalf, that attorney requested from Utility Trailer, "the status of the funds belonging to Amanda Braden that were held by Utility Trailer... for Richard Lee Braden."[2] (April 25, 2013 letter (Ex. E to 2d Am. Compl.); see also 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 15.) In a letter dated April 30, 2013, Utility Trailer responded that "there are no funds belonging to Amanda" in the Plan. (April 2013 letter (Ex. C to 2d Am. Compl.).) Utility Trailer explained:

On June 28, 2007, we received an Order from the Juvenile Court of Coffee County, Enterprise Division, appointing Mr. John F. Grimes, Esq as guardian ad litem. This Order was filed by the court on June 11, 2007; at the request of Mr. Grimes we proceeded to disburse Amanda's share on November 28, 2007 and May 28, 2008. The checks were made payable to Ruth Jerkins FBO Amanda Braden.

(April 2013 letter; see also 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that she is aware of only a single check issued by Utility Trailer. The check is dated December 4, 2007, in the amount of $22, 369.72, and, as Plaintiff emphasizes, is payable to "Ruth Jerkins, " not "Ruth Jerkins FBO Amanda Braden." (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 21-23; see also Ex. D to 2d Am. Compl.)

Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against Utility Trailer alleging that it failed to comply with the Plan's requirements, did not pay the "appropriate beneficiary, " improperly denied Plaintiff her benefits under the Plan, and breached its fiduciary duties by paying Plan funds to a non-beneficiary and by "delegate[ing] decision-making to the guardian ad litem based upon an Order that did not provide for such authority." (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 20, 28-29.) The governing Second Amended Complaint sets forth seven counts against Utility Trailer under ERISA: (1) a claim for benefits under the Plan presumably under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) (Count 1); (2) breach of fiduciary duty under § 1132(a)(2) (Count 2); (3) breach of fiduciary duty under § 1132(a)(1)(B) (Count 3); (4) breach of fiduciary duty under § 1132(a)(3) (Count 4); (5) breach of fiduciary duty under 29 U.S.C. §§ 1104 and 1105 (Count 5); (6) removal of Defendant as a fiduciary with respect to the plan under 29 U.S.C. § 1109 (Count 6); and (7) an award of attorney's fees under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g) (Count 7). In the "prayer for relief, " ...


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