United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CAROL H. STEWART, Plaintiff,
HARTFORD LIFE & ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Plaintiff Carol Stewart's
“Motion for Reconsideration/Relief from Judgment”
(doc. 42) regarding this court's dismissal of her claim
for breach of fiduciary duty against Defendant Hartford, and
denial of her alternative motion to amend her complaint.
reasons explained below, the court DENIES
Ms. Stewart's motion for reconsideration.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
of an order is an extraordinary remedy and is employed
sparingly.” Rueter v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner
& Smith, Inc., 440 F.Supp.2d 1256, 1267-68 (N.D.
Ala. 2006). Motions for reconsideration should not be a
“‘knee-jerk reaction to an adverse
ruling.'” Id. (quoting Summit Medical
Center of Alabama, Inc. v. Riley, 284 F.Supp.2d 1350,
1355 (M. D. Ala. 2003)). Neither should they be “a
platform to relitigate arguments previously considered and
rejected.” Reuter, 440 F.Supp.2d at 1268 n. 9.
Rather, they should be “only available when a party
presents the court with evidence of an intervening change in
controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the
need to correct clear error or manifest injustice.”
Summit Medical Center, 294 F.Supp.2d at 1355.
moved this court to dismiss Count Two of Ms. Stewart's
complaint, arguing that the claim for breach of fiduciary
duty under § 502(a)(3) is a claim for equitable relief
that a plaintiff cannot sustain when she can also seek
recovery of benefits under § 502(a)(1)(B) based on the
same allegations. (Doc. 13). This court agreed with Hartford
and dismissed Count Two.
Ms. Stewart argues that the court misconstrued her claims,
misinterpreted Eleventh Circuit case law, and reached an
incorrect conclusion in its Memorandum Opinion dismissing her
breach of fiduciary duty claim. In her motion for
reconsideration, Ms. Stewart spends a great deal of time
explaining how Hartford breached its fiduciary duties to Ms.
Stewart, and how the company illegally benefited from that
breach. By doing so, she attempts to differentiate that claim
from those within Counts One and Three, which seek to
“recover benefits due to her and to enforce her rights
under the plan” (Count One) and “injunctive
relief to reinstate her Waiver of Premium benefits”
(Count Three). (Doc. 1 at 77- 80). She further argues that
the court performed “no analysis”
“regarding the adequacy of the remedies for the breach
of fiduciary claims” in reaching the erroneous
conclusion that § 502(a)(1)(B) provides an adequate
remedy for those claims.
Ms. Stewart's lengthy attempt to persuade the court
otherwise, the court remains convinced of the following: 1)
Ms. Stewart's allegations supporting her § 502(a)(3)
claim “were also sufficient to state a cause of action
under § 502(a)(1)(B), regardless of the relief sought,
and irrespective of [Ms. Stewart's] allegations
supporting [her] other claims.” Jones v. Am. Gen.
Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 370 F.3d 1065, 1073-74 (11th
Cir. 2004); and 2) ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B) provides an
adequate remedy for the breach of fiduciary duty alleged in
Count Two. Therefore, Ms. Stewart did not state a claim under
§ 502(a)(3) for which relief can be granted.
court now restates its analysis as succinctly as possible. To
begin, Ms. Stewart makes various allegations to support her
claim for breach of fiduciary duty. See, e.g. (Doc.
17 at 9-20). However, all her allegations address the manner
in which Hartford intentionally organized its claims handling
practices so as to deny Ms. Stewart's benefits, and how
Hartford was unjustly enriched by the denial of those
benefits. Assuming these allegations are true, these actions
would constitute a breach of fiduciary duty, and §
502(a)(3) could provide the pathway for such a cause
well-developed case law in this Circuit demonstrates that to
determine whether Ms. Stewart has stated a claim under §
502(a)(3), this court must consider “whether the
allegations supporting the § 502(a)(3) claim were also
sufficient to state a cause of action under §
502(a)(1)(B), regardless of the relief sought, and
irrespective of [Ms. Stewart's]
allegations supporting [her] other
claims.” Jones v. Am. Gen. Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 370 F.3d 1065, 1073-74 (11th Cir. 2004)
(emphasis added). If so, then Ms. Stewart failed to state a
claim for which relief can be granted, and the court must
dismiss the claim.
court must put aside the relief that Ms. Stewart seeks, as
well as the allegations supporting her other claims, and ask
whether Ms. Stewart's allegations regarding how
Hartford denied her coverage and benefits are “also
sufficient” to state a cause of action under §
502(a)(1)(B). Based on the case law analyzed in its previous
Memorandum Opinion (doc. 38), the court finds that they are.
Ms. Stewart is suing Hartford in Counts One and Two to
recover coverage and benefits that she urges Hartford
wrongfully denied her, this court finds that Ms.
Stewart's allegations for her § 502(a)(3) claim are
not ‘”substantively different' from the
benefits sought under” her § 502(a)(1)(B) claim.
Katz v. Comprehensive Plan Of Grp. Ins., 197 F.3d
1084, 1088 n. 15 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Katz v. ALLTEL
Corp., et al., 985 F.Supp. 1157, 1161 (N.D.Ga. 1997)).
As stated in Beckham v. Liberty Life Assur. Co. of
Boston, 4 F.Supp.3d 1266, 1271 (M.D. Ala. 2014),
“[t]o allow the Plaintiff in this case to proceed on a
claim for benefits and also equitable relief for
misrepresentation as to the fiduciary's actions in
applying the Plan, rather than a representation as
to the terms of the Plan, regardless of the nature
of the additional equitable remedies she has
identified” would be an inappropriate diversion from
controlling legal precedent in this Circuit.
conclude, Ms. Stewart can pursue the benefits and coverage
that she alleges Hartford wrongfully denied her pursuant to
§ 502(a)(1)(B). Congress provided her with an adequate
remedy within that section. See Ogden v. Blue Bell
Creameries U.S.A., Inc., 348 F.3d 1284, 1288 (11th Cir.
2003). If no such cause of action were available to her, then
she could pursue the breach of fiduciary claim under §
502(a)(3). See Cigna Corp. v. Amara, 563 U.S. 421,