United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CONCETTA McCOMBS, as persona representative of the Estate of Barry Wesley Williams, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
pending is the defendant's motion seeking dismissal or,
alternatively, summary judgment. (Doc. 16). The motion is
fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. (Docs. 19, 20). As
explained below, the motion is due to be granted, and all of
the plaintiff's claims are due to be dismissed under
Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
controversy concerns a dispute over proceeds from a life
insurance policy. (Doc. 14). Teresa Williams was a ten-year
veteran of the United States Postal Service
(“USPS”). Shortly following Ms. Williams's
December 21, 2015 death, her husband, Barry Wesley Williams,
filed a claim for benefits under a policy (“the
Policy”) issued by Federal Employee's Group Life
Insurance (“FEGLI”). (See Doc. 14 at 2;
Doc. 19 at 1-2). The claim was denied on April 12, 2016.
(Doc. 16 at 24, 46). However, Mr. Williams continued to
pursue the claim with the assistance of counsel. (See
Id. at 36).
October 24, 2016, counsel for Mr. Williams emailed the USPS
to inquire about the status of the claim. (Doc. 14 at 2; Doc.
1 at 5). A USPS employee responded with an email
stating the claim had been sent for processing and Mr.
Williams should receive the Policy proceeds within thirty
days. (Doc. 1 at 5; see Doc. 14 at 2). Soon
thereafter, Mr. Williams received a letter reiterating the
same information-the claim had been sent for processing and
he would receive the Policy proceeds within 30 days. (Doc. 1
at 6; see Doc. 14 at 2). A year later, Mr. Williams
received additional correspondence stating the benefit due
under the Policy was $376, 500.00. (Doc. 1 at 7; see
Doc. 14 at 2).
April 11, 2018, Mr. Williams filed an administrative claim
with the USPS, claiming: (1) it had misrepresented that
benefits would be paid; and (2) he was entitled to the Policy
proceeds. (Doc. 16 at 22-24). The USPS denied the
administrative claim via a June 14, 2018 letter.
(Id. at 42-43). The letter summarized the following
background: (1) October 20, 2012, was Ms. Williams's last
day working for the USPS; (2) on November 2, 2013-and again
on November 16, 2013-the USPS informed Ms. Williams her
coverage under the Policy had lapsed and advised her she
could convert the Policy to an individual policy; and (3) on
December 13, 2013, the USPS sent Ms. Williams a letter
stating coverage under the Policy had been terminated because
she had not worked for over a year. (Id.).
Accordingly, the letter concluded the denial of the
administrative claim was proper because the Policy was not in
effect when Ms. Williams died. (Id. at 43).
October 8, 2018, Mr. Williams sought reconsideration of the
administrative claim. (Doc. 16 at 34). The USPS denied
reconsideration on October 24, 2018. (Doc. 16 at 32;
see Doc. 14 at 2). Sadly, Mr. Williams passed away
on January 7, 2019; Concetta McCombs was named personal
representative of his estate shortly thereafter. (Doc. 14 at
1). In her capacity as representative of the estate, McCombs
initiated the instant lawsuit on April 22, 2019, asserting
claims for negligence, “breach of duty, ” and
misrepresentation. (Doc. 1). On June 21, 2019, the government
filed a motion seeking dismissal or, alternatively, summary
judgment. (Doc. 4). The plaintiff responded with an amended
complaint on July 25, 2019, asserting claims for negligence,
“breach of duty, ” misrepresentation, and
equitable estoppel. (Doc. 14). In response, the government
filed the instant motion. (Doc. 16).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
government moves to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6). (Doc. 16 at 1). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is
appropriate if a complaint does not “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)). “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. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. “Labels and conclusions, ” “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action,
” and “naked assertion[s] devoid of further
factual enhancement” are insufficient. Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557) (internal
quotations omitted) (alteration incorporated).
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider documents
outside the pleadings without converting it to a motion for
summary judgment, so long as the documents are: “(1)
central to the plaintiff's claim and (2)
undisputed.” Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272,
1276 (11th Cir. 2005). Here, the exhibits attached to the
motion to dismiss are central to the complaint because they
are documents at least obliquely referenced in the complaint.
The plaintiff has not questioned their authenticity. (Doc.
19). Moreover, the documents attached to the motion to
dismiss are considered here only to the extent they provide
the factual landscape surrounding the claims presented in the
amended complaint. In light of the circumstances discussed
below, dismissal of the promissory estoppel claim would be
warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) even if these documents were
is appropriate under Rule 12(b)(1) where subject matter
jurisdiction is lacking. For example, “a dismissal on
sovereign immunity grounds should be pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1) because no subject-matter jurisdiction
exists.” Thomas v. U.S. Postal Serv., 364
Fed.Appx. 600, 601 n.3 (11th Cir. 2010). Additionally,
dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction is appropriate to the extent a plaintiff
asserts a claim under a statute affording no private right of
action. See Abner v. Mobile Infirmary Hosp., 149
Fed.Appx. 857, 858-59 (11th Cir. 2005) (affirming dismissal
because subject matter jurisdiction was lacking where statute
provided no private right of action).
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) can be based upon either a
facial or factual challenge to the complaint.”
McElmurray v. Consol. Gov't of Augusta-Richmond
Cty., 501 F.3d 1244, 1251 (11th Cir. 2007).
A “facial attack” on the complaint requires the
court merely to look and see if the plaintiff has
sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction,
and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for
the purposes of the motion. Factual attacks, on the other
hand, challenge the existence of subject matter jurisdiction
in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside
the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits are
Id. (alteration incorporated) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). Here, the defendant has
submitted evidence outside the pleadings to support its
arguments with respect to subject matter jurisdiction.
Therefore, the instant motion makes a factual attack on the
amended complaint; ...