Kegel v. Brown & Williiamson Tobacco Corporation, No. 3:2006cv00093 - Document 173 (D. Nev. 2009)

Court Description: ORDER denying 160 Motion to Dismiss. granting in part and denying in part 155 Motion to Reconsider. Signed by Judge Larry R. Hicks on 09/24/09. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - LG)
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FILSD .- .- Lz' j -ttkz, - - - . l 2 -. -...yliLjtL. z C()!7h$s' 7! ' 7f 7jc JL l ït . ' Fa titD lt' fè jsoj Sël ' n 2 4 Lfvr) , . 3 ()u 'à-q; y(4? r . 4 07:: ..- 5 L:r;;s',;o'g rs .i. jjj , y()t -lj yj yy ;' ( k.l st y-l 6 UNITED STA TES D ISTRICT COU RT 7 D ISTRICT O F N EV AD A 8 *** 9 STEVEN A .KEGEL. 10 Plaintiff, 11 :,. 12 BROW N & W ILLIAM SON TOBACCO CORPORATION,etal., I3 Defendants. 14 15 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) g.a,j , = = ma-J= = =-.- - z-- - oFpp - . .f 7. ., 3:06-CV-00093-LRH-VPC ORDER Beforethe courtisPlaintiffSteven Kegel'sM otion to Reconsider(#155').Defendants 16 Brown& W illiamsonTobaccoCorporation,etal.(collectivelytçDefendants'')havefiledan 17 opposition (#161)towhich Plaintift-replied(#169).AlsobeforethecourtisDefendants'M otionto Kegel v. Brown & Williiamson Tobacco Corporation Doc. 173 18 DismissPlaintiff'sTenthClaim forRelief(#l60).Plaintiffhasfiledanopposition (#168)towhich 19 Defendantsreplied (#172). 20 1. M otion to R econsider 21 Plaintiffseekspartialreconsiderationofthecourt'sM arch I0,2009,order(#l50).ln 22 padicular,Plaintiffasksthecourttoreconsidertheportionofitsorderm antingsummaryjud>qnent 23 on Plaintiff s claim forbenefitsunderthe W elfare and Fringe BenetitPlan,tbe R etirem entPlan, 24 andtheSpecialSeveranceBenefitsPlanpursuantto29U.S.C.j 1132(a).lnitsorder,thecourt 25 26 l' R efersto the court'sdocketentrynumber. Dockets.Justia.com 1 found thatPlaintiffhad failed to exhausthis adm inistrative rem ediesbecause he tûfailed to pursue 2 hislighttoreceivebenetitsundertheLplansl.''(Order(#150)at19.)Thecourtfurtherfoundthat 3 Plaintifffailed to dem onstrate thatexhaustion ofhis adm inistrative rem ediesw ould have been 4 futile orthatthe rem edies available to him w ere inadequate. 5 Plaintiffhasfiled the m otion to reconsiderpursuantto FederalRule ofCivilProcedure 6 59(e).ûçW hileRule59(e)(oftheFederalRulesofCivilProcedureqpermitsadistrictcourtto 7 reconsiderand am end a previousorder,the rule offersan iextraordinary rem edy,to be used 8 sparinglyintheinterestsoftinalityandconservationofjudicialresources.'''Carrolv.Nakatani, 9 342 F.3d 934,945 (9th Cir.2003)(eitation omitted). Reconsideration ofthecourt'sinitialdecision 1O isinappropriateintheabsenceof(1)newlydiscoveredevidence' ,(2)aninterveningchangein 11 controllinglaw' ,or(3)clearen'orormanifestiniustice.Calwol,342F.3dat945, .Schoolf)Jb'/.No. 12 1JjM ultnomah County,(X'.A' ,AC andS,Inc' .,5F.: $d 1255,1263(9thCir.l993)(citations 13 omitted). 14 Plaintiffarjp esthe courterred because ççplaintiffisdeem ed to have exhausted the 15 adm inistrative relnedies available underthe plan as a consequence ofD efendants'failure to follow 16 claimsproceduresconsistentwithtberequirementsof29C.F.R.j2560.503.9'(P1.'sM ot.Recons. 17 (#155)at2.) Section 2560.503-1ttsetsforthminimum requirementsforemployeebenefitplan 18 procedurespertainingtoclaimsforbenefitsbyparticipantsandbeneticiaries....''29C.F.R., j 19 2560.503-1(a).' W hereaviplanfailsto establish ortbllow claimsproceduresconsistentwiththe 20 requirementsofgsection2560.503-1j,adaimantshallbedeemedtohaveexhaustedhis 21 adm inistrativerelnediesavailableundertheplan ....''29 C.F.R.j 2560.503-1(1). 22 As a prelim inary m atter,the courtnotes thatwith regard to the W elfare and Fringe Benefit 23 Plan and the Retirem entPlan.Plaintiffhas yetto provide evidence indicating thathe applied fbr 24 such benefits. A sthe court'sprevious orderrecognized,tûnone ofthe correspondence in any w ay 25 addressesPlaintiff'seligibility forthe W elfareand Fringe BenefitPlan orthe Retirem entP1an.'' 26 2 1 (Order(#150)at19.) Further,thereisnoevidencebeforethecourtsuggestingthatDefendants 2 denied Plaintiffbeneiitsunder these plans. To the contrary,the letters conveying Plaintiff's 3 tennination state thatasa resultofthe term ination-Plaintiffw asno longereiigible for shortterm 4 disability benefitsand SpecialSeverance Benetits. The letters m ake no m ention ofthe W ellùre and 5 Fringe BenefitPlan orthe Retirem entPlan. A ccordingly,to the extentthe m otion to reconsider 6 challenges the eoul-tfs findings asto the W elfare and Fringe BenetitPlan and the R etirem entPlan7 the courtwilldeny them otion. 8 A sto the SpecialSeverance Benetits,on M arch 8,2005,R .J.Reynolds sentPlaintiff 9 aletternotifkinghim thatasaresultofhisallegedmisrepresentationsphewasnolongereligibleto 10 receive shortterm disability benefitsorthe SpecialSeverance Benefits. On M arch 15,2005, 11 Plaintiffresponded,sendingletterstovaliousR.J.Reynoldsemployeestbrequestgingjan appealof 12 thedecisionthatghehasjbeenterminatedfrom gshortterm disabilitylbenefits.''(Pl.'sOpp.Mot. l3 Sum m .J.(#l28)eExs.ll5,116,117.) 14 ln its previousorder,the courtheld thatbecause Plaintifffailed to appealthe denialofhis 15 SpecialSeverance Benefitsshe failed to exhausthisadm înistrative rem edies. Plaintiffnow argues 16 thatdeficiencies in the M arch lettersrequirethe coul'tto find asa m atterof1aw thathe has l7 exhausted hisadm inistrativerem edies. These deticiencies include failing to provide,in violation 18 of29C.F.R.(i2560.503-1(g),(1)thespeciticplanprovision onwhichtheadversebenet' it 19 determination wasbased and (2)adescription oftheplan'sreview proceduresand thetim elim its 20 applicabletosuchprocedures.Scc29C.F.R.j'2560.503-1(g). 2l Defendantsdo notdisputethatthelettersfailed to providetheabove-cited information. 22 Instead,D efendants argue thatthey were notrequired to include the inform ation in the letters 23 beeause the individualresponsible for the letters,M s.Trem blay,w asnotthe plan adm inistrator. A s 24 Defendantsnote.29C.F.R.j,2560.503-1(g)states,ittheplanadministratorshallprovideaclaimant 25 with ...notification ofanyadversebenefitdetermination.''29C.F.R.j2560.503-1(g). 26 3 1 Thecourtdisagreeswith Defendants'fbrmulaicreading oftherejp lation.AsPlaintiff 2 notes,contrary to Defendants'assertions,the applicable regulationsw ere enacted prim arily forthe 3 benetitofelaim ants. The regulations state,tt-f' be new standards are intended to ensure m ore tim ely 4 beneiitdeterminations,to improveaccessto infonnation on whieh abenetk determination ism ade. 5 and to assure thatparticipants and beneficialies willbe afforded a fulland fairreview ofdenied 6 claims.''65Fed.Reg.70246(Nov.21,2000)* ,sceaisoEastmanKodakCo.:'.STWB,lnc.,452 7 F.3d215.222(9thCir.2006)(tif'he%deemedexhausted'provisionwasplainlydesignedtogive 8 claim antsfaced with inadequateclaim sproceduresa fasttrack into court....'').Thus,thecourt 9 finds thatDefendants'delivery ofthe letterby som eone otherthan the plan adm inistrator isnot l0 detrim entalto Plaintiff s exllaustion argum ent. 11 Through theM arch 8,2005,letter,D efendantsinform ed Plaintiffthathe w as noteligible 12 forthe SpecialSeveranceB enetits. Thisw asan adversebenetitdeterm inatîon w ithin the m eaning 13 0t'29C.F.R.j2560.503-1. See29C.F.R.j2560.5()3-l(m)(4)(detiningan adversebenetit 14 determ ination as ''a denialsreduction,orterm ination of...a benefit...thatisbased on a 15 determ ination ofaparticipant'sorbeneficiary'seligibility to participatein aplan ....'') Because 16 theletterfailed to pm vide thespecificplan provision on which theadversebenefitdeterrnination 17 w asbased and t()describe the plan'sreview proceduresand the tim e lim itsapplicable to such 18 procedures,theletterviolatedtherequirementssetforth in29C.F.R.j2560.503-l(g).Assuch, 19 under29C.F.R.j2560.503-1(1),Plaintiffisttdeemedtohaveexhaustedhisadministrative 20 remediesavailableundertheplan ....''29 C.F.R.j2560.503-141). 21 Il. M otion to D ism iss 22 D efendants seek dism issalofPlaintitT s tenth claim forrelief,which allegesD efendants 23 wrongfully term inated Plaintiffin retaliation for exereising hisrights underthe Short-l'erm 24 Disability B enetits Plan in violation ofthe çtfundam entalpublic policy ofthe State ofN evada.'' 25 (Fifth Am.Compl.(#154)-! 122.) Defendantsarguetbecomplaintfailstostateaclaim upon 26 4 1 whichreliefcanbep-anted,warrantingdismissalunderFederalRuleofCivilProcedure12(b)(6).' 2 To survive a m otion to dism issforfailure to state a claim ,a com plaintm ustsatisf.ythe 3 FederalRuleofCivilProcedure 8(a)(2)noticepleading standard.SeeM endiondo v.Centinela 4 Hosp.M cd.Ctr.,52lF.3d 1097,1103 (9th Cir.2008).Thatis,a complaintmustcontain %Ea short 5 and plain statem entofthe claim show ing thatthepieaderisentitled to relief'' Fed.R .Civ.P. 6 8(a)(2).TheRule8(a)(2)pleadingstandarddoesnotrequiredetailedfactualallegations' ,however, 7 apleading thatotlkrsonlyiçlabelsand conclusions''ortkafonnulaicrecitation oft' heelementsofa 8 causeofaction''willnotsuffice.Ashopftv.Iqbal,129S.Ct.1937.1949(2009)(quoting Bell 9 Atlantic Corp.)'.Twombly,550U.S.544,555 (2007)). 10 Furthermore,Rule8(a)(2)requiresacomplainttoiicontain sufficientfactualmatter, 11 accepted astrue,to stateaclaim to reliefthatisplausibleon itsface.''1d.at1949 (internal 12 quotation m arksom itted).A claim hasfacialplausibility when thepleaded factualcontentallows 13 thecourttodraw thereasonableinference,basedonthecoul-t'sjudicialexperienceandcommon 14 sense,thatthe defendantisliable forthe m isconductalleged. See id.atl949-50. çt-f' he plausibility 15 standard is notakin to a probability requirem ent,butitasksform ore than a sheerpossibility thata 16 defendanthasacted unlawfully. ' W hereacomplaintpleadsfactsthatarem erely consistentwith a 17 defendant'sliabilitysitstopsshortofthelinebetween possibility and plausibility ofentitlem entto l8 relief.''1d.atl949(internalquotationmarksandcitationomitted). l9 ln reviewing a m otion to dism iss,the courtacceptsthe facts alleged in the com plaintas 20 true.lcl.(citationomitted).However,ttbareassertions...amountging)tonothingmorethan a 21 fonnulaicrecitation oftheelem entsofa...claim ...arenotentitled to an assumption oftruth.'' 22 Mossv.U.S.SecretSen' .,572F.3d 962,969(9thCir.2009)(qllotinglqbal,129S.Ct.at1951) 23 24 211:itsM arch 10, 2009,order(#150).thecourtgrantedPlaintiffieavetotilean amended complaint alleging a wrongfultermination claim based upon theexerciseofhisrightsunderthe Shorl--f' erm Disability 25 Plan.Nonetheless,thecourtcautioned,tûgfhecourt-sqrulingisinnoway indicativeofwhetherPlaintiffcan in factstatea viable wrongfultermination claim orw hethcrPlaintiffhas evidenee to supportsuch a claim .'' a6 (Order(#150)at17n.10.) 5 1 (alterationinoriginal)(internalquotationmarksomitted).Thecourtdiscountstheseallegations 2 because they do ûtnothing m ore than state a legalconclusion - even ifthatconciusion is castin the 3 fonn ofafactualallegation.''1d.(citinglqbal,129S.Ct.at195l.) iiln sum,foracomplaintto 4 survive a m otion to dism iss.the non-conelusory ifactualcontent,'and reasonable inferencesfrom 5 thatcontentsm ustbeplausibly suggestiveofaclaim entitling theplaintiffto relief''f#.(qttoting 6 Iqbal,129S.Ct.at1949). 7 D efendants argue thatPlaintiff s claim tbrwrongfuldischargebased on the exercise ofhis 8 rightsunderthe Short--l-en'n Disability B enefitsPlan failsasa m atterof1aw because N evada 1aw 9 doesnotrecognize such a claim . ti-l-he essence ofa tortious discharge is the w rongful.usually 10 retaliatory,interruption ofemploym entbym eanswhich aredeem edtobecontral'yto thepublic 1l policyofgtheStateofNevadaj.''D ' Angelov.Gardner,819P.2d206,2l6(Nev.1991).Nevada l2 courts have recognized thatdischarging an em ployee forseeking w orkers'com pensation benefits, l3 performingjuryduty,orrefusingtoviolatethelaw violatespublîcpolicyand supportsaclaim for 14 tortiousdischarge. Id.at212 (citationsomitted). Qtcomparabletortiousdischargesmay arisewhen 15 an em ployerdism issesan em ployee in retaliation for the em ployee'sdoing of actswhich are 16 consistentw ith orsupportive ofsound public poiiey and the com m on good.'' 1d.at216. 17 TheNevadaSuprem eCourthasstated,iûclearly,thepublicpolicy ofthisstatefavors 18 *economicsecurityforemployeesinjuredwhileinthecourseoftheiremployment.'''DillardDep 't 19 Storcs,Inc.v.Beck-v' ith,989P.2d882(Nev.1999).Recognizingthispolicy,theCourthasupheld 20 tortiousdischarge claim sstem m ing from em ployeesfiling w orkm en'scom pensation claim s.1d.at 21 886, .Hansenn Halwah' s.675P.2d394-397(Nev.1984).AsDetkndantsnoted,in soholding, 22 thesecasesrely in parton Nevada'slegislative schem egoverning workm en'seompensation,and 23 N evada law doesnoteontain sim ilarprovisionsaddressing em ployer-provided benefitplans. 24 Nonetheless-:ithefailureoftllelegislatureto enactastatuteexpressly forbiddingretaiiatory 25 dischargeforthefilingof...claimsdoesnotprecludegthecourtqfrom providingaremedyfor 26 6 1 whatgthecourtconcludesjtobetortiousbehavior.''Hansen,675P.2dat396. 2 ltisnotsurprising thatNevadalaw failsto addresstheavailability ofawrongfuldischarge 3 claim based upon allegations thatthe em ployerterm inated the plaintiffforexercising his short-term 4 disability'beneftsbecausethe Em ploymentRetirem entlncome SecurityAct(ttER1SA''),29 U.S.C. 5 jj l001-1462,extensivelycoversemployer-providedbenefitplans.s'cc29U.S.C.j l140(tûltshall 6 beunlawfulfbrany person to discharge ..aparùcïpantorbeneficiaorforexercising anyrightto 7 whîch heisentitled undertheprovisionsofan employeebenetitplan ....'') Nonetheless-here,the 8 courthas held thatthe Short--f'erm D isability BenefitPlan isa vtpayrollpractice exem ptfrom 9 ERISA .'' (Order(#l50)at17.) Thus,Plaintiffdoesnothave astatutoryrem edy availableto him . 10 tiltisprecisely in such cases,i.e.,w here no com prehensive statutory rem edy existssthatcourtshave 11 been willingto createpublicpolicy tortliability.''D ' Angclo &'.Gardnel',819 P,2d 206,218 (N ev. l2 1991)(citationsomitted). 13 in lïghtofthe lack of a statutoo,orotherto14 rem edy available to Plaintiffand the N evada 14 SupremeCoud'srecognitionoftheimpol-tanceofprotectingtheinterestsofinjuredworkers,the 15 courttindsthatunderthe circum stanees presented in this case,term inating Plaintiffforexercising 16 hisrightsunderthe Short--l-enu Disability B enetitPlan iscontrary to thepublic policy ofthe State 17 ofN evada. A ccordingly,the courtw illdeny the m otion to dism iss. 18 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED thatPlaintiffsM otion to Reconsider(//155)isGRANTED 19 in partand DEN IED in part. 20 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED thatDetkndants'M otiontoDismiss(#160)isDENIED. 21 IT IS SO O RD ERED . 22 ny of-septem ber,2009. oArso thîsA fr * 23 24 25 26 LAR RY R.HICK S U NITED STATES DISTR ICT JU D G E 7