Francis v. South Central Action Council, Inc., No. 4:2014cv01277 - Document 29 (S.D. Tex. 2015)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 16 Corrected MOTION to Strike Plaintiff's ERISA Claim. (Signed by Judge Sim Lake) Parties notified. (aboyd, 4)

Download PDF
Francis v. South Central Action Council, Inc. Doc. 29 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS HOUSTON DIVISION LUCINDA FRANCIS, § § § Plaintiff, v. SOUTH CENTRAL HOUSTON ACTION COUNCIL, INC. D/B/A CENTRAL CARE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER, Defendant. § § § § § § § § CIVIL ACTION NO. H-14-1277 MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Pending before the court is Defendant South Central Houston Action Council, Inc. d/b/a Central Care Community Health Center's ("Central Care") Motion to Strike Plaintiff Employee Retirement Income Security Act Entry No. 16). Lucinda ("ERISA") Francis's Claim (Docket For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Strike will be granted in part and denied in part. I. Background Francis alleges that on July 25, 2013, Central Care terminated her employment. 1 Francis filed her Original Complaint on May 8, 2014, alleging that Central Care violated section 510 of ERISA when it terminated her employment soon after she elected to enroll in Central Care's employee health insurance program because Central lPlaintiff's Original Complaint ("Original Complaint") , Docket Entry No. I, p. 3. Care wanted to avoid covering Francis's benefit plan expenses. 2 See 29 U.S.C. motivation § for 1140. Francis also alleges that Central Care's terminating her employment violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 3 She requests a trial by jury on all of her claims.4 In Defendant's Amended Answer filed on February 20, 2015, Central Care alleged that Francis's termination was based on Francis's insubordination in failing to follow proper policies and procedures with regard to clocking in and out.s On May 19, 2015, Central Care moved to strike Francis's ERISA claim, arguing that Francis lacks standing to bring an ERISA claim and that ERISA claims are not triable by a jury.6 II. Central Francis Has Standing to Pursue Her ERISA Claim Care argues that Francis's ERISA claim should be stricken based on lack of statutory standing because Francis does not qualify as a "participant" in Central Care's benefit plan.7 Francis responds that a motion for summary judgment, rather than a 2Id. at 4-5. 3Id. at 1. 4Id. at 7 . sDefendant's Amended Answer, Docket Entry No. 10, p. 3. 6Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's 29 U. S. C. § 1140 ERISA Claim ("Defendant's Motion to Strike"), Docket Entry No. 16. 7Id. at 2. -2- Rule 12 (f) Procedure, motion to strike under the Federal Rules of Civil is the appropriate vehicle for dismissal of an ERISA claim based on lack of statutory standing. 8 Central Care responds that its Motion to Strike was not raised pursuant to Rule 12(f), and that Francis's ERISA claim should be stricken because Francis lacks standing and the court therefore lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. 9 ERISA provides that a "participant" has standing to bring a civil enforcement action. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a). As the Fifth Circuit explained in Christopher v. Mobil Oil Corporation, 950 F.2d 1209, 1222 (5th Cir. 1992): A discharge to prevent vesting of benefits in violation of section 510 by definition must be challenged by someone other than a current employee or someone with a claim to vested benefits. Thus, the standing question and the merits of an employee's claim are unavoidably intertwined to some degree i whether a plaintiff has standing to assert ERISA rights may depend upon whether he can establish a discharge or some other conduct in violation of ERISA, but for which he would have standing. Standing under section 510 of ERISA is contingent on whether there is proof of conduct prohibited by ERISA. This is a fact issue that must be resolved through a motion for summary judgment or at trial. Defendant's Motion to Strike on the basis of ERISA standing will therefore be denied. 8Response to Defendant's Motion to Strike Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), Docket Entry No. 17, p. 1. 9Response to Plaintiff's Opposition of Defendant's Motion to Strike, Docket Entry No. 23, p. 1. -3- III. Francis Has No Right to a Jury On Her ERISA Claim Asserting that ERISA claims are not triable by jury, Central Care seeks an order striking Francis's ERISA claim.lo Because ERISA claims are equitable in nature, the Fifth Circuit and the majority of other circuits have held that ERISA claims do not entitle a plaintiff to a jury trial. 1324 (5th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, ~, Katsaros v. Cody, of America, 115 S. Ct. 1699 (1995) 744 F.2d 270, denied, 105 S. Ct. 565 (1984) Co. Borst v. Chevron Corp., 36 F.3d 1308, i 279 (2d Cir. see, i 1984), cert. Blake v. Unionmutual Stock Life Ins. 906 F.2d 1525, 1526 (11th Cir. 1990). Central Care's Motion to Strike Francis's jury demand will therefore be granted. IV. Conclusion and Order Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's 29 U. S. C. § 1140 ERISA Claim (Docket Entry No. 16) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as follows: (a) Defendant's Motion to Strike Francis's ERISA claim based on lack of standing is DENIED. (b) Defendant's Motion to Strike Francis's jury demand for her ERISA claim is GRANTED. SIGNED at Houston, Texas, on this the 1st day of July, 2015. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE lODefendant's Motion to Strike, Docket Entry 16, pp. 4-5. -4-
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.