Rodriguez v. Hartford Life And Accident Insurance Company, No. 4:2016cv03186 - Document 33 (S.D. Tex. 2017)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 25 MOTION to Dismiss 24 Second Amended Complaint. (Signed by Judge Sim Lake) Parties notified.(gclair, 4)

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Rodriguez v. Hartford Life And Accident Insurance Company Doc. 33 United States District Court Southern District of Texas ENTERED IN THE UNITED STATES DISTR ICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS HOUSTON DIVISION May 17, 2017 David J. Bradley, Clerk RICARDO RODRIGUEZ and Al1 Others Sim ilarly Situated , Plaintiffs, CIVIL A CTION NO . H -16-3186 HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant . MEMOKAHDUM OPINION AND ORDER Pehding before the court Plaintiff's Second Amended Dismiss' ( ') Docket Entry No. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (u Defendant's Motion to For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted . 1. Factual and Procedural Backqround Plaintiff, Ricardo Rodriguez, initiated this suit against Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company ('Hartford') to ' ' recover disability benefits under a policy Hartford issued to Rodriguez's former emp loyer , Wal-Mart Stores, Inc . In his Second Amended Complaint, Rodriguez has abandoned his benefits claim and now seeks, on behalf of h imself and all others similarly situated , to have Hartford enjoined from imposing a contractual limitations period on long-term disability claims shorter than that permitted by Arkansas law and to reform Hartford 's Group Long Term Disability Plan (nthe Policy' . o The Policy contains the following General Provision : Legal action cannot be taken against ( Hartford): 1) sooner than 60 days after the date Proof of Loss is given ; or 2) 3 years after the date written Proof of Loss is required to be given according to the term s of The Policy x Rodriguez seeks an injunction pursuant to U. C. S. 5 1l32 ( 3), which empowers a plan participant, beneficiary, or a)( fiduciary to bring a civil action n( A) enjoin any act or practice wh ich violates any provision of this subchapter or the terms of the Plan , or ( to obtain other appropriate equitable B) relief to redress such violations or enforce any provisions of this subchapter or the terms of the plan .' Rodriguez ' also alleges a breach of ' fiduciary duty prem ised on the same contractual limitations period . Hartford has moved to dism iss Rodriguez's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12( 6). b)( II . Dismissal under Rule Leqal Standard 12 ( b)(6) is appropriate when a plaintiff 's legal theory is incorrect : 'When a complaint raises an ' arguable question of law which the district court ultimately finds lThe Policy , Exhibit A to Defendant 's Motion to Dismiss , Docket Entry No . 27-2, p . 19 . - 2- is correctly resolved again st the p laintiff, on Neitzke v . Williams , Rule 12 ( ( grounds is appropriate b) 6) 1O9 S . Ct . 1827, 1833 ( 1989). dism issal ' ( hen the allegations in a ' W) complaint, however true , could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court .' ' Bell Atlantic Corr . v . Twomb ly , 127 Ct . 1955, 1966 ( 2007) ( citations and internal quotation marks omitted). 111 . Application Rodriguez advances claims for breach of fiduciary duty and Employee Retirement Income Security Act violations premised on the invalidity of the Policy 's contractual limitations period . Because the court concludes that the Arkansas statute at issue does not apply to policies which , like Hartford's Policy , do not insure property or life , Rodriguez's claims fail. The court therefore does not reach the parties' remaining arguments . Rodriguez argues that Hartford 's three-year contractual limitation on legal actions is void because it requ ires that an action on the Policy be brought within a shorter time than the statutory five-year limitations period mandated by Arkansas Code 5 23-79-202, which states : ( An action may be maintained in the courts of this a) state by an insured or any other person on his or her behalf to recover on any claim or loss arising under a policy of insurance on property or life against the insurer issuing the policy or against the sureties on any bond filed by the insurer as a cond ition precedent to its right to do business in this state , at any time within the period prescribed by 1aw for bringing actions on prom ises in writing . ( b) Any stipulation or provision in the policy or contract requiring the action to be brought within any shorter time or be barred is void . Hartford argues that the statute does not apply to its disability policy because the statute is plainly limited to policies of insurance on uproperty or life ,' categories which do not apply to ' the Policy . See Dodqe v . Hartford Life and A ccident Insurance Co ., 2017 WL 412633, at *2 ( . . Ark. Jan . 30, 2017) ( E D holding that 23-79-202 4 did not apply to disability policies based on the b) plain language of the statute). Rodriguez responds that the Arkansas Supreme Court has held that in uan action by an insured against the insurer to recover a claim arising under a policy of insurance the five-year statute of limitations applies .' shelter Mutual Insurance Co . v . ' Nash, l84 S. W.3d 425, 428 ( 2004). The trial court in Shelter held that the five-year lim itations period for actions arising under contracts, Arkansas Code 5 16-56-111, rather than the three -year limitations period on tort actions , applied to an action on an underinsured motorist insurance policy . Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed . Id . at 426-27 . Id . at 426 . The In addition to holding that the limitations period for contracts was correctly applied, the Arkansas Supreme Court referenced 5 23-79-202( a), noting that the claim arose under a policy of insurance . 428 . - 4- Id . at Rodriguez argues that the language in Shelter supports his position that 5 23-79-202 applies to any claim arising under a policy of insurance . The court disagrees. The underinsured motorist provision at issue in Shelter was part of an automobile policy , wh ich is a policy on property . 23-79-202 applies to such policies . involve a contractually shortened is undisputed that Moreover , Shelter did not limitations period . Because neither the parties nor the court in Shelter raised the issue of the scope of 5 23-79-202 , the broad language in Shelter that Rodriguez relies on offers no guidance on the scope of the statute in the present case . Rodriguez argues that cases like Dodqe , in which the district court determ ined that 5 23-79-202 does not apply to disability policies, are not persuasive because they do not follow the Shelter holding .z The court d isagrees for reasons stated above and finds Dodqe persuasive . But ev en without the benefit of Dodqe , the court would reach the same interpretation of the statute . Under Arkansas law, ' iqf the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous and 'E conveys a clear and definite meaning , is unnecessary to resort to the rules of statutory interpretation .' Simpson v . Cavalry SPV ' 1, LLC, 440 S. . W 3d 335, 338 ( 2014) ( citing Brown v . State, S. W.3d 288 ( 2009)). statute so that z plaintiff 's no The Arkansas Supreme Court 'construes ' word Response is to left void , Defendant 's ( Doc 27J, Docket Entry No. 31, pp . 5-6. superfluous , Motion to or Dismiss insignificant , and . the statute, gives meaning and effect to every word in possible.' ' Id . ( citing Calaway v. Practice Manaqement Services, Incw 2010 Ark. 432). Section 23-79-202 unambiguously states that applies to actions on Apolic l ' ies) of insurance on property or life .' The phrase 'on property or life' ' ' ' clearly limits the statute 's application . Rodriguez's proposed construction , that the statute applies to all insurance policies , wou ld render the qualifying language superfluous .3 IV . Conclusion and Order For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that Rodriguez has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted . Defendant 's Motion to Dism iss Plaintiff 's Second Amended Complaint ( Docket Entry No. 25) is therefore GRANTED, and this action will be DISMISSED with prejudice. SIGNED at Houston , Texas, on this the 17th day of May , 2017 . e Z SIM LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 3Because Rodriguez 's Second Amended Complaint seeks only an injunction and reformation of the Policy, the court need not address whether his earlier claims would be time-barred or whether he lacks standing to sue for breach of fiduciary duty on behalf of himself or any purported class .

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