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Woerner v. Fram Group Operations, LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

April 29, 2013

LOU ANN WOERNER, as the beneficiary of Michael J. Woerner, Plaintiff,
v.
FRAM GROUP OPERATIONS, LLC, and ERIC SCHUENEMAN, Defendants.

OPINION

STANLEY R. CHESLER, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the motion by Defendant Eric Schueneman to dismiss the claims against him pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Docket Entry 7) Plaintiff Lou Ann Woerner has opposed the motion. (Docket Entry 16) The Court will rule on the papers submitted, and without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

I. THE FACTS

In July 2010, Plaintiff Lou Ann Woerner's husband, Michael J. Woerner, was diagnosed with brain cancer. At the time of his diagnosis, Mr. Woerner worked for Honeywell and participated in the company's ERISA-covered benefits plans. In January 2011, Honeywell agreed to sell the business unit employing Mr. Woerner to Defendant FRAM. This sale closed on July 29, 2011, about a month after Mr. Woerner took a leave of disability from work. The Woerners were concerned that the sale would adversely affect Mr. Woerner's employee benefits and insurance coverages, and they actively sought information from both Honeywell and FRAM. At some point, the Woerners were told that they would have to speak with FRAM's Director of Compensation, Benefits, and HRIS, Defendant Eric Schueneman.

The Woerners initially had difficulty reaching Schueneman, and when they did, they were told that the information they sought was not yet available. The Woerners continued to seek information, by phone and email, from Honeywell, FRAM, and Schueneman about how the sale might affect Mr. Woerner's benefits. During this time, the Woerners were given the impression that Mr. Woerner would be eligible for life insurance through FRAM. Plaintiff points to a conversation she had with Schueneman on or about December 5, 2011, in which Schueneman indicated that he was "sure" Mr. Woerner could enroll in FRAM's life insurance plan.

On December 7, 2011, the Woerners made their benefits and insurance coverage elections for 2012. Mr. Worerner elected to enroll in a $297, 000 basic life insurance policy and a $198, 000 voluntary life insurance policy. Both had effective dates of January 1, 2012, and named Plaintiff as beneficiary. Mr. Woerner received written confirmation of his "enrolled" status and life insurance converage.

Mr. Woerner's voluntary life insurance policy required a monthly contribution of $16.91, and in January, 2012, the Woerners noticed that premium contributions were not being automatically deducted from Mr. Woerner's compensation. Plaintiff emailed Schueneman to discuss this and other issues but received no response. After repeated attempts, Plaintiff reached Schueneman by telephone in mid to late January 2012. Schueneman told Plaintiff not to worry, that the Woerners were covered, and that letters would be going out to explain how to make premium contributions by check. The Woerners never received such a letter.

Plaintiff alleges, upon information and belief, that around this time, Schueneman learned that it might be necessary for Mr. Woerner to attend work for a day in order to become eligible for life insurance benefits. Schueneman never shared this information with the Woerners.

Mr. Woerner passed away on February 24, 2012. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to get information from Schueneman about the pay out on Mr. Woerner's life insurance policy, Plaintiff spoke directly with the insurance company, who disclosed that Mr. Woerner was not covered at the time of his death.

Plaintiff has brought suit against both FRAM and Schueneman, alleging five separate counts under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 1002, et seq.[1] Plaintiff seeks a constructive trust and other equitable relief.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

A complaint will survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) if it states "sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Third Circuit, following Twombly and Iqbal, has held that Rule 8(a) "requires not merely a short and plain statement, but instead mandates a statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is limited in its review to a few basic documents: the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and ...


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