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Ruiz v. Campbell Soup Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 30, 2013

JOE RUIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY, and CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY SEVERANCE PAY PLAN FOR SALARIED EMPLOYEES Defendants.

MARC A. WEINBERG, SAFFERN & WEINBERG, JENKINTOWN, PA, On behalf of plaintiff.

ALISON CHRISTINA MORRIS, DUANE MORRIS LLP, PHILADELPHIA, PA, On behalf of defendants.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motion will be converted to a motion for summary judgment on the issue of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The remaining arguments raised in defendants' motion to dismiss will be denied without prejudice with leave to refile upon resolution of the summary judgment motion.

I. BACKGROUND

According to his complaint, plaintiff, Joe Ruiz, began working for defendant Campbell Soup Company in October 1984. Plaintiff became eligible for severance benefits under the Campbell Soup Company Severance Pay Plan for Salaried Employees (the "Plan") in the event he was discharged. On March 22, 2010, plaintiff was terminated. Plaintiff claims that although he was eligible for benefits, he was denied severance benefits.

Plaintiff claims that defendants violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by wrongfully excluding him from the Plan, by violating their fiduciary duties, and by unlawfully interfering with his ability to receive ERISA benefits. Plaintiff also claims, conditionally, for retroactive benefits under ERISA.

Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to properly plead, or in the alternative, for a more definite statement. Plaintiff has opposed defendant's motion.

II. JURISDICTION

This Court has federal question jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to Sections 404, 405, 502(a) and 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 1104, 1105, 1132(a), and 1140.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher , 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp. , 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown , 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades , 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions'...."); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) ...


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