United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DOC.
NO. 25, DOC. NO. 67)
Sorokin, United States District Judge
Marco Martinez asserts seven claims against Defendant Sun
Life Assurance Company of Canada (“Sun Life”) for
discrimination on the basis of his status as a veteran and
recovery of disability benefits which he claims are owed to
him. Doc. No. 1. For the reasons that follow, Sun Life's
motion for judgment on the pleadings is ALLOWED in its
Marco Martinez is a United States veteran who was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis in 2009. Doc. No. 1 ¶¶
36-37. From 2010 to 2012, Martinez was employed by the Athens
Group, where he held the position of Senior System
Administrator. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff and other
Athens Group employees participated in an
“ERISA-covered disability plan…by which their
benefits [were] provided pursuant to a group long-term
disability…insurance policy.” Id.
¶ 1. This long-term disability (“LTD”)
policy (the “Plan”) was offered by Sun Life.
Id. In November 2012, Martinez began receiving LTD
benefits under the Plan due to his multiple sclerosis.
Id. ¶ 60.
January 2015, the United States Department of Veterans
Administration (the “VA”) granted Martinez's
claim for Veterans Disability Benefits under the
Veterans' Benefits Act, based on his diagnosis of multiple
sclerosis, which entitled Martinez to benefits beginning
seventeen months earlier, in August, 2013. Id.
¶¶ 70-73. After Sun Life learned of the VA award,
it informed Martinez by letter that it would offset his
disability payments, as the VA award constituted “Other
Income Benefits” under the Plan. Id.
¶¶ 74-76. Martinez sued Sun Life alleging
discrimination and a number of ERISA violations based on this
asserts seven claims in his complaint. Count I alleges
discrimination under the Uniformed Services Employment and
Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), based
on the offset of Martinez' LTD benefits by the amount of
his VA award. Id. ¶¶ 146-56. Count II
alleges a claim for wrongly denied benefits under ERISA based
on the same offset of LTD benefits. Id. ¶¶
157-66. Count III alleges a breach of a fiduciary duty under
ERISA based on the offset of LTD benefits. Id.
¶¶ 167-73. Count IV alleges a breach of
co-fiduciary duty under ERISA based on the offset of LTD
benefits. Id. ¶¶ 174-96. Count V alleges a
violation of the Veterans' Benefits Act based on the
offset of LTD benefits. Id. ¶¶ 197-203.
Count VI seeks a declaratory judgment that prevents Sun Life
from bringing a civil action under ERISA to recover the
amount of the offset of LTD benefits. Id.
¶¶ 204-13. Count VII alleges knowing participation
in a fiduciary breach by a non-fiduciary based on the offset
of LTD benefits. Id. ¶¶ 214-17.
crux of Martinez's argument is that VA benefits are not
listed within the “Other Income Benefits” section
of the Plan, and thus when Sun Life offset his LTD benefits
by the amount of his VA award, it violated the Plan. See
Id. at 9. Section 1 of the Plan provides that
“Other Income Benefits” include:
amount the Employee is eligible for under:
a. Worker's Compensation Law; or
b. Occupational Disease Law; or
c. Unemployment Compensation Law; or
d. Compulsory Benefit Act or Law; or
e. an automobile no-fault insurance plan; or
f. any other act or law of like intent.
Id. ¶ 51.
Life initially moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety
under Rule 12(b)(6). Doc. No. 25. The Court ordered a filing
of the administrative record and denied without prejudice the
Motion to Dismiss, based on the schedule proposed by the
parties. Doc. No. 37. The Court considered and denied
Martinez's motion for discovery on Count II. Doc. No. 46.
Thereafter, Sun Life moved for summary judgment on Count II
of the complaint. Doc. No. 52. The Court allowed summary
judgment as to Count II, finding that VA benefits were
unambiguously included in “Other Income Benefits”
under section 1.d., a Compulsory Benefit Act or Law. Doc. No.
65 at 5-6.
response to the Court's summary judgment order, the
parties jointly requested that the Court treat the
Defendant's original Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss as a
live Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, in
order to resolve the remaining six claims. Doc. No. 67. The
Court adopted the parties' proposal and allowed
additional briefing, which the parties have now submitted.
standard for evaluating a motion for judgment on the
pleadings is essentially the same as the standard for
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6),
except that “[a] Rule 12(c) motion, unlike a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, implicates the pleadings as a whole.”
Aponte-Torres v. Univ. of P.R., 445 F.3d 50, 54-55
(1st Cir. 2006). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court
“must accept all well-pleaded facts alleged in the
Complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the plaintiff.” Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d
1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993). The Court “may augment these
facts and inferences with data points gleaned from documents
incorporated by reference into the complaint, matters of
public record, and facts susceptible to judicial
notice.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39,
46 (1st Cir. 2011) (citing In re Colonial Mortg. Bankers
Corp., 324 F.3d 12, 15 (1st Cir. 2003).
Court draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's
favor in resolving the pending motion for judgment on the
pleadings, and has before it the Plan, Doc. No. 27-1, which
is incorporated by reference into the complaint. Furthermore,
the Court looks to its prior ruling regarding the plain
meaning of the policy, announced in the Order on Motion for
Summary Judgment, Doc. No. 65. The Court's prior ruling
on the plain meaning of the policy applies to the pending
motion for the following reasons.
“[u]nder the law of the case doctrine, ‘unless
corrected by an appellate tribunal, a legal decision made at
one stage of a civil or criminal case constitutes the law of
the case throughout the pendency of the
litigation.'” Latin Am. Music Co. Inc. v. Media
Power Grp.,Inc., 705 F.3d 34, 40 (1st Cir.
2013) (quoting Flibotte v. Pa. Truck Lines, Inc.,
131 F.3d 21, 25 (1st Cir. 1997)). Second, nothing in the
briefing suggests to the Court that the ruling requires
reconsideration. Finally, the Court's ruling on the plain
meaning of the policy did not depend on any ...