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Lonigro v. New England Teamsters Pension Fund

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 2, 2020

MICHAEL A. LONIGRO, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW ENGLAND TEAMSTERS PENSION FUND, [2] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT NEW ENGLAND TEAMSTERS AND TRUCKING INDUSTRY PENSION FUND'S MOTION TO DISMISS (#12).

          M. Page Kelley United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction.

         Michael A. Lonigro, proceeding pro se, alleges that the New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund (“Pension Fund”), breached its fiduciary duty by not giving him the Early Retirement pension[3] to which he claims to be entitled. (#1.) Defendant has moved to dismiss on the grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim. (#12.) Mr. Lonigro opposes the dispositive motion. (#19.) For the following reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         II. Facts.

         The facts are taken from the complaint, as well as documents proffered by defendant.[4] Mr. Lonigro was an employee of United Parcel Service Cartage Services Inc. (“UPS”). (#1.) He has been a member of Teamsters Local 25 and a participant in the Pension Fund for over twenty years. Id. Defendant, a defined benefit pension fund governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., is the pension provider for Teamsters Local 25. Id. Reported contributions to the Pension Fund on plaintiff's behalf ended in May 2010. (#14, Exh. 4.)

         Mr. Lonigro alleges that, on May 20, 2015, he received permission from UPS to return to work after a non-pay medical leave of absence. (#1.)[5] According to plaintiff, his union representative had advised him that he needed 750 hours of worktime in order to collect his pension. Id. The following day, May 21, 2015, Mr. Lonigro was at the airport, en route to return to his job, when a manager from UPS contacted him and said he could not come back to work. Id. Plaintiff asserts that this was a wrongful termination either by UPS, or because a Local 25 representative influenced the UPS manager to renege on the employment. Id.[6] Noting that Local 25's president sits on the board of the Pension Fund, plaintiff alleges that the Teamsters Union breached its duty of fair representation to him, which caused the Pension Fund to breach its fiduciary duties, in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1104. Id. Mr. Lonigro contends that he is due an Early Retirement pension retroactive to May 2015. Id. His request for Early Retirement benefits was denied on April 1, 2016. (#14, Exh. 2.)

         In its motion to dismiss, the Pension Fund clarifies that plaintiff appears to be making a claim for benefits pursuant to ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (a)(1)(B), and possibly a claim for breach of fiduciary duty pursuant to ERISA § 502(a)(2), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2). (#13 at 1.)[7] Defendant argues that Mr. Lonigro was denied Early Retirement benefits because he is an “inactive vested participant” and as such, cannot meet the plan requirements to receive any retirement benefits prior to his normal retirement age. (#14, Exh. 2.)[8]

         III. Legal Standard.

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss challenges a party's complaint for failing to state a claim. In deciding such a motion, a court must “treat all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” In re Fin. Oversight & Mgmt. Bd. for P.R., 919 F.3d 121, 127 (1st Cir. 2019) (citing Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2011)). When considering a motion to dismiss, a 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.” A.G. ex rel. Maddox v. Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013) (citing Haley v. City of Bos., 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011)).

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff must provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The “obligation to provide the grounds of [the plaintiff's] entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]” Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted). The “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and to cross the “line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 555, 570.

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). However, the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Simply put, the court should assume that well-pleaded facts are genuine and then determine whether such facts state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679.

         IV. Discussion.

         A. Claim for Benefits.

         In order to be eligible for Early Retirement benefits, the Complete Rules and Regulations for the New England Teamsters ...


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