United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendants Time
Customer Service, Inc., Severance Plan and Henry
Lescaille's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 8), filed on August
1, 2017. Plaintiff Nina Stephens filed a response on August
14, 2017. (Doc. # 10). For the reasons that follow, the
Motion is denied.
many years, Stephens worked for Time Customer Service, Inc.,
which “is an organization that provides fulfillment
services in the publishing industry services.” (Doc. #
1 at ¶¶ 8, 12). On July 23, 2015, Stephens
“received a termination letter and severance package,
” with her termination becoming effective on September
11, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 13). Because she was an
employee of Time Customer Service, Inc., Stephens alleges she
is a participant in the Time Customer Service, Inc.,
Severance Plan (TCS Plan). (Id. at ¶¶ 9,
11). Yet, “[t]he termination letter stated that
Stephens was eligible for certain payments and benefits under
the Time Inc. Severance Plan for Regular Employees (Time
Inc. Plan)” - a different plan. (Id. at
¶ 14)(emphasis added). Eligibility for benefits was
contingent on Stephens signing a release, which she did.
Time Inc. Plan provides, in pertinent part, that persons
covered by the plan receive severance pay in an amount equal
to two weeks of weekly pay for each year of service.”
(Id. at ¶ 15). In contrast, the TCS Plan
“provides that [Time Customer Service], in its
discretion, may adopt a severance program” and that
“severance benefits are to be paid under the terms of
that program.” (Id. at ¶ 9). Stephens had
17.97 years of service with Time Customer Service at the time
of her severance but “she was offered only one
week's severance pay for each year of service.”
(Id. at ¶ 16).
on December 8, 2015, “Stephens filed a written claim
for benefits with both the Plan Administrator for the TCS
Plan and the Plan Administrator for the Time Inc.
Plan.” (Id. at ¶ 17). “In her
claim, among other things, she requested that each of these
plan administrators provide to her and incorporate into her
claims file all the calculations they made that were relevant
to the determination of Stephens'[s] benefits
under” the Time Inc. Plan and under the TCS Plan.
(Id.). Also in her claim, Stephens requested
numerous other documents including, among others: “all
benefit booklets and similar materials that referred to the
provisions” of the TCS Plan or Time Inc. Plan;
“all board resolutions” pertaining to the TCS
Plan and the Time Inc. Plan; “all correspondence
relating to her claim for benefits” under the TCS Plan
and Time Inc. Plan; and “any documents, board
resolutions or administrative actions that modified or
amended the plan terms” of either plan. (Id.).
“These requests were not addressed or responded
December 8, 2015, Stephens's attorneys sent a letter
“request[ing] that each Plan Administrator explain
fully their justification for concluding that
[Stephens's] severance benefit was equivalent” to
one week of base pay per year and “request[ing] all
documents relating to this conclusion.” (Id.
at ¶ 18). “This request was not addressed or
responded to.” (Id.).
“[b]y letter dated March 18, 2016, Stephens, through
her attorneys, notified both plan administrators that
Stephens had made a formal claim for benefits under the TCS
Plan and the Time Inc. Plan and a formal request for Plan
documents.” (Id. at ¶ 19). That letter
noted that the previous letter was never responded to and
that the statutory deadline to provide the requested
documents had passed. (Id.). In response, the Vice
President and Deputy General Counsel for Time sent an email
and “enclosed as attachments the plan document for the
TCS Plan and the plan document for the Time Severance
Plan.” (Id. at ¶ 20). The letter also
enclosed, among other things, the “portion of the TCS
Plan [Summary Plan Description] that dealt with claims
procedures.” (Id.). Then, on March 29, 2016,
“Lescaille sent by email to Stephens'[s] counsel a
so called fully executed agreement and release for
Stephens.” (Id. at ¶ 21).
“Stephens  exhausted her administrative
remedies” (Id. at ¶ 22), she filed her
three-Count Complaint in this Court on June 6, 2017, against
the TCS Plan and Lescaille as Plan Administrator for the TCS
Plan. (Doc. # 1). The Complaint asserts claims under ERISA
§§ 502(a)(1)(B), 502(a)(3), and 502(c)(1), as
codified in 29 U.S.C. § 1132, for denial of benefits,
breach of fiduciary duty, and failure to respond to document
requests. (Id.). Defendants filed their Motion to
Dismiss on August 1, 2017. (Doc. # 8). Stephens responded on
August 14, 2017. (Doc. # 10). The Motion is ripe for review.
motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true all the
allegations in the complaint and construes them in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Jackson v. Bellsouth
Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262 (11th Cir. 2004).
Further, this Court favors the plaintiff with all reasonable
inferences from the allegations in the complaint.
Stephens v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs.,
901 F.2d 1571, 1573 (11th Cir. 1990)(“On a motion to
dismiss, the facts stated in [the] complaint and all
reasonable inferences therefrom are taken as true.”).
[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)(internal citations omitted). Courts are not
“bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as
a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
“[t]he scope of review must be limited to the four
corners of the complaint.” St. George v. Pinellas
Cty., 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002). There is
“an exception, however, in cases in which a plaintiff
refers to a document in its complaint, the document is
central to its claim, its contents are not in dispute, and
the defendant attaches the document to its motion to
dismiss.” Fin. Sec. Assur., Inc. v. Stephens,
Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1284 (11th Cir. 2007). “In
this context, ‘undisputed' means that the
authenticity of the document is not challenged.” Day v.
Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005)(internal
citation omitted). A consideration in determining whether a
document is central to a plaintiff's claim is
“whether the plaintiff would have had to offer the
document in order to prove its case.” Fin. Sec.
Assur., Inc., 500 F.3d at 1285.