United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff and
Counterclaim-Defendant Nina Stephens' Motion to Dismiss
the Amended Counterclaim (Doc. # 38), filed on November 19,
2017. Defendants and Counterclaim-Plaintiffs Time Customer
Service, Inc. Severance Plan (“TCS Plan”) and
Henry Lescaille responded on December 4, 2017. (Doc. # 39).
For the reasons that follow, the Motion is denied.
Stephens was terminated from her position with Time Customer
Service, Inc., she signed a contractual separation Agreement
and general release. (Doc. # 37 at 14-15). The Agreement
stated that Stephens would receive $34, 693.65 in severance
benefits under the terms of the severance program.
(Id.). To be eligible to receive those benefits,
Stephens had to sign the Agreement and attached release,
which Stephens did. (Id.). The Agreement and release
provided, among other things, that the $34, 693.65 was all
Stephens was entitled to and that, if Stephens violated the
terms of the Agreement, “the Company may seek all
available relief under law or in equity, including, but not
limited to, recoupment of amounts paid to” Stephens.
(Doc. # 37-2 at 4). The release provided that Stephens
released any claims under ERISA against all “the Time
Inc. Entities and Persons, ” each of which was
“intended to be a third party beneficiary under this
Agreement.” (Id. at 8).
Plan and Lescaille have paid the money specified by the
Agreement to Stephens, yet Stephens has sued for additional
benefits under the Plan. According to the TCS Plan and
Lescaille, “[b]y asserting her [ERISA] claims against
[them] in this action, [Stephens] has breached and continues
to breach the terms of the Plan as forth in the Plan Document
itself and the Agreement which is part of the Plan.”
(Doc. # 37 at 17).
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.). The
TCS Plan and Lescaille filed their Motion to Dismiss on
August 1, 2017, (Doc. # 8), which the Court denied on August
22, 2017. (Doc. # 15).
on September 5, 2017, the TCS Plan and Lescaille filed their
Amended Answer and Counterclaim, (Doc. # 22), which Stephens
moved to dismiss. (Doc. # 26). On October 24, 2017, the Court
granted Stephens' motion to dismiss the counterclaim in
part. The Court dismissed Counts I and II for breach of
contract and specific performance as preempted by ERISA but
dismissed Counts III and IV for declaratory relief and
equitable restitution with leave to amend. (Doc. # 31).
Plan and Lescaille filed their Answer and Amended
Counterclaim on November 3, 2017 (Doc. # 37), asserting two
counterclaims: Count I for declaratory relief under the
Declaratory Judgment Act and Count II for equitable
restitution pursuant to ERISA § 502(a)(3), 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(a)(3). Stephens moved to dismiss the Amended
Counterclaim on November 19, 2017. (Doc. # 38). The TCS Plan
and Lescaille have responded (Doc. # 39), and the Motion is
ripe for review.
motion to dismiss a counterclaim under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) is evaluated in the same manner as a
motion to dismiss a complaint. Stewart Title Guar. Co. v.
Title Dynamics, Inc., No. 2:04-cv-316-FtM-33SPC, 2005 WL
2548419, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 11, 2005). Thus, on a motion
to dismiss, this Court accepts as true all the allegations in
the counterclaim and construes them in the light most
favorable to the counterclaim plaintiff. Jackson v.
Bellsouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262 (11th Cir.
this Court favors the counterclaim plaintiff with all
reasonable inferences from the allegations in the
counterclaim. Stephens v. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs., 901 F.2d 1571, 1573 (11th Cir. 1990). But,
[w]hile a [counterclaim] 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).