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Everett v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

May 15, 2017

ANTOINE D. EVERETT PLAINTIFF
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Objection (DN 30) to Magistrate Judge Whalin's Memorandum Opinion & Order (DN 29), and Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Response to Plaintiff's Objection (DN 32). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Objection (DN 30) is OVERRULED, and Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Response to Plaintiff's Objection (DN 32) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Magistrate Judge's Memorandum Opinion & Order sets forth in detail the relevant facts of this matter, which the Court incorporates herein without a recitation. (Mem. Op. & Order 1-3, DN 29). The decision denied Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint to assert claims under the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act (“KUCSPA”), KRS 304.12-230. (Pl.'s Mot. Amend Compl. 2-3, DN 23).

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has “original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2) provides that leave to amend pleading should be “freely given when justice so requires.” Birchwood Conservancy v. Webb, 302 F.R.D. 422, 424 (E.D. Ky. 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2)). In light of this liberal view, a motion to amend a pleading “should be denied if the amendment is brought in bad faith, for dilatory purposes, results in undue delay or prejudice to the opposing party, or would be futile.” Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 294 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Crawford v. Roane, 53 F.3d 750, 753 (6th Cir. 1995)).

         A proposed amendment to a pleading is futile if the amendment “could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420 (6th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the pleading “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, 677 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. A court may deny a motion to amend based on futility where adding a state-law claim would be frivolous given that ERISA clearly preempts such claims. See Hollingshead v. Aetna Health Inc., 589 F. App'x 732, 737 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 46-48 (1987)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         As noted above, the Magistrate Judge denied Everett's motion to amend the Complaint to add claims under the KUCSPA against Defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”). (Mem. Op. & Order 10). The Magistrate Judge concluded that granting of the motion to amend would be futile because the KUCSPA claims are completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461. (Mem. Op. & Order 6-10).

         When objections are made to rulings by a magistrate judge involving nondispositive matters, [1] the district judge “must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Everett has alleged that the Magistrate Judge: (1) erred when he found ERISA completely preempted his KUCSPA claim; (2) did not properly apply the Saving Clause of ERISA's express preemption provision, 29 U.S.C § 1144(b)(2)(A); and (3) improperly distinguished Harrison v. TEAMCARE-A Central States Health Plan, 187 F.Supp.3d 812 (E.D. Ky. 2016), which Everett suggests is on point and supports his proposition. (Pl.'s Obj. 3). The Court will address each of the points asserted in Everett's objection in turn.

         A. ERISA Preemption

         Everett contends that Magistrate Judge Whalin erred in concluding that ERISA preempts his claims under Kentucky law. As the Magistrate Judge correctly noted, the Supreme Court set out the test for complete preemption under ERISA in Aetna Health ...


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