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Vaughn v. Aetna Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

February 27, 2017

STEPHANIE D. VAUGHN, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Aetna Life Insurance Company's (“Aetna”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and to Strike Plaintiff's Jury Demand [2] and Partial Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint for Breach of Fiduciary Duties [11]. Also before the Court is Plaintiff Stephanie D. Vaughn's (“Vaughn”) Motion for Leave to Add a Party [6].

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         Vaughn is the daughter of James Sheffield (“Sheffield”), deceased, and the named beneficiary of Sheffield's life insurance. ([8] ¶¶ 4, 8). At the time of his death on October 24, 2012, Sheffield was an employee of Lafarge North America Inc. (“Lafarge”), and he participated in a life insurance policy plan (“the Plan”) sponsored and administered by Lafarge. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7). Sheffield was, at the time of his death, on approved disability. (Id. ¶ 6).

         The Plan was a part of Sheffield's employment benefit package and was issued by Aetna. (Id. ¶ 7). Sheffield continuously carried the life insurance and made premium contributions until his death. (Id.). According to the annual personal benefits information as of July 5, 2011, Sheffield had both basic and supplemental life-insurance coverage with total coverage amounts of $330, 000.

         After Sheffield's death, Aetna furnished Vaughn with Sheffield's basic life-insurance benefits of $130, 000, but denied her claim as to his supplemental life-insurance benefits of $200, 000 because of the lack of medical evidence to support a permanent and total disability. (Id. ¶ 9).

         Vaughn's Complaint alleges that Sheffield “had cardiovascular disease, ” which caused “angina and mental atrophy” and “other documented debilitating and incapacitating physical and mental conditions[, ] which caused him to leave his employment on August 6, 2010.” (Id. ¶ 10). The Complaint alleges that Sheffield was “permanently and totally disabled” under the Plan. (Id.).

         B. Procedural History

         On March 11, 2016, Vaughn filed her original Complaint alleging breach of contract and other state law claims arising under a contract of supplemental life insurance. On April 5, 2016, Aetna removed, to this Court, the action filed in the State Court of Fulton County. ([1]). On April 6, 2016, Aetna moved to dismiss the original Complaint and to strike Plaintiff's jury demand because the Plan was issued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) and thus is governed by ERISA. ([2]).

         On May 5, 2016, Vaughn filed her First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) to conform with the requirements of ERISA and requested leave to add Lafarge as a party. ([6], [8]). The Complaint alleges that Aetna failed to pay Vaughn supplemental life-insurance benefits under the ERISA plan (Count I) and that Aetna and Lafarge breached their fiduciary duties (Count II). ([8] at 5, 7). On May 23, 2016, Aetna moved to dismiss Count II of Vaughn's Complaint. ([11]).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Aetna's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Original Complaint and to Strike Plaintiff's Jury Demand

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a plaintiff to file one amended complaint as a matter of course, if the amended complaint is filed either within twenty-one (21) days of service of the original complaint or within twenty-one (21) days of the defendant's filing of a responsive pleading or Rule 12 motion to dismiss. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Amended complaints outside of these time limits may be ...


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