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Cannella v. Boone

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

July 5, 2017

DEWEY CANNELLA, et al., Plaintiffs,
LUE REA BOONE, Defendant.



         The Plaintiffs-Dewey Cannella, Alphonse Rispoli, Jr., Louis Sanchez, Aron Forem, Bruce Vivadelli, and Frank Miraglia, in their capacity as Trustees for the WWEC Local 863 Pension Plan (the “Trustees”)-moved for summary judgment on their claims against the Defendant-Lue Rea Boone. Doc. 23. The Trustees assert two counts in their complaint: Count I under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 22-23); and Count II for conversion under Georgia law (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 24-25). The core of the Trustees' complaint is that Boone continued to accept her late husband's “monthly pension payments in the amount of $3, 549.69 for the period March 2013 through December 2014, ” which were delivered via direct deposit. Doc. 1 ¶ 16.

         The Trustees sought summary judgment because “the undisputed evidence, including the testimony [of the] Defendant, shows that she was on notice that she was not entitled to her deceased husband's pension payments, but that she continued to accept that [sic] those payments and convert them to her own use in violation of the terms of the Pension Plan document and Georgia law.” Doc. 23-7 at 7. And, “The amount of the pension payments so converted and owing to Plaintiffs is . . . undisputed.” Id. As an equitable remedy under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), the Trustees requested that the Court impose “a constructive trust over the mistaken pension payments to the extent those funds have not been dissipated, permanently enjoin Defendant from further disposing or transferring any of the funds still in her possession and control, [and] require the return of such funds and a tracing of any portion of the funds no longer in her control.” Id. at 5. The record does not demonstrate that any of the pension funds remain or that there are any traceable proceeds. See Doc. 23-1 ¶¶ 15-17.

         Boone, who is pro se, did not file a response.

         The Court, having some concerns with the Trustees' motion, scheduled a hearing for April 18, 2017. See Doc. 25 (minute sheet). At the hearing, counsel for the Trustees conceded that the Trustees have no meritorious claim for an ERISA remedy on these facts because of the Supreme Court's decision in Montanile v. Board of Trustees of National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, 136 S.Ct. 651 (2016). The Trustees, though they have had the opportunity to do so, offer no reason why the ERISA claim should not be dismissed for this reason; accordingly, the ERISA claim is DISMISSED without prejudice.

         The Trustees' complaint asserts that the Court's sole basis of jurisdiction over their state law conversion claim is supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Doc. 1 ¶ 6. In light to the potential dismissal of their ERISA claim, the Court ordered the Trustees to show cause why the Court should continue exercise jurisdiction over the conversion claim. Doc. 26.

         District courts . . . possess the authority to dismiss claims brought under § 1367(a) if:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c); Parker, 468 F.3d at 743 (“Any one of the section 1367(c) factors is sufficient to give the district court discretion to dismiss a case's supplemental state law claims.”). Once any of these factors is satisfied, the district court possesses the discretion to dismiss supplemental claims and must “weigh . . . at every stage of the litigation, ” whether to dismiss the supplemental claims. . . . Actually determining whether to dismiss the claims calls for the court to weigh the “host of factors” outlined [prior case law]: “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.” . . .
. . . . “A district court abuses its discretion if it applies an incorrect legal standard, follows improper procedures in making the determination, or makes findings of fact that are clearly erroneous.” Klay v. United Healthgroup, Inc., 376 F.3d 1092, 1096 (11th Cir. 2004) (quotation marks omitted); see also Estate of Amergi ex. rel. Amergi v. Palestinian Auth., 611 F.3d 1350, 1365 (11th Cir. 2010) (“A district court does not abuse its discretion when it has a range ...

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