United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
For David Deaton, Plaintiff: Casey P. Castleberry, LEAD ATTORNEY, Murphy, Thompson, Arnold, Skinner & Castleberry, Batesville, AR; T. Lindsey Castleberry, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Batesville, AR.
For Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Company, Defendant: Kara B. Mikles, LEAD ATTORNEY, Munson, Rowlett, Moore & Boone, P.A., Little Rock, AR; Richard J. Pautler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Thompson Coburn LLP, St. Louis, MO.
Kristine G. Baker, United States District Judge.
On October 16, 2013, plaintiff David Deaton filed a complaint against defendant Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company (" Hartford" ) in the Circuit Court of White County, Arkansas (Dkt. No. 2). On December 2, 2013, Hartford removed the action to this Court (Dkt. No. 1). Mr. Deaton subsequently amended his complaint to allege entitlement to disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Securities Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (" ERISA" ) (Dkt. No. 4). On January 8, 2014, Hartford filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Deaton's amended complaint (Dkt. No. 7). Mr. Deaton filed a response (Dkt. No. 9), to which Hartford filed a reply (Dkt. No. 11).
Because both parties submitted affidavits and documents outside the pleadings that were not excluded by the Court, the Court converted defendant's motion to one for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) (Dkt. No. 14). Rule 12(d) requires
that " [a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion," and " [a] party against whom this procedure is used . . . is normally entitled to notice that conversion is occurring." Barron ex rel. D.B. v. S.D. Bd. of Regents, 655 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2011). The Court gave the parties notice of the conversion and an opportunity to supplement the record with any pertinent materials. Hartford filed a supplement (Dkt. No. 15), while Mr. Deaton chose to stand on his original response to Hartford's motion (Dkt. No. 16).
For the following reasons, the Court grants Hartford's motion and dismisses with prejudice Mr. Deaton's amended complaint.
I. Factual Background
Hartford is an insurance company that issued Mr. Deaton's former employer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a group policy of long term disability insurance coverage. Mr. Deaton alleges that he was a participant in that disability plan, that he became disabled, and that he is entitled to benefits.
On April 4, 2012, Hartford approved Mr. Deaton's previously made claim for long term disability benefits under the policy. On December 17, 2012, Mr. Deaton received a letter from Hartford discontinuing his benefits effective March 25, 2013 (Dkt. No. 8-1). The termination letter stated that:
[ERISA] gives you the right to appeal our decision and receive a full and fair review. You are entitled to receive, upon request and free of charge, reasonable access to, and copies of, all documents, records and other information relevant to your claim. If you do not agree with our denial, in whole or in part, and you wish to appeal our decision, you or your authorized representative must write to us within one hundred eighty (180) days from the receipt of this letter. Your appeal letter should be signed, dated and clearly state your position. Please include your printed or typed full name, Policyholder, and at least the last four digits of your Social Security Number with your appeal letter (i.e. xxx-xx-1234). Along with your appeal letter, you may submit written comments, documents, records and other information related to your claim.
Once we receive your appeal, we will again review your entire claim, including any information previously submitted and any additional information received with your appeal. Upon completion of this review, we will advise you of our determination. After your appeal, and if we again deny your claim, you then have the right to bring a civil action under Section 502(a) of ERISA.
Please send your appeal letter to:
GBD Claim Appeal Unit
Hartford Life Insurance ...