United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Joseph D. Dantzler, Jr., Plaintiff,
Time Warner Cable; Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Defendants.
D. Dantzler, Jr, Plaintiff, Pro Se.
Warner Cable, Defendant, represented by John Morris Russell,
Lawrence and Russell, Lauren Ashley Wong, Lawrence and
Russell, pro hac vice & Thomas Andrew Smith, Thomas A Smith
Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Defendant, represented
by John Morris Russell, Lawrence and Russell, pro hac vice,
Lauren Ashley Wong, Lawrence and Russell, pro hac vice &
Thomas Andrew Smith, Thomas A Smith Law Office.
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. GOSSETT, District Judge.
defendants removed this civil action, which was originally
filed in the Lexington County Court of Common Pleas by Joseph
D. Dantzler, Jr., a self-represented plaintiff. This matter
is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 636(b) and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.) on Dantzler's motion
to amend the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 52.) The defendants
filed a response in opposition to Dantzler's motion. (ECF
No. 55.) Dantzler's Amended Complaint was originally
recommended for dismissal by this court because the claims
contained therein are preempted by ERISA,  but the
Report and Recommendation allowed Dantzler twenty-one days to
file a motion to amend the Amended Complaint to assert a
claim pursuant to ERISA. (ECF No. 46.) By order dated August
9, 2016, the Honorable J. Michelle Childs, United States
District Judge, remanded this case to the assigned magistrate
judge for reconsideration of the defendants' motion to
dismiss the Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 37), in light of
Dantzler's motion to amend the Amended Complaint. (ECF
15(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
party to amend its pleading once as a matter of course.
Thereafter, the party may only amend with the opposing
party's written consent or the court's leave, which
should be granted "when justice so requires."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Supreme Court discussed how courts
should apply this standard in Foman v. Davis,
If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a
plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be
afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In
the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue
delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the
movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by
virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment,
etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be freely
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). For the
reasons discussed below, the court denies Dantzler's
motion to amend as futile because his proposed second amended
complaint is insufficient to state a plausible ERISA claim
against the defendants.
seeks leave to amend the Amended Complaint in this action to
bring an ERISA claim against the defendants. However, in the
proposed second amended complaint, (ECF No. 52-1), Dantzler
does not clearly state a cause of action under ERISA. Under a
heading titled "Jurisdiction and Venue, " Dantzler
repeats the allegations from his Amended Complaint that the
defendants' handling of his claim for disability benefits
caused him mental and emotional injuries (Id. at 1-4.) In the
only other section of the proposed second amended complaint
entitled "Prayer for Relief, " Dantzler asks the
court to award a "surcharge" against the defendants
for a breach of fiduciary duty. (Id.) Accordingly, it is not
clear under what section of ERISA's civil enforcement
provisions Dantzler seeks to state a cause of action against
the defendants. Liberally construing Dantzler's proposed
Second Amended Complaint, the court addresses the possible
surcharge is an available remedy under ERISA's equitable
relief provision, 29 U.S.C. Â§ 1132(a)(3). See CIGNA Corp.
v. Amara, 563 U.S. 421, 442 (2011); McCravy v.
Metro. Life Ins. Co., 690 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2012).
Section 1132(a)(3) allows an ERISA plan participant to bring
a civil action "to enjoin any act or practice which
violates any provision of this subchapter or the terms of the
plan, or to obtain other appropriate equitable relief to
redress such violations or to enforce any provisions of this
subchapter or the terms of the plan." This section only
authorizes appropriate equitable relief as will enforce the
terms of the ERISA plan at issue or ERISA itself. Mertens
v. Hewitt Assocs., 508 U.S. 248, 253 (1993); Moon v. BWX
Tech., Inc., 577 F.App'x 224, 228 (4th Cir. 2014).
Specifically, this remedy authorizes some individual
participants to bring a claim for breach of fiduciary duty
under limited circumstances. See Korotynska v. Metro.
Life Ins. Co., 474 F.3d 101, 104-05 (4th Cir. 2006)
(citing Varity Corp v. Howe, 516 U.S. 489, 512 & 515
(1996)). As a recognized form of equitable relief under this
section, a "surcharge" is a form of monetary
compensation for a loss resulting from a trustee's breach
of duty, or to prevent the trustee's unjust enrichment.
Amara, 536 U.S. at 441-42.
proposed second amended complaint fails to state a plausible
claim under Â§ 1132(a)(3). Equitable remedies such as
surcharges cannot provide relief for the injuries he alleges
the defendants caused. Dantzler seeks extracontractual
damages for mental and emotional injuries from the
defendants' handling of his disability claim, which was
ultimately granted by Defendant Sedgwick Claims Management
Services. (ECF No. 33 at 3.) However, only equitable relief
is available under Â§ 1132(a)(3) to enforce the terms of the
policy or ERISA's provisions, and extracontractual relief
is not cognizable in such actions. See Mertens, 508
U.S. at 253; see also Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v.
Russell, 473 U.S. 134, 144 (1985) (finding that ERISA
civil enforcement provision under Â§ 1132(a)(2), which
establishes liability for breach of fiduciary duty, does not
entitle beneficiaries to recover extracontractual damages
(compensatory or punitive)); U.S. Steel Mining. Co., Inc.
v. Dist. 17, United Mine Workers of Am., 897 F.2d 149,
153 (4th Cir. 1990) (applying the Russell Court's finding
that ERISA did not allow for extracontractual damages under Â§
1132(a)(2) to Â§ 1132(a)(3)). Dantzler fails to allege facts
indicating he is entitled to any damages or relief under the
policy or ERISA. Therefore, because Dantzler seeks
compensation for alleged injuries that fall outside of his
policy or ERISA, the proposed second amended complaint fails
to assert an ERISA claim pursuant to Â§
the court finds that Dantzler's bare allegation of a
breach of fiduciary duty, without more, would be insufficient
to meet the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. See generally Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("A pleading that
offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of
further factual enhancement.") (citing Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). It appears
that Dantzler is attempting to state a claim under ERISA by
merely replacing the names of the causes of actions in his
original pleadings with a claim for breach of fiduciary duty
under ERISA, while retaining the original factual
allegations. But, as discussed above, Dantzler's
allegations that he suffered mental and emotional injuries
from the defendant's conduct does not support a breach of
fiduciary duty claim under Â§ 1132(a)(3).
the court finds Dantzler's motion to amend must be denied
because his proposed second amended complaint fails to state
a plausible claim under ERISA. See Johnson v. Oroweat
Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 510 (4th Cir. 1986)
("Leave to amend, however, should only be denied on the
ground of futility when the proposed amendment is clearly
insufficient or frivolous on its face."); Buder v.
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 644 F.2d
690, 695 (8th Cir. 1981) (providing that a district court
should only deny a plaintiff's motion to amend based on
the likelihood of success of the merits of his claim if the
claim is clearly frivolous). Also, the court finds that
Dantzler's failure to comply with the federal pleading
requirements shows that his motion to amend is futile. See
U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc.,
525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008) ("[A] district court
may deny leave if amending the complaint would be futile-that
is, if the proposed amended complaint fails to satisfy the
requirements of the federal rules.") (internal quotation
omitted). Because the sole purpose of providing Dantzler with