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Torrence v. New Orleans Electrical Pension and Annuity Plan

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 25, 2017

ROBERT G. TORRENCE
v.
NEW ORLEANS ELECTRICAL PENSION AND ANNUITY PLAN,

         SECTION “R” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant New Orleans Electrical Pension Plan (NOEPP) moves the Court to dismiss plaintiff Robert Torrence's complaint.[1] For the following reasons, the Court grants NOEPP's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (ERISA). Plaintiff Robert Torrence joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in 1972 and became a Journeyman/Wireman out of Local 1077 in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1976.[2] At that time, Local 1077 was a small chapter, and did not have a welfare benefits plan or a pension plan.[3]

         According to plaintiff, he began working in New Orleans in 1976, and all of his contributions were paid to New Orleans Local 130.[4] The NOEPP is Local 130's pension plan. Plaintiff alleges that though he worked over the years in different states, he signed reciprocity agreements whereby his benefits would be paid to Local 130.[5]

         In 1991, plaintiff moved back to New Orleans and began working as an electrician for Transit Management of Southeast Louisiana.[6] Plaintiff alleges that during this time his pension contributions should have been made to Local 130.[7] Plaintiff further alleges that for many years he received statements from Local 130 stating that he was fully vested in the NOEPP.[8]

         Plaintiff alleges that in 2015, he applied for pension benefits under the pension plan but was denied benefits.[9] On May 3, 2016, his administrative appeal of the denial of benefits was denied.[10] On February 21, 2017, plaintiff filed this lawsuit. Plaintiff alleges that NOEPP's denial of his benefits was arbitrary and an abuse of discretion, and that NOEPP breached its fiduciary duty to plaintiff.[11] Plaintiff's complaint seeks equitable relief for NOEPP's alleged breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA section 502(a)(3).[12]

         In addition to NOEPP, plaintiff's complaint also named SBA, Southern Electrical Retirement Fund, IBEW Local 1077, and IBEW Local 3 as defendants.[13] Plaintiff has since voluntarily dismissed his claims against all of these defendants.[14]

         Defendant NOEPP now moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed a brief response in opposition, [15] and defendant replied.[16]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead “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, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Gines v. D.R. Horton, Inc., 699 F.3d 812, 816 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007)). But a court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A legally sufficient complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claim is true. Id. It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In other words, the face of the complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009). If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, or if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that there is an insuperable bar to relief, see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007); Carbe v. Lappin, 492 F.3d 325, 328 n.9 (5th Cir. 2007), the claim must be dismissed.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Breach of ...


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