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LaBouve v. Metso Minerals Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

March 28, 2018

MARK LABOUVE PLAINTIFF
v.
METSO MINERALS INDUSTRIES, INC. a/k/a Metso Minerals Frozen Pension Plan, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Debra M. Brown UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Metso Minerals Industries, Inc.'s motion to dismiss, Doc. #3; and Mark LaBouve's motion for summary judgment, Doc. #16.

         I Procedural History

         On July 3, 2017, Mark LaBouve filed a complaint in this Court against Metso Minerals Industries, Inc. alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty based on Metso's refusal to pay him certain benefits under its pension plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Doc. #1. On July 26, 2017, Metso filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. #3. LaBouve timely responded, Doc. #13; and Metso timely replied, Doc. #21.

         On the same day he responded to Metso's motion to dismiss, LaBouve filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #16. Metso timely responded to the summary judgment motion. Doc. #25. LaBouve did not reply.

         II Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must provide the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement for relief-including factual allegations that, when assumed to be true, raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Ruiz v. Brennan, 851 F.3d 464, 468 (5th Cir. 2017) (citing Taylor v. City of Shreveport, 798 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2015)). Under this standard, a court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true.” New Orleans City v. Ambac Assur. Corp., 815 F.3d 196, 199-200 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III Factual Allegations

         As an employee of Metso, LaBouve participated in Metso's ERISA-governed pension plan. Doc. #1 at ¶¶ 4, 7-8. At some point during his employment with Metso, LaBouve was injured on the job. Id. at ¶ 12. On January 29, 2014, LaBouve and Metso executed a “Global Settlement Agreement and General Release” (“Agreement”), which settled, among other things, LaBouve's worker's compensation claim.[1] Id. at ¶¶ 12-13; Doc. #1-2.[2] Pursuant to the Agreement, LaBouve received from Metso $190, 000.00 related to his worker's compensation claim and $3, 750.00 related to his other pending claims, and LaBouve's counsel received $1, 250.00. Doc. #1-2 at ¶ 4. The Agreement includes a “Waiver and Release of Claims” provision. Id. at ¶ 7.

         Sometime after the Agreement's execution, LaBouve requested disability benefits and, in the alternative, retirement benefits he believed were rightfully due to him under Metso's pension plan. Doc. #1 at ¶ 14. On February 19, 2016, Metso denied LaBouve's request based on the “Waiver and Release of Claims” provision in the Agreement. Id. at ¶ 15. Thereafter, on July 3, 2017, LaBouve filed this lawsuit seeking the “full amount of his Disability Benefits and/or Retirement Benefits.” Id. at 4.

         IV Analysis

         As explained above, LaBouve's complaint asserts claims for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Metso seeks dismissal of both claims.

         A. Breach of Contract

         Metso concedes that LaBouve is entitled to his retirement benefits upon attaining the age of sixty-five, or may apply for reduced-rate retirement benefits before reaching the age of sixty-five. Doc. #21 at 5-6 & n.1. Accordingly, the Court will only consider whether LaBouve has sufficiently stated a claim for disability benefits. In that regard, the sole issue is whether LaBouve, by executing the Agreement, released[3] his right to disability benefits under Metso's pension plan.

         1. ERISA's ...


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