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MacAluso v. Myering

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

October 4, 2013

Joseph Macaluso, Jr., Plaintiff.
v.
Sharon Macaluso Myering, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SUSAN K. GAUVEY, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is defendant Sharon Macaluso Myering's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 23), and plaintiff's response in opposition. (ECF No. 26). For the reasons set forth herein, defendant's motion is GRANTED.

I. Background

Plaintiff and Ms. Macaluso Myering divorced in 1991. (ECF No. 2-3). On August 15, 1991, they entered into a Separation And Property Settlement Agreement. (ECF No. 2-2). On or around this date the parties also entered into a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ("QDRO"), a revised version of which was entered into and approved by U.S. Airways, plaintiff's employer, in December 2000. (ECF No. 2-15).

Plaintiff's pension plan was established under and is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA"). 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ("PBGC") took over the pension plan in 2005 following U.S. Airways' bankruptcy. (ECF No. 2-19, 2). PBGC is the plan's trustee, and is responsible for paying benefits owed to participants. (Id.).

At some point prior to May 2010, plaintiff filed a claim for benefits with PBGC. (Id. at 1). He challenged his benefit of $1, 117.28 a month through October 2005, and $312.58 thereafter, arguing that under the terms of the QDRO, he should receive a greater sum. (Id.). The claim was denied initially and on appeal. (Id.). PBGC provided a detailed breakdown of plaintiff's and defendant's benefits under the QDRO and determined that his benefit was not incorrectly calculated. (Id. at 2-4). It is unclear if plaintiff attacked the validity of the QDRO in this claim, as he does here, or merely challenged the calculation of benefits.

II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

In evaluating a motion to dismiss, a court "accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc. , 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain 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, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim "has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Plaintiff is not under an obligation to "forecast" evidence sufficient to prove the elements of the claim. Walters v. McMahen , 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012). Plausibility does not entail a probability requirement, but does require more than the sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id . "Legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of factual enhancement, " in addition to "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments, " fail to constitute well-pled facts. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc. , 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). Ultimately, plaintiff must allege sufficient factual allegations "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555.

III. Analysis

In his complaint, plaintiff seeks to "either nullify or disqualify the Revised QDRO." (ECF No. 2, 1). More specifically, he alleges the following defects in the QDRO: 1) plaintiff's address is incorrect; 2) plaintiff's birthday is incorrect; 3) the formula and language in the QDRO is different than that used in plaintiff's separation and property agreement and 4) additional language (of unclear origin) was missing from QDRO. (ECF No. 2, 2-6).

Defendant makes three arguments in her motion to dismiss. First, she contends that "[t]he proper party defendant in an action for benefits under ERISA [§ 1132(a)(1)(B)] is the entity with decision-making authority over the plan at issue." (ECF No. 23-1, 3-4). Because PBGC "has been the Plan's trustee and has been paying benefits owed to participants under the plan, " defendant argues, it is the "only proper defendant." (Id. at 4). Second, defendant argues that plaintiff's complaint is barred by the relevant statute of limitations. (Id. at 4-5.). Third, she argues that plaintiff's substantive claims are without merit. (Id. at 6-7.). The Court will address each argument in turn.

A. Proper Party

In response to defendant's contention that she is not the proper defendant in this action, plaintiff argues that he may bring the case against defendant "because her signature was required to make the revised QDRO active... and therefore her signature would be required to change any ...


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