United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lori McCarty has filed a civil action against Defendant
Exelon Corporation ("Exelon") alleging that it has
improperly calculated the amount of pension benefits that she
is due under her former husband's pension plan as a
surviving spouse. In her Complaint filed in the Circuit Court
for Calvert County, Maryland, McCarty seeks a declaratory
judgment on the amount of benefits she is due and an order
instructing Exelon to pay her the past benefits she is owed
and the correct amount of benefits going forward. Exelon
removed the action to this Court, on the grounds that
McCarty's claim is preempted by the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 1001-1461 (2012). Pending before the Court is
Exelon's Motion to Dismiss. Upon review of the submitted
materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary.
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motion will be GRANTED.
was previously married to Jeffrey Gill Denton, Sr., who was
employed by the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. Through
that employment, Denton received a pension administered by
Exelon ("the Plan"). When McCarty and Denton
divorced in 1995, the Circuit Court for Calvert County
ordered that McCarty would receive a portion of Denton's
pension benefits as a surviving spouse should Denton
predecease her, pursuant to a Qualified Domestic Relations
Order ("QDRO") that followed their Voluntary
Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.
died in November 2016. When McCarty did not receive any Plan
benefits from Exelon, she contacted it in March 2017
regarding the benefits owed to her under the QDRO. On June
22, 2017, Exelon sent McCarty a letter informing her of the
amount of benefits she would receive based on its
interpretation of the Plan and the QDRO. Exelon also told
McCarty that she would not receive benefits until July 2017,
eight months after Denton's death. McCarty disagreed with
Exelon's calculation. While McCarty claims that she and
her attorney "attempted to remedy the situation with
Defendant's representatives to no avail," she does
not state that she pursued Exelon's administrative review
process for adjudicating disputes over benefit claims. Compl.
¶ 10, ECF No. 1-3. She asserts that she has not received
any Plan benefits from Exelon.
18, 2018, McCarty filed suit against Exelon in the Circuit
Court for Calvert County, requesting a declaratory judgment
on the amount of benefits she is due under the Plan and the
QDRO, an order requiring Exelon to pay her all past benefits
due and all future benefits in accordance with the
court's determination, and attorney's fees. On June
27, 2018, Exelon removed the action to this Court on the
basis of federal question jurisdiction.
Motion, Exelon seeks dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). First, Exelon
argues that the Complaint was properly removed to federal
court because McCarty's state court claim was preempted
by ERISA. Second, it asserts that the Complaint must be
dismissed because McCarty has not exhausted her
administrative remedies, as required by ERISA. McCarty, who
was represented by counsel in the state court proceeding but
is self-represented in this Court, was informed of her right
to respond to Exelon's Motion but did not file an
defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to
state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible
when the facts pleaded allow "the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or
conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. The Court
must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual
allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the
factual allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268
(1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson
Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).
are permitted to consider documents attached to a motion to
dismiss "when the document is integral to and explicitly
relied on in the complaint, and when the plaintiffs do not
challenge the document's authenticity." Zak v.
Chelsea Therapeutics Int'l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597,
606-07 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Am. Chiropractic
Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234
(4th Cir. 2004)). The Court will consider the excerpts of the
Plan that were attached to Exelon's Motion to Dismiss,
since it is central to the allegations made in McCarty's
complaint and because McCarty, though given the opportunity
to do so, has not disputed its authenticity.
the "well-pleaded complaint" rule requires that a
state court complaint allege a federal claim on its face to
be removed by a defendant to federal court pursuant to the
federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2012).
Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200, 207
(2004). However, where a federal statute completely preempts
a state law claim by "wholly displac[ing] the state law
cause of action," the cause of action "is in
reality based on federal law," and the defendant may
remove the action to federal court. Id. at 207-08.
ERISA is one statute with such preemptive power, because it
creates a "uniform regulatory regime over employee
benefit plans" by providing both "substantive
regulatory requirements" and remedial procedures for
disputes under employee benefit plans. Id. at 208.
Accordingly, ERISA specifically provides that it "shall
supersede any and all State laws insofar as they may now or
hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan," except
when the state law "regulates insurance, banking, or
securities." 29U.S.C. § H44(a)-(b).
ERISA's comprehensive regulatory scheme is an
"integrated enforcement mechanism," which is
"essential to accomplish Congress' purpose of
creating a comprehensive statute for the regulation of
employee benefit plans." Davila, 542 U.S. at
208; see 29 U.S.C. § 1132. ERISA therefore
provides that an employee benefit plan participant or
beneficiary may bring a civil action "to recover
benefits due ... under the terms of [the] plan, to enforce .
.. rights under the terms of the plan, or to clarify ...
rights to future benefits under the terms of the plan."
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1). "[A]ny state-law cause of
action that duplicates, supplements, or supplants the ERISA