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Virginia C. Moon, On Her Own Behalf and On Behalf of the Peters Rush Habib & Mckenna 401(K) Profit Sharing Plan v. David H. Rush

September 7, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. Senior United States District Judge


Defendants David H. Rush ("Rush"), Mark A. Habib ("Habib"), and James P. McKenna ("McKenna"; collectively, "Defendants") move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(h)(3) for dismissal of Plaintiff's Employment Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") and declaratory relief claims, arguing subject matter jurisdiction does not exist for these claims. Defendants also seek dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims, arguing the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims if Plaintiff's ERISA claims are dismissed. In the alternative, Defendants move under Rule 56 for summary judgment on Plaintiff's ERISA claims. The gravamen of Defendants' dismissal motion is their argument that "[Moon] is not a 'beneficiary' of the [Peters Rush Habib & McKenna 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan ('the Plan')] within the meaning of ERISA and, therefore, . . . has no standing to bring her claims under ERISA[, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) ('§ 1132')]." (Defs.' Mot. ("Mot.") 1:24-27.) Plaintiff Virginia C. Moon ("Moon") opposes the motion.

After considering the uncontroverted facts and each party's argument, it became evident in light of Moon's current status under ERISA, and concurrent state court proceedings pertinent to her status, that Moon's ERISA claims should be dismissed under the prudential ripeness doctrine, and that the Court should discontinue exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Moon's state claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Because of the considerations involved with the prudential ripeness doctrine and the Court's discretionary decision whether to continue exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Moon's state claims, issues involved in Defendants' pending motion will not be reached unless an issue has a bearing on the following sua sponte decision.


The following facts are relevant to decision on the ripeness issue. These facts are from the parties' statements of undisputed facts required by a local rule, and additional facts and evidence submitted by a party.

On September 26, 1995, an uncontested Judgment of Dissolution concerning Moon and Rush's former marriage was filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Butte ("Butte County Superior Court divorce case"). (Habib Decl. Filed in In re Rush, No. FL 004059 (Cal. Super. Ct. Dec. 23, 2011) (hereinafter "Habib Decl.") ¶¶ 2-3 (attached as Ex. 7 to Wasow Decl.).) A document entitled "Stipulation & Order Dividing Community Interest in Employee Benefit Plan-Qualified Domestic Relations Order" (hereinafter "the DRO") was filed on the same date. (Stip. & Order (hereinafter "DRO"), In re Rush, No. FL 004059 (Cal. Super. Ct. Sept. 26, 1995) (attached as Ex. 1 to Wasow Decl.). The DRO lists Rush as a Plan participant and Trustee of the Plan and Moon as an alternate payee. Id. ¶ 4.

The DRO states: [Moon] is acknowledged to own and shall be accorded an account with the plan which shall consist of the segregation of . . . [o]ne-half of the community interest in the approximately $6,500 cash;

[a]ll of the community's interest in 1525 Dayton Rd. . . . ; [a]ll of the community interest in Winder Baker receivable of $50,000 . . . ; [and o]ne-half of the community interest in the real property on Carr Drive in Ventura, California.

Id. ¶ 9. The address for serving notice to the Plan is listed in the DRO as "PETERS et al PROFIT SHARING PLAN [for benefit of ('f/b/o')] DAVID H. RUSH[,] c/o Trustee: David H. Rush." Id. ¶ 4. Habib has been the Plan Administrator since 1996. (Habib Decl. ¶ 1.)

"Rush, in his capacity as Trustee of the Plan, opened a separate Plan account for the benefit of [Moon], and deposited Plan funds into this account in 1996 and 1999." (Pl.'s Statement of Add'l Facts ("Pl.'s SAF") 2:10-12.) Further, the Plan has owned a 20.2881 percent interest in the Dayton Road property since 1995. (Habib, "Dayton Asset Management History," June 21, 2010 (attached as Ex. 5 to Wasow Decl.).)

In a letter to Habib dated February 25, 2010, Moon's counsel, Teresa Renaker ("Renaker"), requested a "pension benefit statement indicating . . . the total benefits [Moon] ha[d] accrued under the Plan." (Letter from Renaker to Habib, Feb. 25, 2010 (attached as Ex. 8 to Wasow Decl.).) Renaker also requested "the initial accounting [and] periodic accountings" of Moon's interest in the Plan since 1995. Id.

In another letter to Habib dated June 16, 2010, Renaker stated:

You have asserted that the Plan records do not include the [DRO]. . . . I do not understand you to assert that the Plan is not bound by the [DRO]. If that understanding is incorrect, please so inform me right away. (Letter from Renaker to Habib, June 16, 2010 (attached as Ex. 9 to Wasow Decl.).) Habib sent Renaker a letter dated June 22, 2010, to which he attached several documents concerning Moon's interest in the Plan's assets. (Letter from Habib to Renaker, June 22, 2010 (attached as Ex. 10 to Wasow Decl.).) Habib stated in the letter:

If [Moon] has a mechanism by which she can take title to Dayton and to the existing FBO [Moon] bank account into another pension plan, or if she wants to take title to those assets directly (as a reported distribution), let me know. Assuming she leaves her assets in the Plan, ...

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