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Alberts v. Liberty Life Assurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

August 19, 2014

KAREN ALBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF BOSTON, Defendant

For Karen Alberts, Plaintiff: James Pieper Keenley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brian Henry Kim, Bolt Keenley Kim LLP, Berkeley, CA.

For Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, Defendant: Robert Mario Forni, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Pamela E. Cogan, Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley, Redwood City, CA.

Page 791

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS IN PART PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

RICHARD SEEBORG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION

Karen Alberts was employed as a police officer for the University of California. As a university employee, she was covered by a supplemental disability insurance plan provided by Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (" Liberty" ). In 2009, Alberts sustained a wrist injury for which she received short-term disability benefits from Liberty. In February 2012, Liberty determined she was ineligible to receive long-term benefits and therefore stopped paying benefits to her. After Liberty's first motion to dismiss was granted in part, Alberts filed a First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ) asserting claims for breach of contract, tortious breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and contractual

Page 792

breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. She seeks declaratory relief and damages, including punitive and exemplary damages, related to Liberty's denial of her claim for long-term disability benefits.

Liberty now moves to dismiss plaintiff's tort claim on the basis of California's applicable two-year statute of limitations. Liberty further moves to dismiss plaintiff's claims and prayer for punitive damages. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the motion is suitable for disposition without oral argument and the hearing set for August 28, 2014, is vacated. For the reasons set forth below, Liberty's motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

As recounted in the Court's prior order, Alberts was serving as a police officer for the University of California when she suffered an injury to her right wrist during physical training exercises in September 2009. After her injury, Alberts resumed work for the police department in a modified duty capacity, but her condition worsened and eventually the department could no longer accommodate her medically prescribed work restrictions. On March 19, 2010, Alberts stopped working for the department.

Throughout this period, Alberts was covered by a supplemental disability policy issued by Liberty, under which Liberty was obligated to pay monthly disability benefits to Alberts if she became " totally disabled" within the meaning of the policy. The policy provides two separate periods of coverage, each of which carries a different definition of " totally disabled" : short-term disability, which covers the first twelve months of benefits, and long-term disability, which may follow after short-term benefits expire. For short-term coverage, the covered person is considered totally disabled when he or she is " completely unable to perform any and every duty pertaining to his/her own occupation." For long-term coverage, the covered person is considered totally disabled when he or she is " completely unable to perform the material and substantial duties of any occupation for which he/she is reasonably fitted by education, training, or experience."

Alberts filed a claim with Liberty for disability benefits under the policy. After exhausting her accrued sick leave in accordance with the policy, she began to receive short-term benefits as of February 1, 2011. Liberty initially approved her claim through July 31, 2011, and later extended coverage through February 28, 2012. At that time, Liberty terminated her benefit payments, having determined that Alberts did not qualify for continued benefits under the policy's provision for long-term coverage.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). " Pleadings must be so construed so as to do justice." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e). While " detailed factual allegations are not required," a complaint must have sufficient factual allegations to " state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 ...


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