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Giannini v. Carpenters Pension Trust Fund

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

February 5, 2015



LAUREL BEELER, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff Gary Giannini filed a breach of contract claim and a "failure to notify" claim against Defendant Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California (the "Fund") in state court. The Fund removed the action to federal court, and now moves to dismiss Mr. Giannini's claims, arguing that they are preempted under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). ( See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1; Motion, ECF No. 5.[1]) Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the court finds this matter suitable for determination without oral argument and vacates the February 12, 2015 hearing. For the reasons explained below, the court finds that the Fund has met its burden to show that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. And upon consideration of the papers submitted and the applicable legal authority, the court grants the Fund's motion to dismiss.


On May 27, 2014, Mr. Giannini filed a complaint in Contra Costa County Superior Court against the Fund for breach of contract and "failure to notify." (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 8-9.) He seeks $17, 500. ( Id. at 9.) His complaint refers to allegations made in an "attached declaration, " but none was attached. ( See id. ) His case management statement, however, makes clear that he has sued the Fund for "withholding of retirement funds due to lack of appropriate notice." (Case Management Statement, ECF No. 1 at 10.)

On November 25, 2014, the Fund removed the action to this court, asserting federal question subject-matter jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1 at 2.) The Fund argues that federal question jurisdiction exists because Mr. Giannini's claims are "completely preempted" by ERISA. ( Id. ) It says that "the gravamen of the Complaint[] is to seek benefits from a pension plan governed by" ERISA. ( Id. )

Thereafter, on December 2, 2014, the Fund filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Giannini's action because his claims are completely preempted by ERISA. (Motion, ECF No. 5.) Although Mr. Giannini was served with the motion, he failed to file an opposition to it within the deadline for doing so. Nevertheless, in light of Mr. Giannini's pro se status, the court issued an order extending the deadline for him to file an opposition and making clear to him that if he did not file an opposition, he risked having the court grant the Fund's motion and dismiss his action. (12/24/2014 Order, ECF No. 11.) Mr. Giannini then filed a opposition on January 8, 2015, which states (in the declaration attached to it) that he "was never informed hat [he] was supposed to send a copy of my [Social Security Disability Insurance] award letter to [the Fund] within 90 days of receiving it." (Opposition, ECF No. 13 at 6.[2]) The Fund filed a reply to Mr. Giannini's opposition on January 15, 2015. (Reply, ECF No. 15.)

Upon further review of the Fund's notice of removal, it became clear that the Fund had not adequately supported its assertion of federal question jurisdiction. Accordingly, on January 23, 2015, the court sua sponte ordered the Fund to show cause why the action should not be remanded back to state court. (OSC, ECF No. 16.[3]) The court ordered the Fund to provide a response in writing no later than January 30, 2015. ( Id. ) In response, the Fund filed the Declaration of Gene Price, Plan Administrator for the Fund, who stated that the Fund was established by, and is administered in accordance with, ERISA. (Price Decl., ΒΆ 3, ECF No. 17-1 at 2.) Mr. Price also attached a copy of the Plan and its Summary Plan Description, which also makes clear that the Plan is governed by ERISA. ( Id., Ex. 1, ECF No. 17-1 at 3-206.) He also attached a written appeal, dated December 20, 2012, from Mr. Giannini, in which Mr. Giannini says, "I am "appealing the denial of retroactive disability pension effective date, because I was unaware that the SSDI award had to be sent to C&H Welfare within 90 days. I called in August and October [and] no analysts told [me] to mail or fax it." ( Id., Ex. 2, ECF No. 17-1 at 207-08.) He also attached the Fund's February 7, 2013 written denial of Mr. Giannini's appeal. ( Id., Ex. 3, ECF No. 17-1 at 209-10.)



A. Rule 12(b)(6)

A court may dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) when it does not contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570. "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and parentheticals omitted).

In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See id. at 550; Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007); Vasquez v. Los Angeles County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). If the court dismisses the complaint, it should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend is made "unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. Northern California Collection Serv. Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990)). But when a party repeatedly fails to cure deficiencies, the court may order dismissal without leave to amend. See Ferdik v. ...

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