United States District Court, District of Columbia
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON United States District Judge.
than one year after the applicable three-year statute of
limitations period expired, pro se Plaintiff Eduardo
Untalasco (“Untalasco”) filed a claim in this
Court against Defendant Lockheed Martin Corporation
(“Lockheed”) under the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 18 U.S.C.
§§1001-1461. On March 31, 2017, this Court issued
an order that GRANTED Lockheed's Motion to Dismiss
Untalasco's complaint and DISMISSED his action.
(See Order Granting Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 16.)
This Memorandum Opinion explains the reasons for that order.
In short, this Court agrees with Lockheed that
Untalasco's complaint is untimely and that none of
Untalasco's proffered explanations authorize this Court
to excuse that procedural defect.
basic facts of this matter-which are drawn from
Untalasco's Amended Complaint (see Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 6) and the attachments thereto-are as follows.
Untalasco is the brother of Noemi D. Untalasco (“the
Decedent”), who died on February 22, 2010.
(See Annex A to Am. Compl. (“2012 Appeal
Denial Letter”), ECF No. 6 at 5; Annex D to Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 6 at 7.) The Decedent was an employee of Lockheed
and had a deferred vested pension benefit under a Lockheed
employee pension plan. (See 2012 Appeal Denial
Letter.) Just before her death, the Decedent requested that
Lockheed begin paying her pension benefits effective February
1, 2010, and she signed a form to that effect on January 31,
2010. (See id.; Ex. 1 to Am. Compl., ECF No. 6 at
3.) Lockheed contends that it did not receive the signed
benefit election form before its February 7, 2010, expiration
date (see Annex B to Am. Compl. (“2010 Denial
Letter”), ECF No. 6 at 6), and as a result, Lockheed
ultimately denied Untalasco's subsequent claim for his
sister's pension benefits (which he brought on behalf of
their mother). Lockheed's denial letter was dated January
3, 2012 (see 2012 Appeal Denial Letter); Untalasco
filed an ERISA complaint in this Court on March 7, 2016-more
than four years later-seeking to challenge Lockheed's
denial of the request for benefits. (See Compl., ECF
No. 1, at 1.)
13, 2016, Lockheed filed a motion for a more definite
statement, arguing that Untalasco's handwritten complaint
was so vague that Lockheed could not reasonably prepare a
response. (See Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for
a More Definite Stmt., ECF No. 4-1, at 1.) Thereafter,
Untalasco filed (1) a document entitled “Motion to
Commence Judicial Review of Case, ” which this Court
construed as an amended complaint (see Am. Compl.),
and (2) a response to the motion for a more definite
statement and a supplement thereto (see Pl.'s
Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for a More Definite Stmt., ECF No.
8; Suppl. to Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for a More
Definite Stmt., ECF No. 9).
August 22, 2016, Lockheed moved to dismiss Untalasco's
Amended Complaint, arguing that his lawsuit is untimely
because Untalasco filed it more than three years after
Lockheed denied his appeal. (See Def.'s Mot. to
Dismiss (“Def.'s Mot”), ECF No. 11;
Def.'s Mem. at 3-5.) In Untalasco's response to
Lockheed's motion to dismiss, Untalasco agrees that his
complaint is untimely, but argues that the Court should allow
his suit to proceed nevertheless because, as a pro se
litigant, he is “inadept [sic] to ERISA 3-year Statute
of Limitations[, ]” and that his 14-month delay
“can be cured leniently by the court liberally for my
position as Pro Se (Unrepresented).” (Pl.'s Resp.
to Def.'s Mot. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), ECF
No. 14, at 1.) Untalasco further maintains (without citation
or explanation) that “[t]he Six Year Statute of
Limitations and the Doctrine of Laches apply here.”
(Id. at 2.) Untalasco also filed another document
entitled “Inclusion of Plaintiff's Supplement,
etc.[, ]” in which he argues that “my sister has
finished [her] contract with defendant [and] thus [is]
entitled to all the rights and prerogatives as a
retired employee of the defendant.” (Inclusion
of Pl.'s Suppl. (“Pl.'s Inclusion”), ECF
No. 13, at 1 (emphasis in orginal).)
motion to dismiss became ripe and ready for this Court's
review on October 25, 2016. (See Def.'s Reply in
Supp. of Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 15.) This Court issued an
Order granting Lockheed's motion and dismissing
Untalasco's complaint on March 31, 2017. (See
Order, ECF No. 16.)
Motions To Dismiss Under Federal Rule Of Civil Procedure
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes a defendant to
move to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that the complaint
“fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “Although
‘detailed factual allegations' are not necessary to
withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, a plaintiff must furnish ‘more than
labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action.'” Busby
v. Capital One, N.A., 932 F.Supp.2d 114, 133 (D.D.C.
2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). “[M]ere conclusory statements” are
insufficient to make out a cause of action against a
defendant, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and 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.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Application Of The Pleading Rules To Pro Se Parties
evaluating the pending motion to dismiss, this Court must be
mindful of the fact that Untalasco is proceeding in this
matter pro se. It is well established that the pleadings of
pro se parties are to be “liberally construed”
and that a pro se complaint, “however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, it is
also quite clear “[t]his benefit is not . . . a license
to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”
Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates, 658 F.Supp.2d 135,
137 (D.D.C. 2009) (citation omitted); see also McNeil v.
United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993). Thus, although
a pro se complaint “must be construed liberally, the
complaint must still present a claim on which the Court can
grant relief.” Budik v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Med.
Ctr., 937 F.Supp.2d 5, 11 (D.D.C. 2013) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted); see Moore v.
Motz, 437 F.Supp.2d 88, 90 (D.D.C. 2006) (noting that
“[e]ven a pro se plaintiff's inferences . . . need
not be accepted” if they “are unsupported by the
facts set out in the complaint” (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted)); see also Crisafi v.
Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1308 (D.C. Cir. 1981)
(explaining that a pro se complaint must state a claim upon
which relief can be granted).
has moved to dismiss Untalasco's complaint on the grounds
that lawsuits arising from a denial of a claim for ERISA
benefits are subject to a three-year limitations period, and
Untalasco admits that he commenced his suit outside of this
window. As explained fully below, this Court has granted
Lockheed's motion to dismiss because it agrees that
Untalasco's complaint is ...