Submitted: October 18, 2017
from United States District Court for the Southern District
of Iowa - Des Moines
WOLLMAN, BEAM, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
thorny dispute between CeCelia Ibson and United HealthCare
Services, Inc. ("UHS") has returned once more to
this court. After we decided ERISA preempted her state-law
claims, Ibson filed claims under ERISA against UHS. The
district court dismissed her complaint, while noting that-if
her allegations were true-UHS treated her
"horribly." The question before us, then, is
whether Ibson has pled a viable claim against UHS under
ERISA. We largely agree with the district court's
dismissal of her claims, but remand for further inquiry into
her equitable claim for premiums she paid to UHS.
was at one time a shareholder in an Iowa law firm that
contracted with UHS to provide health insurance for its
employees. On Ibson's prior appeal, we noted that the
"law firm remitted payment to the insurance company and
distributed information from UHS . . . but performed no other
administration relating to the insurance." Ibson v.
United Healthcare Servs., Inc., 776 F.3d 941, 943 (8th
Cir. 2014). UHS, however, expressly disavowed the "plan
administrator" role in the policy document, and no other
entity was named to fill that role. J.A. 112.
enrolled herself and her family, including her late husband,
Jay Wagner, in her employer-sponsored UHS healthcare plan in
March 2004. In early 2008, UHS began denying claims and
started instituting recoupment actions for claims already
paid. This was at a time of great hardship for
Ibson's family: Wagner was battling metastatic melanoma.
In April 2008, UHS sent an email promising to return
Ibson's policy and coverage to normalcy. Ibson's law
firm cancelled the policy in June 2008, but UHS continued
recoupment actions-despite its earlier email-into 2010. UHS
eventually paid $36, 417.29 for outstanding claims. Ibson
maintains in this action, however, that they still owe $190,
579.91 in relation to care Wagner received.
filed suit initially in September 2012, alleging state-law
claims against UHS. As noted above, on appeal, we held that
Ibson's claims were preempted by ERISA. Id. at
946. She re-filed a complaint against UHS in July 2015 and
subsequently amended it in November 2015. The first three
counts of the amended complaint were ERISA based, and the
last count was again a state-law claim. The complaint sought
the value of alleged unpaid benefits and of premiums paid by
Ibson to UHS (Count I), statutory damages for UHS's
failure to dutifully carry out the task of "plan
administrator" (Count II), attorney fees (Count III),
and damages arising from a breach of contract in relation to
the April 2008 email (Count IV). On a partial motion to
dismiss, the district court dismissed Count IV as preempted
by ERISA, and later, on summary judgment, it dismissed Counts
I, II, and III. Ibson now appeals.
review the district court's dismissal on summary judgment
of Counts I and II, and dismissal of Count IV for failure to
state a claim, de novo. See Odom v. Kaizer, 864 F.3d
920, 921 (8th Cir. 2017) (summary judgment); K.T. v.
Culver-Stockton Coll., 865 F.3d 1054, 1057 (8th Cir.
2017) (failure to state a claim).
in a light most favorable to Ibson, Kaizer, 864 F.3d
at 921, Count I of her amended complaint seeks relief under
two different, interrelated ...