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Bright v. Liberty Mutual

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

March 28, 2018

EDNA BRIGHT, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is defendant Liberty Mutual (“Liberty”)'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted [Doc. 9]. Liberty moves the Court to dismiss plaintiff's complaint [Doc. 1] under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff, who has proceeded in this matter pro se, has failed to timely respond to Liberty's motion. See E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1(a). Under this Court's Local Rules, “[f]ailure to respond to a motion may be deemed a waiver of any opposition to the relief sought.” E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.2. Nevertheless, [1] the Court has carefully considered the matter and, for the reasons explained below, will dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

         I. Background[2]

         This case concerns a dispute over plaintiff's access to prescribed medications following an emergency room visit. Plaintiff's pro se complaint is, respectfully, difficult for the Court to comprehend. As the Court reads the complaint, plaintiff alleges that she is a heart patient who underwent a complete left elbow replacement in 2003 [Doc. 1 p. 2]. Then, on August 30, 2017, plaintiff visited the emergency room for problems with her elbow and was prescribed two medications by attending doctor Chris Smith [Id.]. Plaintiff delivered these prescriptions to a Walgreens store that evening to be filled [Id.]. The next day, plaintiff called to see if her medications were ready, but was told that her insurance adjuster's approval was required [Id.]. Plaintiff thus called defendant Veronda RuBright, an adjuster for defendant Liberty, who informed plaintiff she needed the hospital treatment records to proceed [Id.]. Plaintiff then had the hospital fax those records to RuBright, but despite calling back six times that day, plaintiff was not able to reach RuBright to complete the approval process [Id.].

         On September 1, plaintiff called the hospital again and was told that RuBright had not sent a release form to permit the hospital to fax the records [Id.]. Plaintiff then called RuBright to have her to send the form, which she did later that day [Id. at 2-3]. Plaintiff next called Walgreens to see if her medications were available, but she was again told that RuBright had not called to give Liberty's approval [Id. at 3]. Plaintiff then called RuBright three times, followed by twenty-four calls to Liberty's main office, without success [Id.]. Finally, on September 5, Walgreens personnel called plaintiff to tell her that, according to RuBright, Dr. Smith was not approved to prescribe medicine for plaintiff; thus, Liberty would not approve payment [Id.]. Ultimately, plaintiff asserts that she went six days without necessary medication for her elbow as a result of Liberty's conduct [Id.].

         On September 7, plaintiff filed this action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, seeking $1.5 million from Liberty and RuBright for the conduct described above [Id. at 4]. Plaintiff asserts that she had an “‘open medical' contract” with Liberty as of July 10, 1998, and that defendants breached this contract through their “inhuman and negligent treatment” of her [Id. at 3]. Plaintiff has also attached to her complaint a judgment entered by the Circuit Court for Lincoln County, Tennessee, on July 7, 1998 [Id. at 7-9]. This judgment appears to be the product of a worker's compensation case brought by plaintiff concerning an occupational elbow injury she incurred on January 4, 1994 [Id. at 8]. Among other relief, the court ordered plaintiff's employer and Liberty to pay “all future, authorized, reasonable, and necessary medical expenses incurred by [p]laintiff . . . as required by the Worker's Compensation Law of the State of Tennessee” [Id.]. The Court assumes this is the “contract” to which plaintiff refers in her complaint.

         On September 11, United States District Judge Aleta A. Trauger entered an order granting plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3 p. 1]. However, in that same order, Judge Trauger conducted a cursory review of plaintiff's complaint-as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)-and concluded that plaintiff had filed her action in the wrong venue [Id.]. Judge Trauger found that, under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2)-(3), venue would instead be proper in the Eastern District of Tennessee [Id. at 2]. Therefore, Judge Trauger transferred the action to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) [Id.; Doc. 4]. On October 24, defendant Liberty filed the instant motion to dismiss [Doc. 9], as well as a memorandum in support [Doc. 10]. Defendant RuBright has yet to appear in this action, and the record does not indicate that she has been served with process. Under Local Rule 7.1(a), plaintiff had twenty-one days in which to respond to Liberty's dispositive motion. Plaintiff has not done so, nor has she taken any other action in this case since filing her complaint.

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 8(a)(2) sets out a liberal pleading standard. Smith v. City of Salem, 378 F.3d 566, 576 n.1 (6th Cir. 2004). Thus, a complaint filed in federal court need only contain “‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the [opposing party] fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but a party's “obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions.” Id. “[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do”; nor will “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”; nor will “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further actual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (second alteration in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; accord Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will [ultimately] . . . be a context-specific task that requires [the Court] to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. In conducting this inquiry, the Court “must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to plaintiff[], accept all well-pled factual allegations as true, and determine whether plaintiff[] undoubtedly can prove no set of facts in support of those allegations that would entitle [her] to relief.” Bishop v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 520 F.3d 516, 519 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         Finally, given plaintiff's pro se status, the Court notes that federal courts have a duty to “liberally construe the briefs of pro se litigants and apply less stringent standards to parties proceeding pro se than to parties represented by counsel.” Bouyer v. Simon, 22 Fed.Appx. 611, 612 (6th Cir. 2001). At the same time, however, “the lenient treatment generally accorded to pro se litigants has limits.” Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996). As such, courts have not typically “been willing to abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.” Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989).

         III. Analysis

         The Court will first address defendant Liberty's motion to dismiss [Doc. 9]. The Court will then turn to the question whether it should also dismiss plaintiff's claims against defendant RuBright, who has not appeared before this Court. As explained further below, the Court will dismiss all claims against both defendants without prejudice.

         A. Defendant ...

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