United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
motions are currently pending before the Court: 1)
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment Against Standard
Insurance Company on His Second Claim for Relief [Doc. No.
37]; and 2) Defendant Standard Insurance Company's Motion
to Strike Documents Outside the Administrative Record, or in
the Alternative, for Leave to Respond to Defendant Carlisle
Corporation's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 44]. A ruling on the second motion
may determine whether briefing of the first motion is
complete, so the second motion will be taken up as a
preliminary matter. The first motion will be addressed by a
separate order, but a brief discussion of it is necessary to
provide factual context for the issues presented by the
Gregory Smith brings this action under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”),
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a), to recover life insurance benefits
allegedly due upon the death of his wife, Cheryl Smith. Mrs.
Smith was an employee and participant in an ERISA plan of
Defendant Carlisle Corporation (“Carlisle”)
funded by a group life insurance policy of Defendant Standard
Insurance Company (“Standard”). The case is
proceeding under a specialized Scheduling Order that provides
for an initial adjudication of Plaintiff's claim that an
“Incontestability Clause” of the life insurance
policy applies and “renders Plaintiff's [benefits]
claim incontestable for any reason other than non-payment of
premiums.” See Pet. [Doc. No. 1-2], ¶ 39;
see also Sched. Order [Doc. No. 34]. This claim is
one of two alternative theories denominated in
Plaintiff's pleading as “breach of contract”
claims, by which Plaintiff seeks to recover benefits under
the terms of the ERISA plan. See Pet. [Doc. No. 1-2]
¶¶ 4, 33-37, 38-40. It is referred to by the
parties as the “Incontestability Claim” and, by
agreement, has been “bifurcated” for a
“Phase One” determination as potentially
dispositive of the case. See Sched. Order [Doc. No.
34] at 1.
initial step provided by the Scheduling Order, Standard filed
the ERISA administrative record [Doc. No. 36] compiled during
the administrative claim and appeal process. No party
challenged the accuracy or completeness of the administrative
record, and Plaintiff proceeded to file a summary judgment
motion regarding the Incontestability Claim. This is the
first motion listed supra (hereafter
“Plaintiff's Motion”). Plaintiff presents a
narrow issue for decision based solely on his interpretation
of the Incontestability Clause and the undisputed fact that
Mrs. Smith paid all premiums due for more than two years
after the effective date of coverage. Under Plaintiff's
view, disputes that exist among the parties regarding whether
Mrs. Smith was required to provide a medical history
statement, known as “evidence of insurability” or
“EOI, ” to obtain coverage; why there was no EOI
for Mrs. Smith in Standard's claim file; and who is
responsible for, or bears the consequence of, its absence,
are all immaterial to the issue presented for decision.
See Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. No. 37] at 1.
Plaintiff relies solely on the court file and the
administrative record; the attachments to his motion are
copies of unpublished court decisions. See id. Exs.
A & B [Doc. Nos. 37-1 & 37-2].
Standard has filed a response in opposition to
Plaintiff's Motion, and Carlisle has filed a response in
support of it, that discuss the disputed issues. Standard
takes the position, for example, that the Incontestability
Clause does not apply at all because Mrs. Smith failed to
submit EOI and so did not obtain coverage under the policy.
See Def. Standard's Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 41] at
15, 17-18. Carlisle presents factual materials and arguments
that, although supportive of Plaintiff's position, are
designed to show that “Carlisle did absolutely nothing
wrong.” See Def. Carlisle's Resp. Br.
[Doc. No. 40] at 1, 10. Carlisle also argues alternative
reasons apart from the Incontestability Claim why Plaintiff
is entitled to relief under ERISA. Id. . at 15-18.
Plaintiff has filed a reply brief addressing Standard's
arguments pertinent to Plaintiff's view and focusing on
the Incontestability Claim; Plaintiff does not advocate the
positions argued by Carlisle. See Pl.'s Reply
Br. [Doc. No. 45].
the round of briefing provided by the Scheduling Order is
complete, Standard has filed a motion asking the Court either
to strike Carlisle's brief and factual materials
submitted with it, or to authorize a reply brief for Standard
to address new matters raised by Carlisle. This is the second
motion listed supra (hereafter,
“Standard's Motion”). It has been fully
briefed by Carlisle and Standard. See Def.
Carlisle's Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 46]; Def. Standard's
Reply Br. [Doc. No. 49]. Plaintiff has remained silent
regarding Defendants' briefing dispute.
consideration, the Court finds that further briefs regarding
Plaintiff's Motion are unnecessary to a decision of the
Incontestability Claim as presented by Plaintiff and,
therefore, Standard's Motion should be denied. The
factual matters presented by Carlisle to which Standard
objects, and the legal arguments made by Carlisle to which
Standard wishes to respond, appear to be immaterial to a
decision of Plaintiff's Motion. The Court does not intend
to decide any issue not presented by Plaintiff, as the moving
party and “the master of the claim.” See
Karnes v. Boeing Co., 335 F.3d 1189, 1192-93 (10th Cir.
2003); see also Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Any factual matters that are improperly
presented can be disregarded by the Court without striking
Carlisle's entire brief.
Standard's request to address Carlisle's arguments,
Standard primarily relies on case law holding that a party
opposing a motion for summary judgment must have an
opportunity to respond to new matter raised in a movant's
reply brief. See Geddes v. United Staffing All. Emp. Med.
Plan, 469 F.3d 919, 928 (10th Cir. 2006); Green v.
New Mexico, 420 F.3d 1189, 1196 (10th Cir. 2005);
Beaird v. Seagate Technology, Inc., 145 F.3d 1159,
1164-65 (10th Cir. 1998). Assuming this case law applies
here, a district court does not err by precluding a reply
brief if the court does not rely on the new materials and
arguments in reaching its decision. See Pippin v.
Burlington Res. Oil & Gas, 440 F.3d 1186, 1192 (10th
Cir. 2006); Green, 420 F.3d at 1196;
Beaird, 145 F.3d at 1164-65. “Whether to allow
supplemental briefing on a newly-raised issue is a
‘supervision of litigation' question” within
the discretion of the trial court. See Geddes , 469
F.3d at 928. Under the circumstances presented, the Court
finds no need for further briefing regarding Plaintiffs
Motion to adjudicate the Incontestability Claim.
THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant Standard Insurance
Company's Motion to Strike Documents Outside the
Administrative Record, or in the Alternative, for Leave to
Respond to Defendant Carlisle Corporation's Response to