United States District Court, D. Utah
RICHARD T.B., AMY B., and T. SEBASTIAN B., Plaintiffs,
UNITED HEALTHCARE INSURANCE COMPANY and UNITED BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND
DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS OR, IN THE
ALTERNATIVE, TO TRANSFER VENUE
N. PARRISH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Transfer Venue filed on
April 26, 2018. (ECF No. 14). Plaintiffs filed an opposition
on May 24, 2018, (ECF No. 20), to which defendants replied on
June 7, 2018, (ECF No. 22). Plaintiffs also filed a notice of
supplemental authority. (ECF No. 21).
T.B., Amy B., and T. Sebastian B., residents of Pennsylvania,
are beneficiaries of a fully-insured group health benefit
plan (the “Plan”) governed by the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).
The Plan-sponsored by Richard T.B.'s employer-is located
and administered in Pennsylvania, its group policy delivered
in Pennsylvania, and its benefits received in Pennsylvania.
(ECF No. 20 at 2). Defendant United Healthcare Insurance
Company (“UHC”), an insurance company
incorporated in Connecticut, is the issuer of the Plan's
group policy. Defendant United Behavioral Health
(“UBH”), a distinct entity incorporated in
California, is tasked with processing mental health claims
submitted under the Plan's group policy.
Sebastian B., the son of Richard T.B. and Amy B., received
mental health treatment from two Utah providers during the
period of October of 2014 to May of 2016-first at a
wilderness treatment program followed by a lengthy stay in a
residential facility. UHC denied all claims submitted in
connection with this care, and despite numerous appeals, the
initial determinations were sustained. Having exhausted the
Plan's mandatory appeals, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit
on January 22, 2018, seeking recovery of benefits due under
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). (ECF No. 2).
seek dismissal of the action under Rule 12(b)(3) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that venue in this
district is improper. Alternatively, defendants request a
venue transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the
reasons below, defendants' motion to dismiss for improper
venue is denied, but the case will be transferred to the
district court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Venue is Proper in the District of Utah
29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2), an ERISA action “may be
brought in the district where the plan is administered, where
the breach took place, or where a defendant resides or may be
found[.]” The parties agree that the plan is
administered and was breached, if at all, in Pennsylvania.
Plaintiffs argue, however, that venue is proper in the
District of Utah because defendants “reside” in
Tenth Circuit holds that under § 1132(e)(2), “a
corporation resides wherever personal jurisdiction is
proper.” Peay v. BellSouth Med. Assistance
Plan, 205 F.3d 1206, 1210 n.3 (10th Cir. 2000). Thus, to
determine whether venue is proper, the court must analyze
whether it may properly exercise personal jurisdiction over
the defendant corporations despite the fact that they have
raised no challenge to the propriety of personal
as with ERISA, a federal statute “provides for
nationwide service of process, it becomes the statutory basis
for personal jurisdiction.” Id. at 1210
(quoting Republic of Panama v. BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg)
S.A., 119 F.3d 935, 942 (11th Cir. 1997)).
“‘[I]n a federal question case where jurisdiction
is invoked based on nationwide service of process[,
]'” courts apply a different jurisdictional
standard than the familiar minimum contacts analysis.
Klein v. Cornelius, 786 F.3d 1310, 1318 (10th Cir.
2015) (quoting Peay, 205 F.3d at 1212). The relevant
standard in this context, emanating from the Fifth
Amendment's Due Process Clause, “requires the
plaintiff's choice of forum to be fair and reasonable to
the defendant.” Peay, 205 F.3d at 1212.
“In other words, the Fifth Amendment protects
individual litigants against the burdens of litigation in an
unduly inconvenient forum.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
establish that jurisdiction does not comport with Fifth
Amendment due process principles, a defendant must first
demonstrate that his liberty interests actually have been
infringed.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). “The burden is on the defendant to show that
the exercise of jurisdiction in the chosen forum will make
litigation so gravely difficult and inconvenient that he
unfairly is at a severe disadvantage in comparison to his
opponent.” Id. (internal brackets and
quotation marks omitted).
in this context, the Tenth Circuit instructs that “in
this age of instant communication and modern transportation,
the burdens of litigating in a distant forum have
lessened” such “that it is only in highly unusual
cases that inconvenience will rise to a level of
constitutional concern.” Id. (internal
brackets, citations, and quotation marks omitted).
“the broad standard” announced by the Tenth
Circuit, defendants have not adequately shown that this forum
is so unfair or unreasonable as to amount to a deprivation of
their liberty interests. See Id. at 1213. It is
undisputed that UBH has a claims-processing center in this
district through which at least some of the claim
submissions-or subsequent appeals-in this case were
processed, and defendants have not set forth any facts to
suggest that their liberty interests will be infringed by
litigating in this forum. Thus, the inconvenience defendants
articulate does not rise to a level of ...