United States District Court, D. North Dakota
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
L. Hovland, Chief Judge United States District Court
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant
Schlumberger Technology Corporation
(“Schlumberger”) on June 14, 2017. See
Docket No. 3. Plaintiff Boyd Hofland filed a response on July
6, 2017. See Docket No. 7. Schlumberger filed a
reply on July 19, 2017. See Docket No. 11. Because
the Court concludes Hofland's suit is time barred, the
Court grants Schlumberger's motion to dismiss.
following facts, which the Court accepts as true for purposes
of this Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, are taken from
Hofland's amended complaint. See Joyce v. Armstrong
Teasdale, LLP, 635 F.3d 364, 365 (8th Cir. 2011).
Schlumberger is a Texas Corporation authorized to conduct
oilfield services in North Dakota. See Docket No.
10, p. 2. Hofland is a North Dakota resident and was employed
by Schlumberger. Id. During his employment, Hofland
earned the right to participate in Schlumberger's
retirement benefit package, which included healthcare
insurance under a retiree medical plan (“the
Plan”). Id. The Plan contains a
non-competition clause that bars former Schlumberger
employees from receiving benefits if they accept employment
from a client or competitor within two years of leaving
Schlumberger's employ. Id. Schlumberger provided
Hofland with a document titled “Schlumberger Retiree
Medical Plan Waiver of Forfeiture Provision Memorandum”
(“the Forfeiture Memorandum”). See
Docket No. 10, p. 3. The Forfeiture Memorandum defines
competitor company as “one that is in direct
competition with Schlumberger for business at the time you
begin performing services for that company.”
See Docket No. 4-3, p. 2. The Memorandum also
defines client company as “any company that is a client
of Schlumberger at the time you being performing services for
that company.” See Docket No. 4-3, p. 2.
point-the exact date is not clear-Hofland left
Schlumberger's employ. On January 4, 2012, Hofland
accepted employment with Rockpile Energy Services, LLC
(“Rockpile”). See Docket No. 10, p. 2.
On January 5, 2012, Hofland applied for enrollment in the
Plan. Id. On February 10, 2012, Hofland received a
letter from Schlumberger notifying him he would not be
enrolled in the Plan because his employment with Rockpile
violated the Plan's non-competition provision.
See Docket No. 10, p. 3. Hofland appealed the
decision on February 25, 2012, and Schlumberger denied the
appeal. Id. Schlumberger continues to deny Hofland
enrollment in the Plan. Id.
brought suit against Schlumberger in North Dakota's
Southwest Judicial District Court in May of 2017, alleging
deceit, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and
conversion. See Docket No. 1-2. On June 8, 2017,
Schlumberger removed the case to this Court. See
Docket No. 1. On June 14, 2017, Schlumberger moved to dismiss
the suit arguing ERISA preempts Hofland's state-law
claims, Hofland has failed to state a claim for which relief
can be granted, and Hofland's suit is time barred.
See Docket No. 3. On July 6, 2017, Hofland filed an
amended complaint that is styled as an ERISA action and
asserts fraud and breach of the Plan agreement. See
Docket No.10, pp. 4-5.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates
dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. To determine whether dismissal
is warranted, the court must assume the complaint's
factual allegations are true and draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Monson v. Drug
Enf't Admin., 589 F.3d 952, 961 (8th Cir. 2009.).
Conclusory legal allegations need not be accepted as true.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rule
12(b)(6) dismissal may be warranted when the complaint
establishes a statute of limitations defense. Joyce,
635 F.32 at 367.
asserts Schlumberger wrongly denied him benefits in violation
of ERISA and the Plan. The parties disagree on the meaning of
the terms “client company” and “competitor
company” as those terms are used in the Plan. Hofland
argues the terms are specifically defined in the Forfeiture
Memorandum, which he asserts is part of the Plan.
Schlumberger, on the other hand, asserts the Forfeiture
Memorandum is not part of the Plan. Schlumberger argues it
has discretion to determine what constitutes a client or
competitor because the Plan does not specifically define
those terms. Schlumberger also asserts a statute of
Court makes the following determinations, which are discussed
in detail below, and concludes Hofland's suit is time
barred: (1) The six-year ERISA limitation period governing
claims concerning fiduciary duties does not apply to
Hofland's suit; (2) Hofland's suit is most analogous
to a contract action; (3) Texas's four-year statute of
limitations for contract actions applies; (4) Hofland's
suit is untimely under the Texas limitation period; and (5)
equitable tolling of the limitation period is unwarranted.
ERISA DOES NOT PROVIDE AN APPLICABLE LIMITATION
Congress enacted ERISA, it supplied limitation periods for
some of the Act's provisions, but it did not do so for
others. Berger v. ACA Network LLC, 459 F.3d 804, 808
(7th Cir. 2006). Generally, when Congress does not provide a
statute of limitations for a federal cause of action, a
federal court must borrow the state statute of limitations
most analogous to the case before it. Robbins v. Iowa
Road Builders Co., 828 F.2d 1348, 1353, (8th Cir. 1987);
see also Johnson v. State Mut. Life Assurance Co.,
942 F.2d 1260, 1262 (8th Cir. 1991).
may bring claims to recover benefits under the terms of an
ERISA plan pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). ERISA
does not contain a statute of limitations for Section
1132(a)(1)(B) actions to recover benefits. Beneficiaries may
bring claims for equitable relief and to enforce provisions
of ERISA, including provisions that impose liability on ERISA
fiduciaries, under Section 1132(a)(3). Jones v. Aetna
Life Ins. Co., 856 F.3d 541, 545 (8th Cir. 2017
Johnson, 942 F.2d at 1262-1263. ERISA sets forth a
six-year statute of limitations for claims based on breach of
fiduciary duties. See 29 U.S.C. § 1113. This
limitation period, however, does not apply to other ERISA
provisions, including Section 1132(a)(1)(B): “Congress
expressly limited ...