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Hieshetter v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 5, 2019

MARTA JO HIESHETTER, Plaintiff,
v.
TYSON FOODS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          JANET T. NEFF, JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SALLY J. BERENS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 5.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the undersigned recommends that the motion be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Marta Jo Hieshetter has sued Defendants Tyson Foods, Inc.; Tyson Foods, Inc. Pension; Noel White, the CEO and President of Tyson Foods; and Chuck Hawley, Manager, alleging claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 411, et seq. She also appears to assert state-law claims for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. All of Hieshetter's claims are based on Defendants' refusal to pay her pension benefits that her former husband earned as an employee of Tyson Foods, Inc.

         Hieshetter married John Lawrence Hieshetter on August 6, 1976, in the State of Louisiana. (ECF No. 1 at PageID.4.) The Hieshetters divorced on November 22, 2010, pursuant to a Consent Judgment of Divorce entered by the Kent County Circuit Court. (Id.; ECF No. 6-1.) During the marriage, John Hieshetter was employed by Tyson Foods and, as a participant, earned a pension benefit and Tyson Foods stock options. (Id.) Paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Consent Judgment addressed the disposition of the parties' respective pension, retirement, and stock option benefits earned through employment as follows:

7. PENSION, ANNUITY OR RETIREMENT BENEFITS: Each party shall receive, free and clear of any interest of the other, all pension, annuity, or retirement benefits which he/she has accrued as a result of their respective employment, including their known contribution to such pension, annuity and retirement systems, and their rights or contingent rights in and to unvested pension, annuity, or retirement benefits. If it is determined that any other such rights, interests, or contributions existed at the time of the entry of this Judgment, this Court retains jurisdiction to determine the respective rights and interests of the parties to such rights, interests, or contributions.
8. STOCK OPTIONS: The Plaintiff [John Lawrence Hieshetter] shall receive free and clear of any claim by the Defendant [Marta Jo Hieshetter] any and all stock and/or stock options which he has or which may be available to him.

(ECF No. 6-1 at PageID.43.)

         On or about January 24, 2019, Hieshetter sent Defendant White a letter requesting that he provide her a Tyson Foods pension application. (ECF No. 1 at PageID.4; ECF No. 1-1 at PageID.9.) Although Defendant White did not respond, Defendant Hawley sent Hieshetter a letter requesting additional information because he was “unable to properly research [Hieshetter's] potential benefit request.” (ECF No. 1 at PageID.4; ECF No. 1-1 at PageID.11.) Having received no pension application, Hieshetter wrote another letter to Defendant White on February 5, 2019, again requesting a pension application. Hieshetter explained that she was John Hieshetter's ex-wife, that John Hieshetter had worked for Tyson Foods for over 22 years, and that she and John Hieshetter were both over 65 years of age. (ECF No. 1 at PageID.4; ECF No. 1-1 at PageID.12.) Hieshetter filed her complaint in this case on March 12, 2019, after Tyson Foods failed to provide her a pension application.

         Defendants now move to dismiss Hieshetter's claims on the ground that her allegations fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint by evaluating the assertions therein in a light most favorable to Plaintiff to determine whether such states a valid claim for relief. See In re NM Holdings Co., LLC, 622 F.3d 613, 618 (6th Cir. 2000).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted unless the “[f]actual allegations [are] enough to raise a right for relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). As the Supreme Court more recently held, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroftv. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). This plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” If the complaint simply pleads facts ...


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