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Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. Porter

January 20, 2010

CONNECTICUT GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN R. PORTER; CHARLES W. NICHOLS, AS CO-TRUSTEE OF THE LEANN P. PORTER REVOKABLE LIVING TRUST; BETTY JANE NICHOLS, AS CO-TRUSTEE OF THE LEANN P. PORTER REVOKABLE LIVING TRUST, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS, FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT*fn1

On November 30, 2009, Defendant Brian Porter filed a motion in which he seeks to dismiss Connecticut General Life Insurance Company's interpleader complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendant alternatively moves for a more definitive statement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Defendant also indicates he is moving for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). However, Defendant has not addressed the applicable standard governing a Rule 12(c) motion and has made only a conclusory argument that is woefully insufficient to prevail on this portion of his motion. Therefore, Defendant's Rule 12(c) motion is DENIED.

I. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)("Rule 12(b)(1)"), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

In deciding a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)("Rule 12(b)(6)"), the material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009). To avoid dismissal, the plaintiff must allege "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

C. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) ("Rule 12(e)"), a party may move for a more definite statement where the pleading at issue "is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). "A Rule 12(e) motion is proper only if the complaint is so indefinite that the defendant cannot ascertain the nature of the claim being asserted, i.e., so vague that the defendant cannot begin to frame a response." C.B. v. Sonora Sch. Dist., --- F. Supp. 2d ----, 2009 WL 3077989, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2009)(citation omitted). Therefore, a motion for a more definite statement must be denied if "the complaint is specific enough to notify the defendant of the substance of the claim being asserted." Id.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff issued a Group Flexible Premium Adjustable Life Insurance Policy No. 596726 to the People's Bank as Trustee of the Universal Life Insurance Trust for Kraft General Foods (the "Policy"), providing certain categories of Kraft employees with life insurance. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Defendant was a covered employee under the Policy. (Id.) LeAnn Porter, Defendant's spouse, was also covered under the Policy in the amount of $200,000. (Id.) Originally, Defendant was named as LeAnn Porter's beneficiary under the Policy. (Id. ¶ 11.)

However, on or about February 20, 2009, Plaintiff received a correspondence from LeAnn Porter's counsel, enclosing a "Stipulation and Order Re: Child Custody, Child Visitation, Counseling and Life Insurance Beneficiary," (the "Stipulation") in which Defendant and LeAnn Porter stipulated to designate the LeAnn P. Porter Revokable Living Trust as the beneficiary to one-half of the proceeds under the life insurance policy covering LeAnn Porter. (Id. ¶ 12, Ex. B.) The correspondence instructed Plaintiff to "immediately change the beneficiary designation of [the Policy]." (Id., Ex. B.) The Stipulation was adopted by the Sacramento County Superior Court on February 20, 2009. (Id., Ex. B.)

Shortly thereafter, on February 24, 2009, LeAnn Porter died. (Id. ¶ 13, Ex. C.) On or about March 20, 2009, Plaintiff received a correspondence from Defendant's counsel, in which he instructed Plaintiff that "[a]ny claim for the proceeds under the [Policy] . . . should be held pending a court determination as to the validity of [the] recent court-ordered change of beneficiary designation." (Id. ¶ 14, Ex. D.)

On July 23, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22 against Defendant and Charles and Betty Nichols, as the Co-Trustees of the LeAnn P. Porter Revokable Living Trust. Plaintiff alleges each Defendant is "asserting some right, title or interest in all or a portion of the proceeds of the Policy" and therefore, "there are conflicting potential demands upon [Plaintiff] regarding the Policy." (Id. ¶ 15.) Further, [Plaintiff] alleges it "does not know and cannot determine the beneficiaries of the Policy or persons legally entitled to the proceeds of the Policy." (Id. ¶ 16.) Concurrent with the filing of the complaint, Plaintiff deposited with the Clerk of the Court, $200,347.93, which represents the proceeds of the Policy plus accrued cash value and interest. (Id. ¶ 23.) ...


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