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American General Life Insurance Company v. Razmik Khachatourians

October 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge


Presently before the court is Defendant Bryan Manson's ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff/ Assignee National Financial Corp.'s ("Plaintiff") Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). After reviewing the parties' moving papers, the court DENIES Defendant's Motion in its entirety.

I. Background

American General Life Insurance Company ("AGLIC") has assigned its claims against Defendant to Plaintiff. Defendant seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's three claims against him: conspiracy t commit fraud, aiding and abetting fraud, and fraud. (Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion") at 1:12-22; SAC ¶¶ 130-44, 166-70.)*fn1 Defendant is a licensed California attorney, who was the in-house counsel for Prolinks. (Plaintiff/ Assignee National Financial Partners Corps Statement of Genuine Issues ("SGI") ¶¶ 4-5.) Prolinks is a corporation that submitted life insurance applications to AGLIC, through an intermediary agency. (SGI ¶¶ 7-8.) The policies resulting from several such applications are at issue in this case. (SGI ¶¶ 8, 10.) AGLIC allegedly required the agent issuing a life insurance policy to certify that the person paying for the policy was the insured, the insured's family, or the insured's employer. (See Klappa Decl.; Klappa Decl. Exs. A-D.) Such a certification was allegedly made for the policies now at issue. Id. It is alleged that Defendant wrote checks for premium payments on these policies to make it look like the insured had paid Defendant's company. (Opp'n at 14:11-28.) However, Deutsche Bank allegedly financed these payments, and bought the beneficiary interest in the policy soon after it was issued. (Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Opp'n") at 10:18-25; Plaintiff/Assignee NFP's Separate Statement of Genuine Issues and Material Fact ("SSGI") ¶¶ 6-10.) Key to this motion is whether there is evidence that Defendant knew of and participated in the alleged misrepresentation regarding the source of payment for these policies.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment shall be granted when a movant "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be entered "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Parth v. Pomona Valley Hosp. Med. Ctr., 630 F.3d 794, 798-99 (9th Cir. 2010)(internal quotation marks omitted).

To satisfy its burden at summary judgment, a moving party must produce facts for each element which it has the burden of proof at trial "sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986) (emphasis omitted). A moving party without the burden of persuasion "must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Cos., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc) ("When the nonmoving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only point out 'that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'") (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), and citing Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000) (holding that the Celotex "showing" can be made by "pointing out through argument-- the absence of evidence to support plaintiff's claim")).

If the party moving for summary judgment meets its initial burden of identifying for the court the portions of the materials on file that it believes demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party may not rely on the mere allegations in the pleadings in order to preclude summary judgment[, but instead] must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.

T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc., v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (internal citations, quotation marks, and emphasis omitted).

At the summary judgment stage, the Court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, and views all evidence and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See id. at 630-31 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)); see also Hrdlicka v. Reniff, 631 F.3d 1044 (9th Cir. 2011); Miranda v. City of Cornelius, 429 F.3d 858, 860 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). Speculative testimony in affidavits and motion papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment. Thornhill Publ'g Co., Inc. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979). As the Supreme Court has stated, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

It is not the Court's task "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). Counsel has an obligation to lay out their support clearly. Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court "need not examine the entire file for evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact, where the evidence is not set forth in the opposing papers with adequate references so that it could conveniently be found." Id.

III. Analysis A. Fraud Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot prove one or more of the essential elements of its fraud claim. (See Motion at 15-20.) The elements of fraud are: "a) misrepresentation (false representation, concealment, or nondisclosure); (b) knowledge of falsity (or "scienter"); (c) intent to defraud, i.e., to induce reliance; (d) justifiable reliance; and (e) resulting damage." Engalla v. Permanente Med. Grp. Inc., 15 Cal. 4th 951, 974, 938 P.2d 903 (1997).

Defendant first argues that there is no triable issue of fact as to whether he made a misrepresentation. To be actionable, a misrepresentation must be false when made. See Edmunds v. Valley Circle Estates, 16 Cal. App. 4th 1290, 1301 (1993). However, "[a] misrepresentation need not be oral; it may be implied by conduct." Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek, 46 Cal. App. 4th 1559, 1567, 473-74 (1996).

The checks Defendant wrote for the initial premium payments of the policies at issue in this case constitute the alleged misrepresentation. (Opp'n at 14:11-28.) Plaintiff claims that since Defendant knew AGLIC forbade issuing life insurance policies that were not funded by the insured, the insured's employer, or the insured's family, his checks implicitly asserted that the policies were funded in accordance with AGLIC's rules. Id. Thus, whether Defendant's checks are actionable misrepresentations ...

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