United States District Court, E.D. California
KIMBERLY YOUNG, et al. Plaintiffs,
AMERICAN GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.
ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (DOC. NO. 20)
SHEILA K. OBERTO, Magistrate Judge.
On July 29, 2014, Defendants American Life Insurance Company and The United States Life Insurance Company in the City of New York ("U.S. Life") (collectively "Defendants") filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). The parties filed a stipulation that the hearing be reset to October 1, 2014. On September 11, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition to the motion. Defendants filed a reply brief on September 24, 2014. Having reviewed the briefs and supporting materials, the Court found this matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and the October 1, 2014, hearing was VACATED.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED with respect to dismissal of Plaintiffs' complaint, but DENIED with respect to dismissal with prejudice.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A. Plaintiffs' Complaint
Plaintiffs allege that Christopher Hastings resided with Kimberly Young ("Young") for several years, and she was "like a mother to him." (Cmplt. ¶ 9.) Mr. Hastings had a long-term relationship with Amber, Young's daughter. (Cmplt., ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs allege that, prior to Mr. Hastings' death, he advised Plaintiffs they were beneficiaries of life and annuity policies, ostensibly from his employer The Hertz Corporation ("Hertz"). (Cmplt., ¶ 11.) Following Mr. Hastings' death, Plaintiffs have attempted, without success, to procure copies of life insurance policies and annuity contracts from Hertz and from Defendants. (Cmplt. ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs allege that an agent of Hertz informed Young that funds had been disbursed under a policy related to Mr. Hastings and asked why Young had not come forward sooner. (Cmplt., ¶ 12.) Young inferred from these statements that she was a beneficiary of a policy and/or an annuity related to Mr. Hastings. (Cmplt, ¶ 12.) On a separate occasion, Young was informed by an agent of Mr. Hastings' employer that Jaiden Crutsinger was the beneficiary of a large policy taken out by Mr. Hastings during his period of employment. (Cmplt, ¶ 12.)
Plaintiffs allege Defendants have refused to provide them with any information relating to a policy and/or annuity, despite that they have furnished Defendants with Mr. Hastings' death certificate. (Cmplt, ¶¶ 12, 13.) Based upon statements made to Plaintiffs by Mr. Hastings prior to his death, Plaintiffs allege that one or more policies or annuity contracts benefitted one or more of the Plaintiffs in an amount exceeding $75, 000. (Cmplt, ¶ 17.) Plaintiffs sue for the proceeds of the policies and/or annuities that should have been paid to them.
B. Defendants' Answer
Defendants admit that U.S. Life issued a group life insurance policy number G-246733 (the "Policy") to Hertz. (Doc. 9, ¶ 9.) They also admit that Mr. Hastings died on December 30, 2009, in Sonora, California. (Doc. 9, ¶ 9.) Defendants assert that Kathleen Hastings, Mr. Hastings' mother, is the sole beneficiary of Mr. Hastings under the Policy. Kathleen Hastings informed Defendants of Mr. Hastings' death, and the proceeds of the policy were paid to Kathleen Hastings and Terzich & Wilson Funeral Home, as assignee of a portion of the Policy's proceeds. Defendants deny that Plaintiffs were the beneficiaries of life insurance policies or annuities issued by Defendants. (Doc. 9, ¶ 11.) A copy of the Policy is attached to Defendants' answer. (Doc. 9, Exhibit A.)
A. Legal Standard
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), "[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate if the moving party clearly establishes that (1) no material issue of fact remains to be resolved; and (2) it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Doleman v. Meiji Mut. Life Ins. Co., 727 F.2d 1480, 1482 (9th Cir. 1984). In reviewing a motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(c), all allegations of fact of the opposing party are accepted as true and are construed in the light most favorable to that party. McGlinchy v. Shell Chem. Co., 845 F.2d 802, 810 (9th Cir. 1988). A Rule 12(c) motion is "functionally equivalent" to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must set out factual allegations "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In other words, the complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). Facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability stop short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. at 678.
The court is not prevented from disposing of a Rule 12(c) motion by dismissal rather than by judgment. See Moran v. Peralta Comm. Coll. Dist., 825 F.Supp. 891, 893 (N.D. Cal. 1993) (citing Amersback v. ...