United States District Court, N.D. California
RICK M. GREENBERG, Plaintiff,
AMERIPRISE FINANCIAL, INC., RIVERSOURCE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, MEDICAL CONSULTANT NETWORK, and HOWARD BELFER, M.D., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS TWO
DEFENDANTS AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
“conspiracy” action, insurance company defendant
and financial services company defendant move to dismiss. For
the reasons below, the motion is Granted.
plaintiff Rick Greenberg brought this claim for relief
against defendants RiverSource Life Insurance Company,
Ameriprise Financial, Inc., Medical Consultants Network, and
Howard Belfer, M.D. Medical Consultants Network and Dr.
Belfer have not been served as of date of this order.
Ameriprise is RiverSource's parent company. RiverSource,
an insurance company, entered into a written contract with
Greenberg in 1996 to provide disability coverage (Dkt. No.
29). Greenberg received disability benefits from RiverSource
under this contract for five years by claiming total
disability arising from his bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome
(Dkt. No. 31 at 95). Dr. Belfer is the physician who examined
Greenberg to determine if he was still eligible for
disability benefits under RiverSource's coverage policy
at some point before his benefits stopped. The complaint
remains silent on how Medical Consultants Network became
involved in Greenberg's claim for relief (Dkt. No. 29).
Greenberg's disability benefits were terminated in
October 2007 (Dkt. No. 31 at 95). He filed suit in November
2011 in state court against RiverSource and Dr. Belfer for
fraud and breach of contract (Dkt. No. 31 at 6-10).[*] RiverSource and
Dr. Belfer removed the action to this district based on
diversity (id. at 12). The action came to the
undersigned (ibid.). RiverSource and Dr. Belfer then
filed a joint motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that
Greenberg failed to allege sufficient facts (id. at
19-28). An order granted Dr. Belfer's and
RiverSource's motion to dismiss as to all claims against
Dr. Belfer and claims for fraud against RiverSource, but
denied it as to Greenberg's claim for breach of contract
against RiverSource (id. at 78-82). RiverSource then
filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that
Greenberg's breach of contract claim was time-barred
(id. at 84-89). An order granted the motion for
summary judgment in favor of RiverSource and Dr. Belfer
(id. at 95-100). Greenberg did not appeal.
filed this new suit in June 2016 in state court against
RiverSource, Ameriprise, Medical Consultants Network, and Dr.
Belfer for breach of contract (id. at 102-10).
RiverSource and Ameriprise again removed to this district
based on diversity (Dkt. No. 1). The action became related to
the earlier action, thus coming to the undersigned judge
(Dkt. No. 19). Ameriprise and RiverSource filed a motion to
dismiss Greenberg's claim on the ground that res judicata
precluded Greenberg's claim (Dkt. No. 15). Greenberg did
not oppose, but instead requested leave to amend his
complaint at his case management conference. An order granted
Greenberg's request, permitting him to amend his
complaint (Dkt. No. 27).
now alleges in his amended complaint that RiverSource,
Ameriprise, and Dr. Belfer conspired to deny him disability
benefits. Greenberg's amended complaint contains only
bare bones allegations. Greenberg claims that he performed
“all conditions, covenants, and promises required on
his part to be performed in accordance with the terms and
conditions” of RiverSource's coverage policy. In
March 2007, RiverSource allegedly informed Greenberg that it
would begin a process of evaluating the “any
occupation” clause of the contract via an independent
medical evaluation. The amended complaint does not describe
this clause. To the extent discernable, the amended complaint
alleges RiverSource then breached the contract by somehow
wrongfully terminating his disability benefits (Dkt. No. 29).
amended complaint further alleges that Ameriprise interfered
with RiverSource's operations and Greenberg's medical
evaluation without explaining how. Greenberg also alleges
RiverSource directly communicated with Dr. Belfer and
influenced his medical evaluation of Greenberg. It is unclear
from the complaint what RiverSource communicated to Dr.
Belfer. Furthermore, Greenberg alleges his “legitimate
request” for copies of his medical reports and whole
claims file were denied, “creating an air of
conspiracy” (ibid.). Oddly, Greenberg believes
the aforementioned allegations will be substantiated by
evidence he secured during discovery in his first action
against RiverSource (Dkt. No. 29, 31 at 95-100).
RiverSource and Ameriprise move to dismiss this action. This
order follows full briefing and oral argument.
and RiverSource contend that res judicata bars
Greenberg's conspiracy claim because Greenberg's
underlying breach of contract claim in this suit is identical
to his claims against RiverSource and Dr. Belfer in his first
suit. This order agrees. Res judicata bars litigation in
subsequent actions of any claims that were raised or could
have been raised in the prior action against parties or their
privies. Stewart v. U.S. Bancorp, 297 F.3d 953, 956
(9th Cir. 2002). “For res judicata to apply, there must
be: (1) an identity of claims, (2) a final judgment on the
merits, and (3) identity or privity between the
parties.” Tahoe-Sierra Preservation, Council, Inc.
v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 322 F.3d 1064, 1077
(9th Cir. 2003).
Identity of Claims.
identity of claims exists when (1) the rights or interests in
the prior judgment would be destroyed or impaired by
prosecution of the second action, (2) the two suits present
substantially the same evidence, (3) the two suits involve
infringement of the same right, and (4) the two suits arise
out of the same transactional nucleus of facts. The most
important criterion in determining an identity of claims is
whether the claim brought in the subsequent action could have