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Arnold v. Metlife Auto & Home Insurance Agency, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

November 12, 2019

MARIE A ARNOLD, Plaintiff,



         Defendant Brighthouse Life Insurance Company (“Brighthouse”) moves to dismiss all claims asserted against it by plaintiff Marie A. Arnold. Dkt. No. 24. The Court held a hearing on the motion on November 12, 2019. Upon consideration of the moving and responding papers, as well as the oral arguments presented, the Court grants the motion to dismiss, and gives Ms. Arnold leave to file a second amended complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Arnold, proceeding pro se, originally filed this action against defendants MetLife Auto & Home Insurance Agency, Inc. and MetLife Group, Inc., asserting claims for negligence and negligent misrepresentation, as well as a claim under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for alleged invasion of privacy. Ms. Arnold says that, at defendants' suggestion and with their agreement, she subsequently amended her complaint to include an additional defendant, Brighthouse.[1] Dkt. No. 13.

         Ms. Arnold's operative amended complaint (Dkt. No. 19) asserts claims for fraudulent concealment, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of the Fourth Amendment (invasion of privacy). Although the allegations of the amended complaint are not stated clearly, Ms. Arnold seems to allege that she obtained some sort of insurance coverage through her prior employment with Kaiser Permanente (“Kaiser”). Dkt. No. 19 at ECF 2. Ms. Arnold says that she voluntarily terminated her employment with Kaiser on May 13, 2012, and was experiencing emotional distress and financial hardship. Id. She further alleges that she was given “an option[] to continue Metlife life [i]nsurance” through an “arrangement with [an] Insurance Agent, ” and either Ms. Arnold or the insurance agent “insisted [o]n [a] ‘Promise Whole Life' Plan.” Id. Appended as Exhibit A to the amended complaint is a letter that appears to summarize a “Promise Whole Life” plan Policy Number 21216479 UT, issued by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Dkt. No. 19 at ECF 11. The identified insured is “Marie A. Dantes, ” which Ms. Arnold represents was her (former) married name. Id.; Dkt. No. 27-1 ¶ 3. That letter identifies a June 14, 2012 “Policy Issue Date of Original Policy” and a “Face Amount of Insurance” of $50, 000. Id. The letter also states that “[f]urther details about the policy and benefits will be furnished upon request.”[2] Id. Elsewhere in the amended complaint, Ms. Arnold alleges that “Brighthouse and Metlife are stated to be Plaintiff's individual plan with same policy number.” Dkt. No. 19 at ECF 3. Appended to the amended complaint as Exhibit B is what appears to be a brochure providing an overview of a Kaiser benefits package. Id. at ECF 13-20.

         Ms. Arnold says she “informed Metlife about her hardship, ” and seems to claim that, due to a chronic illness or disability, she was entitled to “withdraw” money under her policy. Id. at ECF 4, 5. According to the amended complaint, defendants failed to disclose, and made false representations about, Ms. Arnold's alleged entitlement to payment of a “whole life policy amount.” Id. As a result, Ms. Arnold says that she suffered humiliation and mental anguish, and became homeless. Id. at ECF 3. She seeks $500, 000 in compensatory damages, plus $1, 000, 000 in punitive damages. Id. at ECF 9.

         The amended complaint seems to acknowledge that Ms. Arnold's claims may be time-barred. Nonetheless, Ms. Arnold alleges that she is entitled to tolling, noting that “[t]he general rule [that] the statu[t]es of limitation begins to run when Plaintiff discovers that a fraud occurred or exercise of reasonable diligence.” Id. at 3.

         Defendant Brighthouse moves to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Brighthouse acknowledges that some of Ms. Arnold's claims appear to relate to an individual whole life insurance policy (Policy No. 21216479UT) under which Ms. Arnold was the named insured, and which was issued by MetLife Investors Insurance Company, now known as Brighthouse. Dkt. No. 33 at ECF 7 n.1. Nevertheless, Brighthouse argues that Ms. Arnold's amended complaint fails to allege sufficient facts demonstrating that there is a viable basis for any claim against Brighthouse. Additionally, Brighthouse contends that all of Ms. Arnold's claims are time-barred and that the amended complaint does not allege sufficient facts to invoke tolling under the discovery rule. Ms. Arnold opposes the motion.[3]


         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims in the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is appropriate where there is no cognizable legal theory or an absence of sufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory. Id. (citing Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). In such a motion, all material allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the claimant. Id.

         However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Moreover, “the court is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged.” Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994).

         Rule 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” This means that the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). However, only plausible claims for relief will survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A claim is plausible if its factual content permits the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. A plaintiff does not have to provide detailed facts, but the pleading must include “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. at 678.

         Documents appended to or incorporated into the complaint or which properly are the subject of judicial notice may be considered along with the complaint when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir. 2010).

         III. ...

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