Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Barbour

May 19, 2008

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JENNIFER G. BARBOUR, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This cases involves adverse claims on the life insurance policy proceeds of Julia W. Barbour ("Decedent"), a retiree of the United States Department of Labor. As a federal employee, the Decedent received life insurance coverage pursuant to the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act ("FEGLIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 8701 et seq., under which the Government obtained a group life insurance policy from the Plaintiff, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife"). MetLife filed this interpleader action seeking to deposit the policy proceeds into the registry of the Court and to have the Court adjudicate the respective rights of the thirteen putative beneficiary Defendants (the twelve children of the Decedent and Jordan Funeral Service, Inc.). Two of the Defendants have opposed MetLife's request for interpleader relief on the grounds that it has acted in bad faith, and three of the Defendants have filed counterclaims against MetLife for tortious interference with and breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraudulent misrepresentations, and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Currently pending before the Court is MetLife's Motion for Interpleader Relief and MetLife's Motions to Dismiss the counterclaims of Carolyn Steptoe, Julie Lee, and Jamilla Lankford. The Court acknowledges that many of the Decedent's children are frustrated with the lack of a resolution concerning their mother's life insurance proceeds to date, and much of that frustration is aimed directly at MetLife. Nevertheless, after the Court's thorough review of the Parties' submissions, applicable case law, statutory authority, and the record as a whole, the Court shall grant MetLife's [3] Motion for Interpleader Relief, grant MetLife's [34] Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims of Defendant Carolyn Steptoe, grant MetLife's [35] Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims of Defendant Julie Lee, and grant MetLife's [43] Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaim of Defendant Jamilla Lankford, for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

MetLife alleges the following facts in its Complaint for Interpleader Relief. The Federal Government purchased a policy of group life insurance from MetLife that provided life insurance coverage for the Decedent. Compl. ¶ 2. The Decedent passed away on December 2, 2006. Id. ¶ 23. Under the terms of the policy, MetLife became obligated to pay the proceeds--approximately $134,000--to the person or persons rightfully entitled to them. Id. ¶¶ 3, 23. MetLife examined the two beneficiary forms that the Decedent had allegedly prepared prior to her death. Id. ¶ 25. The most recent beneficiary designation, dated September 2, 1998, named Jennifer Barbour as the Decedent's sole beneficiary "in trust" for the full amount of the policy proceeds. Id., Ex. B (September 1998 Beneficiary Designation Form). The other beneficiary designation, dated April 20, 1998, named each of the Decedent's 12 children as beneficiaries and allocated to each a percentage of the proceeds in amounts ranging from the highest of 46.7% (for Jennifer Barbour) to the lowest of 1.1% (for several of the children including Carolyn Steptoe and Julie Lee). Id., Ex. C (April 1998 Beneficiary Designation Form).

On December 5, 2006, Jennifer Barbour filed a claim for the entire amount of policy proceeds and completed a funeral assignment to Jordan Funeral Service, Inc. in the amount of $9,822.24. Id. ¶ 26. Although the September 1998 Beneficiary Designation Form indicated that the Decedent left the proceeds "in trust," Jennifer Barbour confirmed in subsequent correspondence with MetLife that a trust had never been created.*fn1 Id. ¶ 27. MetLife denied Jennifer Barbour's claim based on the absence of a trust and indicated its intention to pay all of the Decedent's children an equal share of the proceeds pursuant to the order of precedence contained in 5 U.S.C. § 8705(a). Id. ¶¶ 27-29. On March 5, 2007, Jennifer Barbour, through counsel, sent a letter to MetLife requesting disbursement of the proceeds and including an affidavit from Mary Lomax, a co-worker of the Decedent who witnessed the Decedent's completion of the September 1998 Beneficiary Form. Id. ¶ 30. Ms. Lomax attested that the Decedent intended Jennifer Barbour to receive the full amount of the policy proceeds. Id. Seven of the named Defendants submitted affidavits in support of Jennifer Barbour's claim, but several of the Defendants did not. Id.

MetLife filed the instant Complaint and [3] Motion for interpleader relief on September 20, 2007. The Court issued a Minute Order dated October 11, 2007, requiring MetLife to file proof of service on the docket as to all Defendants before the Court would consider MetLife's Motion for interpleader relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(l)(1). MetLife subsequently filed proof that all Defendants waived service of process, and the Defendants filed Answers or, in some instances, mailed letters to the Court which the Court allowed to be filed on the docket.*fn2

On November 26, 2007, Carolyn Steptoe and Julie Lee filed separate--but materially identical--Answers with counterclaims against MetLife.*fn3 According to their Answers, the Decedent told them that she would leave money for her children and grandchildren, and that she would name Jennifer Barbour as a conservator of the estate. Steptoe Answer at 1. They further allege that MetLife told them that Jennifer Barbour's claim for the policy proceeds had been denied, and that MetLife intended to distribute the policy proceeds to all of the Decedent's children in equal shares. Id. at 2. Carolyn Steptoe and Julie Lee then proceed to allege that MetLife is engaged in a fraudulent scheme. They allege that MetLife "lured" them into a "false dispute" with their siblings by inviting them to submit claims for the proceeds. Id. MetLife is also allegedly delaying distribution of the proceeds because Mary Lomax, a co-worker of the Decedent and witness to the Decedent's completion of the September 1998 Beneficiary Designation Form, breached contractual and fiduciary duties to MetLife, the Decedent, and all of the Decedent's future beneficiaries by submitting an affidavit in support of Jennifer Barbour's claim. Id. at 4. On this theory, MetLife's request for interpleader relief is an attempt to "cover[] up and minimize[] Ms. Lomax' [sic] actions and its liability." Id. Based on these allegations, Carolyn Steptoe and Julie Lee seek a denial of MetLife's Motion for interpleader relief, id. at 5, and $750,000 for each of them based on MetLife's intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraudulent misrepresentation(s), tortious interference with and breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. Id. at 17.

On December 18, 2007, MetLife filed a [34] Motion to Dismiss the counterclaims of Carolyn Steptoe and a [35] Motion to Dismiss the counterclaims of Julie Lee. MetLife's Motions are identical in all material respects. On January 3, 2008, Jamilla Lankford requested and was granted leave of the Court to file an amendment to her answer, in which she asserts a counterclaim based on the emotional distress caused by MetLife's various misrepresentations. Lankford Answer at 1-2. Based on these misrepresentations, Jamilla Lankford requests damages in the amount of $1,200,000 to be divided among the Decedent's 12 children. Id. at 2.

On January 23, 2008, MetLife filed a [43] Motion to Dismiss the counterclaim of Jamilla Lankford, which includes arguments that are similar to those contained in its previous two Motions to Dismiss. Carolyn Steptoe and Julie Lee filed identical Oppositions on January 26, 2008. Jamilla Lankford filed an Opposition on January 30, 2008. MetLife filed Replies to the Oppositions of Carolyn Steptoe and Julie Lee on February 8, 2008 (which are identical in all material respects), but did not file a Reply to Jamilla Lankford's Opposition.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief," a plaintiff must furnish "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 1964-65; see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Instead, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citations omitted).

In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F. Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994); see also Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979) ("The complaint must be 'liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff,' who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged."). Where, as here, a claim is asserted by a pro se plaintiff, the Court must take particular care to construe the plaintiff's filings liberally for such complaints are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines, 404 U.S. at 520-21. See also Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.