United States District Court, D. Columbia
Kevin Jenkins, Plaintiff, Pro se, Washington, DC, USA.
Sears Life Insurance Company, Defendant: Stephen Bartels
Hurlbut, LEAD ATTORNEY, AKERMAN LLP, Washington, DC, USA.
A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.
Kevin Jenkins (" the plaintiff" ), a resident of
Washington, D.C. who is proceeding pro se, filed
this action against Sears Life Insurance Company ("
SLIC" ), a resident of Texas. The plaintiff alleged,
inter alia, that SLIC breached a contract and
engaged in fraud by denying payment of life insurance
proceeds to the plaintiff upon the death of his father, the
insured. Following a period of nearly ten months for
discovery, SLIC has moved for summary judgment. For the
reasons discussed below, this motion will be granted.
Luther H. Jenkins . . . purchased accidental death coverage
from SLIC, as reflected in Certificate of Accidental Death
Insurance No. 958163361 (the 'Certificate')."
Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
(" Def.'s Mem." ), Decl. of Autumn Wilkins
(" Wilkins Decl." ) ¶ 4. The Certificate
became effective on February 13, 2007, and offered the
The Certificate provided a limited 3-tier death benefit based
on the Insured's cause of death, if an insured person
dies directly as the result of an accident within the scope
of the Certificate's coverage. For accidents not
involving a common carrier or passenger vehicle, the
accidental death benefit was $50,000. In any event, the
coverage is limited to Accidental Death, which is defined as
death resulting directly from bodily injury effected solely
through external, violent and external means . . . . [I]n the
Exclusions section, the Certificate expressly provides that
it does not cover Loss caused directly by disease or bodily
or mental infirmity.
Decl. ¶ 5 (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). Mr. Jenkins named his wife, Elizabeth Jenkins, the
primary beneficiary; he did not name a contingent
beneficiary. Id. ¶ ¶ 7, 9, 17; see
id., Ex. B (Application for Beneficiary Change). If Mrs.
Jenkins were not living at the time of Mr. Jenkins'
death, any benefits would have been paid to Mr. Jenkins'
estate. Id. ¶ 11; see id., Ex. D
(Letter to Luther H. Jenkins from Policy Administration,
SLIC, dated October 15, 2009). Mr. Jenkins died on December
8, 2013, and the causes of his death were cardiopulmonary
arrest, aspiration and coronary artery disease. Id.
¶ 13; see id., Ex. E (Certification of Vital
Record, State of South Carolina, issued January 30, 2014).
plaintiff, who is Mr. Jenkins' son, was not a beneficiary
on the Certificate. Id. ¶ 17. Nevertheless, the
plaintiff submitted to SLIC a claim for benefits in or about
May 2014. Id. ; see id. Ex. F (Accidental
Death Claim Form). SLIC denied the claim, explaining:
The [C]ertificate under which [Mr. Jenkins] is insured
provides an accidental death benefit provided death occurs as
a direct result of an accidental injury and death occurs
within 365 days of the covered accident causing the injury.
The information received to date, the Death Certificate,
indicates [Mr. Jenkins'] death was not the direct result
of an injury resulting from a covered accident. For these
and other reasons, none of which are waived, there is no
basis to pay this claim . . . .
Id., Ex. G (Letter to plaintiff from Claim
Department, SLIC, dated May 22, 2014). The plaintiff had an
opportunity to submit more information in support of his
claim, but he " never provided to SLIC any additional
documents during the claim adjustment [period] or after the
claim was denied that advised SLIC that [Mr. Jenkins']
cause of death was from anything other than cardiopulmonary
arrest, aspiration [and] coronary artery disease as shown on
the Death Certificate." Id. ¶ 20 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
October 2, 2015, SLIC filed the pending motion for summary
judgment. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 8. On October
5, 2015, the Court issued an Order advising the plaintiff of
his obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
and the local rules of this Court to respond to the motion,
and specifically warned the plaintiff that, if he did not
respond to the motion by November 5, 2015, the Court would
treat the motion as conceded. Order, ECF No. 9. Despite the
opportunity provided to the plaintiff " to properly
address [SLIC's] assertion[s] of fact," Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(e), to date, the plaintiff has not filed an opposition to
the motion, requested more time to file his opposition, or
advised the Court of any change of address. Consequently, for
purposes of this Memorandum Opinion, the above facts are
deemed admitted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)
(authorizing court, when non-moving party " fails to
properly address another party's assertion of fact as
required by Rule 56(c)," to " consider the fact
undisputed for purposes of the motion" ); Grimes v.
District of Columbia, 794 F.3d 83, 94 (D.C. Cir. 2015)
(noting that plaintiff has " burden to identify evidence
that a reasonable jury could credit in support of each
essential element of [his] claims" and " cannot
rely on the allegations of [his] own complaint in response to
a summary judgment motion, but must substantiate them with
evidence" ); LCvR 7(h)(1) (" In determining a
motion for summary judgment, the court may assume that facts
identified by the moving party in its statement of material
facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the
statement of genuine issues." ).
as here, the plaintiff fails to respond to a motion for
summary judgment, " [a] defendant moving for summary
judgment must still 'discharge the burden the rules place
upon him: It is not enough to move for summary judgment
without supporting the motion in any way or with a conclusory
assertion that the plaintiff has no evidence to prove his
case.'" Grimes, 794 F.3d at 93 (quoting
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett Corp., 477 U.S. 317, 328,
106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (White, J.,
concurring). " The burden that the movant 'always
bears' is that of 'informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
[the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.'" Id. at
93-94 (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323);
see Alexander v. FBI, 691 F.Supp.2d 182,
193 (D.D.C. 2010) (" [E]ven where a summary judgment
motion is unopposed, it is only properly granted when the
movant has met its burden." ). Here, SLIC has met its
plaintiff alleges that SLIC wrongfully denied his claim for
benefits following Mr. Jenkins' death. See
Compl. at 5. As SLIC points out, see Def.'s Mem.
at 2-4, the plaintiff lacks standing to bring his claim
because he is not a beneficiary to the Certificate,
see Gavin v. Prudential Office of
Servicemen's Group Life Ins. Co., 72 F.Supp.3d 332,
336-37 (D.D.C. 2014), appeal docketed, No. 15-7007
(D.C. Cir. Jan. 20, 2015). Even if the plaintiff had standing
to bring his claim, Mr. Jenkins' cause of death is not
the direct result of a bodily injury sustained through
external, violent and external means, and therefore his death
was not accidental for purposes of the Certificate.
See Haley v. Am. Int'l Life Assurance Co. of
New York, 789 F.Supp. 260, 264 (E.D. Ill. 1992);
cf. New York Life Ins. Co. v. Gamer, 303
U.S. 161, 176, 58 S.Ct. 500, 82 L.Ed. 726 (1938) ("
Proof of death by external and violent means has uniformly
been held to establish death by accident." ).
has demonstrated that there are no genuine issues of material
fact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Therefore, the Court will grant summary