United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE.
the Court are Defendant Jackson National Life Insurance
Company's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint
(Doc. 3) and Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint (Doc. 8). For the reasons discussed herein,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint (Doc. 8) is granted-in-part and denied-in-part, and
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 3) is deemed moot.
about February 21, 1991, Phillip Randall Booker purchased
life insurance policy number 0017623570 from Defendant (the
“Policy”). (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). The insured under
the Policy was Larry T. Tuten. (Doc. 8-2, p. 2). Mr. Booker
was the beneficiary of the Policy. (Doc. 1-1, p. 7).
about September 23, 2011, Mr. Booker and Mr. Tuten completed
and submitted a Jackson National Life Service Request,
seeking to change the owner and beneficiary of the Policy.
(Doc. 1-1, pp. 7, 18-19). Mr. Tuten was named the new owner
of the Policy, and acknowledged ownership by his signature.
(Doc. 1-1, p. 19). Plaintiffs Tracie Lynn Cochran and Rebecca
Leigh Clanton, as well as Cynthia Kaye Alderdice, were listed
as the new beneficiaries on the form. (Doc. 1-1, p. 18). The area
for designating the percentage each beneficiary should
receive under the Policy was left blank. (Doc. 1-1, p. 18).
The instructions on the form as to beneficiary changes state
that, “[p]ercentages must equal 100% for each
beneficiary type. If left blank, all beneficiaries will
receive equal shares.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 18).
October 4, 2011, Defendant sent a letter to Mr. Booker,
letting him know that his request for an ownership change was
completed, and that Mr. Tuten was the new owner of the
Policy. (Doc. 1-1, p. 30). Also on October 4, 2011, Defendant
sent a letter to Mr. Tuten thanking him for his request for a
beneficiary change, and stating that, before processing, it
would need “[a]ll designation information . . .
including percentage of benefit and definition of primary
versus contingent beneficiaries. All benefit percentages must
equal 100%.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 39).
Tuten passed away on or about October 20, 2013. (Doc. 1-1, p.
7). The proceeds of the Policy in the amount of $150, 000
were disbursed to Mr. Booker. (Doc. 1-1, p. 7). According to
Defendant's records, Mr. Booker was the last recorded
beneficiary of the Policy. (Doc. 1-1, p. 25). Defendant
claims that it did not record Mr. Tuten's request for the
change of beneficiary because Mr. Tuten did not provide the
additional information requested in the October 4, 2011
April 22, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an eight count Amended
Complaint against Defendant relating to the life insurance
proceeds. In Counts I and II, Plaintiffs each assert a
tortious interference with contractual relations claim,
alleging that Defendant wrongfully paid the insurance
proceeds to Mr. Booker instead of Mr. Tuten's children.
In Counts III and IV, Plaintiffs each assert a damages claim
that includes her pro-rata share of the life insurance
proceeds plus interest and costs, out of pocket expenses,
financial suffering, and mental suffering. In Counts V and
VI, Plaintiffs each assert a punitive damages claim. In
Counts VII and VIII, Plaintiffs each assert a breach of
contract claim, alleging that Defendant breached the terms of
the Policy by paying the Policy proceeds to Mr. Booker
instead of Mr. Tuten's children. Defendant moves to
dismiss all counts of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a pleading
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To avoid dismissal pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter to “‘state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The
plaintiff is required to plead “factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are
accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are
construed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466
F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). However, “where the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it
has not ‘show[n]'- ‘that the pleader is
entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “[C]onclusory
allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal
conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent
dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v.
Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002). The
complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Where there are
dispositive issues of law, a court may dismiss a claim
regardless of the alleged facts. Marshall Cty. Bd. of
Educ. v. Marshall Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174
(11th Cir. 1993).
Counts I and II - Tortious Interference
state a claim for tortious interference with a contract, a
plaintiff must prove the following:
(1) improper action or wrongful conduct by the defendant
without privilege; (2) the defendant acted purposely and with
malice with the intent to injure; (3) the defendant induced a
breach of contractual obligations or caused a party or third
part[y] to discontinue or fail to enter into an anticipated
business relationship with the plaintiff; and (4) ...