United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant
KEISHA JONES-ATCHISON, Defendant DAVID ATCHISON, SR., and FANNIE ATCHISON, Defendants/Cross-Claim Defendants And ANITRA HAAG, as Parent, Legal Guardian, and Next Friend of L.M.H., a Minor; AMBER SMITH, as Parent, Legal Guardian, and Next Friend of I.E.S., a Minor; and KRISTIE HALL, as Parent, Legal Guardian, and Next Friend of J.H., a Minor, Defendant-Intervenors/ Cross-Complainants/ Counter-Complainants
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Hartford Life
and Accident Insurance Company's (“Hartford”)
Motion to Dismiss Intervenor's Amended Counterclaim [Doc.
No. 72]. Defendant-Intervenors/Counter-Complainants Anita
Haag, Amber Smith, and Kristie Hall, as parents and next
friends of minor children L.M.H., I.E.S., and J.H.
(“the Children”), respectively, have responded
[Doc. No. 73]. Hartford has replied [Doc. No. 75]. The matter
is fully briefed and at issue.
is the carrier of a group policy (the “Policy”)
with basic life insurance benefits (and other coverages not
relevant to this action) for its policy holder-Siemens
Corporation (“Siemens”). David Lamare Atchison II
(“Mr. Atchison”) was employed by Siemens and was
a participant in the Policy. Mr. Atchison died after being
shot by an unknown assailant on January 8, 2017. To date,
there have been no arrests in connection with the death of
Mr. Atchison, however, Ms. Keisha Jones-Atchison
(“Jones”), Mr. Atchison's ex-wife, is a
suspect and/or person of interest in the death of Mr.
submitted a claim for benefits payable on Mr. Atchison's
death providing no details regarding the death of Mr.
Atchison. Thereafter, Mr. Atchison's father, David Lamare
Atchison, Sr. (“David”), submitted an executed
Preference Beneficiary Affidavit (“PBA”) in which
he “testified that Decedent did not have any children
or siblings.” Amended Answer and Counterclaim [Doc. No.
68] at 8.
succession provision of the Policy provides that:
when the insured has not named a beneficiary, the benefits
will be paid in the following order: (1) to the spouse or
domestic partner, if living; otherwise (2) to the then living
children of the insured, if any, in equal shares; otherwise
(3) to the mother and father of the insured, if then living,
in equal shares; otherwise
(4) to the then living brothers and sisters of the insured,
in equal shares; otherwise (5) to the estate of the insured.
at 3-4; Amended Answer and Counterclaim at 3, 7-8. In the
PBA, David listed he and his wife as parents of Mr. Atchison
and claimed entitlement to “a check in the full amount
of the insurance proceeds payable to me, ” pursuant to
the Policy's succession provision. Amended Answer and
Counterclaim at 8. David testified in the PBA that Mr.
Atchison had no surviving children. Id.; Complaint
the existence of competing claims to the Policy proceeds,
Hartford filed this interpleader action and the Court granted
Hartford permission to deposit the proceeds into the
Clerk's registry and be discharged from these
proceedings. Hartford was discharged on October 19, 2017.
Order [Doc. No. 22]. On January 30, 2018, Jones filed a
Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 32] seeking an award of
the Policy benefits.
Hartford's discharge, the Children were granted leave to
intervene in the case, and Jones' Motion for Summary
Judgment was stricken without prejudice to refiling. Order
[Doc. No. 46]. On December 17, 2018, the Children filed their
Amended Answer and Counterclaim stating a claim against
Hartford and cross-claims against the Atchisons.
Children allege that: (1) Hartford failed to conduct a
reasonable search of beneficiaries and improperly distributed
$225, 000 in supplemental life benefits to the Atchisons; (2)
Hartford's failure to pay benefits to the Children is a
violation of ERISA, fiduciary duties, and/or breach of
contract; (3) the Atchisons acquired the life insurance
benefits by making fraudulent misrepresentations by
affidavit; (4) as a matter of law and equity, they are
entitled to recover the life insurance benefits from the
Atchisons; and, (5) the Atchisons tortiously interfered with
their contractual relationship with Hartford. The Children
contend that “the burden of recouping the wrongly-paid
policy benefits should fall upon Hartford, the entity that
paid the benefits to the wrong persons without conducting a
reasonable search.” Amended Complaint at 10. To that
end, the Children assert three claims against Hartford: (1)
failure to pay benefits to the intended beneficiary in
violation of ERISA; (2) breach of fiduciary duties; and, (3)
breach of contract.
moves to dismiss all of the Children's counterclaims
asserting that the claims fail as a matter of law. Hartford
asserts that: (1) ERISA preempts the Children's claims
for violation of fiduciary duties, and/or breach of contract;
and, (2) the Children fail to state a claim for which relief
can be granted regarding any ERISA violation.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a pleading
stating a claim for relief must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” To survive a Rule 12(b) motion to
dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d
868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. “[C]ourts should look to the specific
allegations in the complaint to determine whether they
plausibly support a legal claim for relief.”
Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 n.2
(10th Cir.2007) (citations omitted).
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will
. . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see
Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1248 (10th Cir.
2008) (stating that “the degree of specificity
necessary to establish plausibility and fair notice, and
therefore the need to include sufficient factual allegations,
depends on context”) (internal quotation omitted).
Therefore, Iqbal and Twombly provide
“no indication the Supreme Court intended a return to
the more stringent pre-Rule 8 pleading requirements.”
See Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191
(10th Cir. 2012) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Tenth Circuit has held that the
Iqbal/Twombly pleading standard is “a
middle ground between heightened fact pleading, which is
expressly rejected, and allowing complaints that are no more
than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action, which the Court stated will
not do.” Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 (quoting
Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247). “Specific facts
are not necessary”; the pleader's allegations need
only provide the “defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Id. at 1192 (quoting Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007))
(internal quotations omitted). “Twombly and
Iqbal do not require that the complaint include all
facts necessary to carry the plaintiff's burden.”
Khalik, 671 F.3d at ...