United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter concerns a dispute over entitlement to the proceeds of
a life insurance policy. The parties have consented to
magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). (Doc. 19). Presently pending is the defendants'
March 28, 2018 motion to dismiss, to which the plaintiff has
not responded. (Doc. 22). For the reasons that follow, the
motion to dismiss is due to be granted in its entirety.
plaintiff, Johnny Lawson, originally filed this matter in the
Circuit Court of Marshall County, Alabama. (Doc. 1-1 at 2).
The Complaint named four defendants and several fictitious
parties. (Id.). The case was subsequently removed to
this court on the basis of federal diversity jurisdiction.
(Doc. 1). Following removal, the defendants filed a motion to
dismiss all of the claims asserted. (Doc. 4). In response to
the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff noted the complaint was
drafted under the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure
and filed in state court; he moved to file an amended
complaint in light of the removal to federal court. (Doc. 13;
see Doc. 17). On March 23, 2018, the court granted
the plaintiff's motion to amend and denied without
prejudice the defendants' motion to dismiss in light of
the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 21).
Amended Complaint names three defendants: (1) Federal
Insurance Company; (2) Broadspire; and (3) Affinion Benefits
Group, LLC. (Doc. 17). On March 23, 2018, the defendants
filed the instant motion to dismiss, seeking dismissal of all
claims asserted. (Doc. 22). The Initial Order governing this
case requires that briefs in opposition to non-summary
judgment motions are due within fourteen (14) calendar days
after the motion is filed. (Doc. 20 at 5). The plaintiff has
not responded to the motion to dismiss.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only '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. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Rule 8 "does not
require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it
demands more than an unadorned, the
defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A pleading that
offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.'" Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555, 557) (internal quotation marks omitted).
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on
which relief may be granted brought pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'" Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). "The plausibility standard is not akin to
a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Id. "Where a complaint pleads
facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's
liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (quotation marks
noted by other courts sitting in this district, a motion to
dismiss is not automatically granted where a plaintiff fails
to file a brief in opposition. Gadson v. Ala. Dep't
of Corr., No. 13-0105-VEH, 2013 WL 5230241, at *2 (N.D.
Ala. entered Sept. 17, 2013). Rather, the movant
still bears the initial burden of demonstrating entitlement
to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). Id. In
circumstances where a plaintiff fails to file an opposition
to a motion to dismiss, courts sitting in this district have
held the following legal standard applies:
[T]he Court will review the merits of the movant's
position and, if it is clearly incorrect or inadequate to
satisfy the movant's initial burden, will deny the motion
despite the nonmovant's failure to respond. If, however,
the movant's presentation is adequate to satisfy its
initial burden, the Court will not deny the motion based on
arguments the nonmovant could have made but by silence
elected not to raise.
Id. (alterations incorporated) (quoting Branch
Banking and Trust Co. v. Howard, No. 12-0175, 2013 WL
172903, *1 (S.D .Ala. entered Jan. 16, 2013)).
plaintiff and his late wife, Patsy O. Lawson, entered into a
group accidental death and dismemberment insurance contract
(the "Policy") with Federal Insurance Company.
(Doc. 17 at 1-2). The Amended Complaint alleges an
unidentified agent led the plaintiff to believe the Policy
was the "best" Federal offered and that Federal
would cover and promptly pay benefits for any accidental
death. (Id. at 2). The Policy was in effect when
Mrs. Lawson passed away on May 19, 2015. (Id.). The
Amended Complaint describes Affinion Benefits Group, LLC,
("Affinion") as the company that holds and
administers the Policy; it describes Broadspire as the
company which processes claims on behalf of Federal and
Affinion. (Id. at 1).
plaintiff made a timely claim under the Policy; the claim
sought the Policy's face value on Mrs. Lawson's life
and the 60% spousal loss benefit. (Doc. 17 at 2). The
defendants initially denied the claim via a January 14, 2016
letter and have continually refused to pay the
plaintiff's claim. (Id.). Somewhat more
specifically, the Amended Complaint alleges the
plaintiff's claim was denied on the basis of a
"questionable prescription drug exclusion."
(Id. at 3; see Id. at 4). The plaintiff
contends Federal and Affinion failed to investigate the claim
and thus did not discover Mrs. Lawson had been "taking
her medication as prescribed" prior to her death.
(Id. at 3). The Amended Complaint also notes Mrs.
Lawson was covered by two other accidental death policies
issued by different insurers; although those policies
included exclusions similar to those in the Federal Policy,
the plaintiff received ...