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Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada v. Hieb

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

November 21, 2017

SUN LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF CANADA, Plaintiff,
v.
PAMELA R. HIEB and MARK D. DANIELS Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BARBARA M. G. LYNN, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Mark D. Daniels' Motion to Dismiss Crossclaim Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); or, in the alternative, Motion to Strike Pursuant to Rule 12(f) and Motion for More Definite Statement Pursuant to Rule 12(e). (ECF No. 18). For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, so the alternative motions are moot.

         Also before the Court is Defendant Pamela R. Hieb's Motion for Leave to Amend Crossclaim. (ECF No. 25). For the reasons stated below, the Motion for Leave is GRANTED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Pamela Hieb and Eugene Knies were married in 1990. (Crossclaim ¶ 79, ECF No. 9). Knies and Mark Daniels later became business partners, and each purchased insurance policies that insured the life of the other. (Id. ¶ 80). Two of those insured the life of Knies for a total of $2 million, and Daniels was the owner and beneficiary of both policies (“Disputed Policies”). (Id. ¶¶ 80-81). Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (“Sun Life”) issued the policies. (Id¶ 80).

         In 2011, Hieb filed for divorce from Knies. (Crossclaim ¶ 82). While the divorce was pending, Daniels and Knies terminated their business relationship. (Id. ¶ 84). They also agreed to exchange certain of their insurance policies. (Id. ¶ 85). Daniels transferred his ownership interest in the Disputed Policies to Knies, but still remained as the beneficiary, allegedly based on a promise by Daniels to Knies to provide for Knies' children. (Id.)

         On October 7, 2016, the divorce court held that Knies was “divested of all right, title, interest, and claim in or to” the Disputed Policies, awarding them to Hieb as her “sole and separate property.” (Crossclaim ¶¶ 90, 93-94). On October 31, 2016, Hieb asked Sun Life to designate her as the owner of the Disputed Policies. (Id. ¶¶ 35-40). Later that day, Knies died. (Id. ¶ 40). On November 1, 2016, Hieb asked Sun Life to designate her as the beneficiary of the Disputed Policies. (Id. ¶ 41).

         Sun Life filed this interpleader action because Hieb and Daniels each claim to be the sole beneficiary of the Disputed Policies. Hieb then filed a crossclaim against Daniels for conspiracy to commit fraud. (Crossclaim ¶ 104; Hieb Resp. at 2, ECF No. 24). She alleges that Knies and Daniels conspired to prevent her from becoming the beneficiary of the Disputed Policies. (Id. ¶¶ 98, 103). Daniels moves to dismiss the crossclaim under Rule 12(b)(6). Hieb moves for leave to amend in the event that the Court grants the motion to dismiss the crossclaim.

         II. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         a. Legal Standard

         A pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” but it does demand more than an unadorned accusation devoid of factual support. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The court must accept all of the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but it is not bound to accept as true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 555. Where the facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has stopped short of showing that the pleader is plausibly entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Parties alleging fraud must meet a heightened pleading standard. They must “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Articulating the elements of fraud with particularity “requires a plaintiff to specify the statements contended to be fraudulent, identify the speaker, state when and where the statements were made, and explain why the statements were fraudulent.” Williams v. WMX Techs., Inc., 112 F.3d 175, 177 (5th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). In allegations of conspiracy to commit fraud, plaintiff must plead with particularity both the conspiracy as well as the overt acts taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. See U.S. ex rel. Grubbs v. Kanneganti, 565 F.3d 180, 193 (5th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         b. Analysis

         i. Whether Chu v. Hong Bars ...


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