Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Transamerica Life Insurance Co. v. Helmer

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

July 11, 2019

TRANSAMERICA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant
v.
JILLIAN HELMER, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 192nd Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-96-06849

          Before Justices Bridges, Brown, and Nowell

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ERIN A. NOWELL JUSTICE

         Appellant Transamerica Life Insurance Company ("Transamerica") filed an Amended Motion for Show Cause Order and to Enforce Settlement and Final Judgment. In response, appellee Jillian Helmer filed a plea to the jurisdiction and, in the alternative, opposition to Transamerica's motion. Following a hearing, the trial court granted Helmer's plea to the jurisdiction and denied Transamerica's request on the ground it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide the amended motion. Alternatively, the trial court concluded that even if it had subject matter jurisdiction over the amended motion, it would decline to exercise it. In two issues, Transamerica asserts the trial court erred by concluding it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and by declining to exercise jurisdiction. We affirm the trial court's order.[1]

         Procedural Background

         This appeal presents an usual fact pattern involving three proceedings: a class-action that was settled in 2000 after litigation in the 192nd Civil District Court of Dallas County; a case currently pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California; and the proceedings giving rise to this appeal, which were filed in the original cause number of the case settled in 2000.

         In 1996, Richard Oakes and others brought a class-action lawsuit against Bankers United Life Assurance Company, AEGON USA, Inc., and others for, among other things, misrepresenting the terms and financial performance of insurance products sold to the plaintiffs. Four years later, in 2000, the parties reached a settlement agreement, which was incorporated into the trial court's Final Order and Judgment. The Final Order and Judgment states in part:

The Court has jurisdiction to enter this Final Order and Judgment. Without in any way affecting the finality of this Final Order and Judgment, this Court hereby retains jurisdiction as to all matters relating to administration, consummation, enforcement and interpretation of the Settlement Agreement and of this Final Order and Judgment, and for any other necessary purpose.

         On May 31, 2017, in the Northern District of California, Helmer sued Transamerica, as successor-in-interest to Bankers Life Assurance Company and AEGON USA, Inc., for unfair and deceptive business practices, fraudulent inducement, breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and also sought a declaration that the Oakes Final Order and Judgment does not affect Transamerica's obligations that are the subject of the California lawsuit ("California Litigation"). Helmer alleged Transamerica refused to honor the terms of two permanent life insurance contracts purchased in 1990. According to Helmer's Petition, Transamerica "claimed that it was not required to make these contractual payments because the policies at issue were subject to a class action settlement reached 15 years earlier, in 2000, in an action brought in the District Court for Dallas County, Texas, case no. 96-06849 entitled Oakes v. Bankers United Life Assurance Company et al." Transamerica filed a motion to dismiss the California Litigation, contending the dispute falls within the terms of the Oakes settlement agreement. The federal judge in California issued an order denying Transamerica's motion to dismiss without prejudice. The order states:

[T]he District Court of Dallas County, Texas retained "jurisdiction as to all matters relating to the administration, consummation, enforcement and interpretation of the Settlement Agreement of this Final Order and Judgment, and for any necessary purpose." It is proper for the court with jurisdiction over the settlement agreement to determine whether [Helmer's] current claims are barred by res judicata.

(internal citation omitted). The judge stayed the California Litigation "pending resolution of a motion in the Oakes action to enforce the settlement agreement and judgment."

         Pursuant to the judge's order, Transamerica returned to Texas and filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, specifically seeking an injunction "enjoining [Plaintiff] from prosecuting her claims" in the California Litigation.[2] Transamerica filed its motion in the Oakes cause number. The California court issued another order stating a Texas state court lacks power to award Transamerica's requested relief; the California court instructed Transamerica to "request a declaratory judgment regarding whether Plaintiffs claims in this action are barred by the Oakes Final Judgment."[3] Transamerica then filed the motion at issue in this appeal "seek[ing] a declaratory judgment holding that Respondent's claims in Helmer, which is pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, are barred by the Oakes settlement and judgment." Transamerica asserts Helmer was a member of the Oakes class, received notice of the settlement, and elected to receive settlement benefits. Regardless of these past events, Transamerica claims, Helmer now attempts to litigate the claims she released in Oakes. Thus, Transamerica asked the trial court to "hold that the releases contained in the Oakes settlement and judgment preclude Respondent's claims in Helmer."

         Helmer filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and, alternatively, an opposition to Transamerica's amended motion. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Transamerica's amended motion and granted Helmer's plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court's order states it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to decide the amended motion and, alternatively, even if the court had ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.