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State Farm Life Insurance Co. v. Murphy

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

May 19, 2017

STATE FARM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
CANDICE MURPHY, personally and as Personal Representative of the Estate of John McMeeking, G.M.M., a minor born January 26, 2005, and G.M.M., a minor born December 11, 2006, Defendants/Third Party Plaintiffs
v.
GAIL WILLIAMSON and SHANNON HORNING, Third Party Defendants

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on third-party defendant Gail Williamson's (“Williamson”) motion to dismiss, ECF No. 84, and third-party defendant Shannon Horning's (“Horning”) motion to dismiss, ECF No. 89. The court grants both motions to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         State Farm is an insurance company incorporated in the state of Illinois with its principal place of business in Illinois. Candice Murphy (“Murphy”) is a resident of Charleston County and is the mother of two minor children who are also residents of Charleston County and who are named defendants in this action (collectively, the “Murphy defendants”).[1] The minor defendants were born on January 26, 2005 and December 11, 2006 to Murphy and John McMeeking (“McMeeking”). Murphy and McMeeking were married on May 27, 2006. State Farm issued a life insurance policy to McMeeking on October 14, 2009 with a policy date of September 23, 2009. Compl., Ex. A. Murphy was designated as beneficiary of $100, 000.00 of the policy, and other persons were designated beneficiaries for the remainder of the basic plan amount of the policy. McMeeking and Murphy entered into a separation agreement on June 22, 2010, which provided that both parties shall have life insurance of $100, 000.00 “and shall maintain these at this level for the benefit of the children.” Compl., Ex. B. On August 5, 2010, a family court judge issued a final order approving the agreement and adopting it as the order of the court. Compl., Ex. C. The final order of divorce did not provide by its express terms that McMeeking and Murphy's divorce would not revoke McMeeking's prior designation of Murphy as to beneficiary of the life insurance process. On October 30, 2012, McMeeking signed a change of beneficiary form listing Murphy as beneficiary of $100, 000.00, Stuart McMeeking as beneficiary of $75, 000.00, and Shannon Horning as beneficiary of $75, 000.00. See Compl., Ex. D. On March 17, 2014, a family court judge issued a final order of divorce. See Compl., Ex. E. The final order of divorce did not state that, notwithstanding Murphy and McMeeking's divorce, Murphy was to remain as beneficiary of $100, 000.00 under the policy.

         On August 2, 2015, McMeeking died. Murphy was appointed personal representative of his estate on August 11, 2015. Murphy submitted a life insurance claim form claiming benefits under the policy on August 18, 2015. Id. Ex. F. State Farm provided written notice on October 15, 2015 to Murphy that she was not qualified from receiving the $100, 000 in life insurance proceeds under S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-507, which states in pertinent part:

Revocation by divorce, annulment, and order terminating marital property rights . . .
(c) Except as provided by the express terms of a governing instrument, a court order, or a contract relating to the division of the marital estate made between the divorced individuals before or after the marriage, divorce or annulment, the divorce or annulment of a marriage:
(1) revokes any revocable:
(i) disposition or appointment of property or beneficiary designation made by a divorced individual to the divorced individual's former spouse in a governing instrument; [.]

         State Farm filed an interpleader action on December 1, 2015 against Murphy and GMM, seeking guidance from the court on how to distribute the $100, 000 portion of the proceeds of the policy in light of the statutory restrictions of S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-507. On March 10, 2016 the court entered an order for interpleader directing State Farm to pay $101, 028.50 into the court. ECF No. 19. State Farm paid $101, 028.50 into the court on March 10, 2016. ECF No. 21.

         On June 3, 2016, the Murphy defendants initiated the instant third-party action against third party defendant Gail Williamson (“Williamson”), a State Farm insurance agent, and Shannon Horning (“Horning”), a beneficiary of the policy, for intentional interference with a contractual relationship and civil conspiracy. ECF No. 33. Williamson filed a motion to dismiss on January 19, 2017, ECF No. 84, to which Murphy responded on February 2, 2017, ECF No. 90, and Williamson replied on February 9, 2017, ECF No. 92. Horning filed a motion to dismiss on February 2, 2017, ECF No. 89, to which Murphy responded on February 16, 2017. ECF No. 94. The court held a hearing on February 21, 2017. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARD

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see also Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) [] does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”). To be legally sufficient, 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).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion should not be granted unless it appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would support his claim and would entitle him to relief. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court should accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir. 1999). “To survive a 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 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). ...


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