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Protective Life Insurance Co. v. LeClaire

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

July 2, 2018

Protective Life Insurance Company, Plaintiff,
v.
Deborah LeClaire, an individual, and Carrie Thomas, Administratrix on Behalf of the Estate of Robert Eugene Gilliland, Deceased, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr. United States District Judge

         Before this Court is Defendant Carrie Thomas, Administratrix on Behalf of the Estate of Robert Eugene Gilliland, Deceased's (“Thomas”) Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 33), Defendant Deborah LeClaire's (“LeClaire”) Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35), Defendant Thomas's Motion to Strike from Defendant LeClaire's Second Affidavit on Summary Judgment Motion (ECF No. 42) and LeClaire's Motion to Amend her Answer, Counterclaim, and Cross Claim. (ECF No. 43.) The Court held a hearing on these motions on May 31, 2018, and has considered the arguments of the parties, as well as the briefing submitted and the entire record in this case. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court DENIES Thomas's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, DENIES LeClaire's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment, DENIES Thomas's Motion to Strike and DENIES LeClaire's Motion to Amend without prejudice.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The motions before the Court arise out of an interpleader action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1335 (a) and 2361, and based on diversity of citizenship and the assertion of adverse claims to the death benefit of a life insurance policy that is in excess of $500. (ECF No. 1.) As alleged in the complaint, on or about November 26, 2001, Protective Life Insurance Company (“Protective”) issued a term life insurance policy (No. DT0084888) (the “Policy”) to Robert Gilliland (the “Insured” or the “Decedent”) in the face amount of $200, 000 (the “Death Benefit”). (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 7.) An amendment to the application was incorporated and made a part of the Policy and listed the Insured's then wife, LeClaire, as primary beneficiary of the Policy proceeds. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 7.) The Insured and LeClaire were married on December 2, 2000, but separated and later divorced on August 20, 2003. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 8.) In 2013, the South Carolina Legislature amended Title 62, Article 2, Part 5 of the South Carolina Code such that the divorce or annulment of marriage revokes any revocable disposition or appointment of property or beneficiary designation made by a divorced individual to the divorced individual's former spouse in a governing document, except as provided by the express terms of a governing instrument. S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-507(c). (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 9.) The Insured died on July 18, 2016. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 10.) LeClaire, the named beneficiary in the Policy, and Thomas, the Administratrix of the Estate have asserted competing claims to the Death Benefit. Thus, Protective sought to deposit the Death Benefit from the Policy with the Clerk of Court so that the defendants could resolve their rights to the Policy before this Court. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 11, 14, 20-22.) This Court previous granted Protective Life's motion for interpleader deposit (ECF No. 20) and for release of funds (ECF No. 23 in accordance with the relevant statutes.

         Thomas filed her Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on January 26, 2018 (ECF No. 33); LeClaire filed her Amended Motion for Summary Judgment on the same day. (ECF No. 35.) Thomas moved to strike several assertions of LeClaire's Second Affidavit in Support of her Motion for Summary Judgment on February 22, 2018. (ECF No. 42.) On February 26, 2018, LeClaire filed her Motion to Amend her Answer, Counterclaim, and Cross Claim was filed on February 26, 2018. (ECF No. 43.) Replies and responses have been filed and the motions are ripe for review.

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         Summary Judgment

         A court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in her favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The moving party has the burden of proving that summary judgment is appropriate.

         Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). A litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir.1985). Therefore, “[m]ere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ennis v. National Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995). At the summary judgment stage, the judge is not to weigh the evidence, but rather to determine if there is a genuine issue of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “[T]he pertinent inquiry is whether there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Variety Stores, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 17-1503, 2018 WL 1916320, at *3 (4th Cir. Apr. 24, 2018)(internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is assessed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Occupy Columbia v. Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 115 (4th Cir. 2013). Such a motion “does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal citation and quotations omitted). The Court must treat as true all well-pleaded allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the pleading part. Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). “A judgment on the pleadings is only warranted if the moving party has clearly established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Thomas Daniels Agency, Inc. v. Nationwide Ins. Co. of Am., 122 F.Supp.3d 448, 450 (D.S.C. 2015) (internal citation and quotation omitted).

         Motion to Strike

         Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the Court to strike “any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). “Rule 12(f) motions are generally viewed with disfavor ‘because striking a portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy and because it is often sought by the movant simply as a dilatory tactic.'” Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting 5A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1380, 647 (2d ed.1990)).

         Motion to ...


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