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Gonzalez-Guzman v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 30, 2017

VICTOR GONZALEZ-GUZMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INS. CO., Defendant.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          DARRFN P. GAYLES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant MetLife's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint [ECF No. 31]. The Court has reviewed the Motion and the record and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         On October 1, 2005, Plaintiff Victor Gonzalez-Guzman ("Plaintiff) obtained a disability insurance policy (the "Policy") from Defendant MetLife ("Defendant"). In the event Plaintiff became totally disabled, and therefore unable to work, the Policy provided that Plaintiff would receive $5, 350 in monthly benefits until he reached the age of 65.

         Sometime in late 2009 or early 2010, Plaintiffs health began to deteriorate. According to his treating physicians, Plaintiff suffered from, among other things, fibromyalgia. On June 4, 2010, Plaintiff resigned from his employment due to his "medical and personal condition." [ECF No. 30]. In July 2010, Plaintiff submitted a claim to Defendant for his disability benefits under the Policy. On December 8, 2010, Defendant denied Plaintiffs claim. Plaintiff appealed, and on December 21, 2010, Defendant denied the appeal.

         Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff retained an attorney to challenge Defendant's decision. On May 23, 2012, the parties attended a mediation conference at Plaintiffs attorney's office. Defendant had an agent at the conference ("Defendant's Agent"). Plaintiff alleges that during the mediation, outside of the presence of his attorney, Defendant's Agent told him that she could call the FBI and accuse him of insurance fraud and that his insurance contract was a nullity. Despite these alleged threats, Defendant's Agent offered Plaintiff a $100, 000 advance payment and purportedly stated that she would continue to investigate Plaintiffs claim. Plaintiff alleges that he then left the room to discuss the advance payment with his attorney, who encouraged him to accept the settlement. That same day, Plaintiff signed a Settlement Agreement.

         The Settlement Agreement provides in pertinent part:

1. For and in consideration of the payment of One Hundred Thousand dollars ($100, 000) . . . [Plaintiff] hereby releases, discharges and acquits [Defendant] . . . from any and all "Claims and Causes of Action[]" . . . which [Plaintiff] may have . . . which arose out of or are in any matter whatsoever, directly or indirectly, connected with or related to (a) [the Policy]; and (b) any act, omission, transaction, dealing, conduct or negotiation of any kind whatsoever by [Defendant or Defendant's agents] . . . in connection with or related to the Policy.
2. [Plaintiff] hereby acknowledges that the payment of the sum referred to above represents payment for his claim for disability income benefits. The payment constitutes full satisfaction and discharge of all of the Claims and Causes of Action[]. In connection, [Plaintiff] warrants, represents and agrees that the sole consideration for executing the Settlement Agreement and Release (the "Agreement") and for releasing said Claims and Causes of Action is the payment of said sum.
8. ... [Plaintiff] understands and agrees that this Agreement shall not be subject to any claim of mistake of fact, duress, lack of mental capacity to execute the Agreement, or fraud and that it expresses the FULL, COMPLETE AND FINAL SETTLEMENT AND RELEASE of any and all claims relating to the Policy. Further, the release given herein by [Plaintiff] shall be and remain in effect as a full, complete and final release notwithstanding the discovery of any such different or additional facts.
[PLAINTIFF] ACKNOWLEDGES THAT HE HAS READ THIS SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND RELEASE AND THAT HE FULLY KNOWS, UNDERSTANDS AND APPRECIATES ITS CONTENTS, AND THAT HE EXECUTES THE SAME AND MAKES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDED FOR HEREIN VOLUNTARILY AND OF HIS OWN FREE WILL.

         [ECF No. 27-1]. Both Plaintiff and his counsel signed the Settlement Agreement as certified by a notary public. Plaintiff alleges that he received a gross payment of $100, 000, of which his counsel received $42, 000.

         On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed this action against Defendant asking the Court to rescind the Settlement Agreement and enforce the Policy. [2] The Court granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without prejudice, permitting Plaintiff, now represented by counsel, to file an Amended Complaint. On July 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint setting forth claims for (1) Breach of Contract (relating to the Policy); (2) Declaratory Relief (relating to the Policy); (3) Declaratory Relief seeking Rescission of the Settlement Agreement; (4) Fraudulent Misrepresentation (relating to the mediation conference and Settlement Agreement); and (5) Fraud in the Inducement (relating to the mediation conference and Settlement Agreement). [3] Defendant has moved to dismiss arguing that all of Plaintiff s claims are time barred. In response, Plaintiff argues that the applicable statutes of limitations should be tolled and that Defendant should be prevented from raising such a statute of limitations defense. In particular, Plaintiff claims that he relied on Defendant's purported representations, made in advance of the written Settlement Agreement, that it would continue to investigate Plaintiffs claims for an additional six months. As a result, Plaintiff contends that the statutes of limitations did not begin to run until six months after he signed the Settlement Agreement, and that, therefore, his claims are timely. The Court disagrees.

         LEGAL ...


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