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Midland National Life Insurance Co. v. Burgess

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

May 15, 2018

MIDLAND NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
KAREN L. BURGESS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff Midland National Life Insurance Company's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. # 18), which was filed on May 10, 2018. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion.

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) sets forth the following regarding an entry of default:

(a) Entering a Default. When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). A district court may enter a default judgment against a properly served defendant who fails to defend or otherwise appear pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). DirecTV, Inc. v. Griffin, 290 F.Supp.2d 1340, 1343 (M.D. Fla. 2003).

         The mere entry of a default by the Clerk does not, in itself, warrant the Court entering a default judgment. See Tyco Fire & Sec. LLC v. Alcocer, 218 Fed.Appx. 860, 863 (11th Cir. 2007)(citing Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975)). Rather, a court must ensure that there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment to be entered. Id. A default judgment has the effect of establishing as fact the plaintiff's well-pled allegations of fact and bars the defendant from contesting those facts on appeal. Id.

         II. Background

         Midland initiated this action against Defendant Karen L. Burgess on March 8, 2018. (Doc. # 1). Therein, Midland seeks rescission of a life insurance policy of which Ms. Burgess is the beneficiary, and a declaration that the policy is void ab initio and that Midland has no obligation or liability other than the refund of premiums paid since the policy was reinstated. As alleged in the Complaint, Midland is a citizen of Iowa, Ms. Burgess is a citizen of Florida, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. (Id. at 1). Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship.

         Midland served Ms. Burgess on April 12, 2018, making Ms. Burgess's response to the Complaint due May 3, 2018. (Doc. # 12). After Ms. Burgess failed to appear or respond to the Complaint, Midland applied for entry of Clerk's default. (Doc. # 15). Clerk's default was entered on May 8, 2018. (Doc. # 17). Midland has now moved for entry of default judgment. (Doc. # 18). Based upon the Clerk's default and the Complaint's well-pled factual allegations, Midland has established the following facts.

         Ms. Burgess was the primary beneficiary of a life insurance policy, policy **7292, issued to her husband, Mr. Burgess. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 5). Due to nonpayment or premiums, the policy “entered a grace period in or about February of 2017.” (Id. at ¶ 8). The required premium payment was not made during the grace period, so the policy lapsed and coverage terminated. (Id. at ¶ 9). But Midland “subsequently sent [Mr. Burgess] the paperwork required to seek reinstatement of the policy.” (Id. at ¶ 10).

         Mr. Burgess completed the reinstatement application in May of 2017. (Id. at ¶ 11). But Mr. Burgess's application contained various false statements or misrepresentations about his health. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-20, 26-27). For example, Mr. Burgess gave false answers to the following questions, among others:

13. In the past 10 years, has any person proposed for insurance been diagnosed by a licensed medical professional, treated or advised to get medical treatment from a licensed medical professional, hospitalized, or presently taking prescription(s) for any of the following disease(s) or disorder(s):
a. Angina, chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, heart surgery, irregular heartbeat, abnormal EKG, coronary artery bypass, angioplasty, stents, peripheral vascular disease, poor circulation, valvular ...

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