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Estate of Hibbard v. Hibbard

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

June 12, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court without a hearing on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 36) filed by Defendant Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (henceforth, “Allianz”), the response in opposition (Doc. 42) filed by the Plaintiff, the Estate of Richard Brookes Hibbard (the “Estate”), and the reply (Doc. 48) to that response from Allianz.

         I. Background

         Richard Brookes Hibbard died on October 3, 2016. At the time of his death, he was a resident of Florida. Shortly thereafter, his estate was opened in Volusia County. Five years earlier, he had purchased an annuity from Defendant Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (“Allianz”), naming his then-wife, Jeanne Hibbard, as the beneficiary. In July 2013, the Hibbards were divorced in New Hampshire.

         Richard Brookes Hibbard never changed the beneficiary designation on the annuity. Shortly after his death, Allianz paid approximately $97, 000 in death benefits to Jeanne Hibbard. On January 10, 2018, the Estate filed the instant suit claiming, inter alia, that Florida Statute § 732.703 had automatically revoked the beneficiary designation of the annuity at the time of the divorce, meaning that Allianz should have paid the annuity proceeds to the Estate, not to Jeanne Hibbard.

         In its Amended Complaint (Doc. 9), the Estate asserts three claims against Allianz: violation of Fla. Stat. § 732.703 (Count III); negligence (Count IV); and breach of fiduciary duty (Count V). All three claims are founded on the Estate's contention that the beneficiary designation of Jeanne Hibbard was revoked by Fla. Stat. § 732.703. By way of the instant motion, Allianz seeks dismissal of all three claims against it.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” so as to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), overruled on other grounds, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim merely tests the sufficiency of the complaint; it does not decide the merits of the case. Milburn v. United States, 734 F.2d 762, 765 (11th Cir.1984). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. SEC v. ESM Group, Inc., 835 F.2d 270, 272 (11th Cir.1988). The Court must also limit its consideration to the pleadings and any exhibits attached thereto. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); see also GSW, Inc. v. Long County, Ga., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993).

         The plaintiff must provide enough factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1966, and to indicate the presence of the required elements, Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1302 (11th Cir. 2007). Conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal. Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 326 F.3d 1183, 1185 (11th Cir. 2003).

         In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), the Supreme Court explained that a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, “but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. at 1949 (internal citations and quotations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 1950 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         III. Analysis

         A. The Contract

         As an initial matter, the Plaintiff takes issue with the Court considering the written contract that established the annuity (the “Annuity Contract”) (Doc. 36-1) in connection with the instant motion. The Plaintiff did not attach the Annuity Contract to the Complaint. Generally, on a Rule 12 motion, the Court is limited to consideration of the information included within the four corners of the complaint and any exhibits attached to it. Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). Consideration of additional material may require that the court convert the motion to one for summary judgment.

         However, the court may consider a document attached to a motion to dismiss without converting it to a motion for summary judgment if the document is (1) central to the plaintiff's claim and (2) undisputed. Id. Allianz attached a copy of the Annuity Contract to its motion to dismiss. That document contains the beneficiary designation at issue and is intended to control the disposition of the $97, 000 that is the subject of the Estate's claims against Allianz. As such, it is clearly central to the Estate's claims. And though the Estate complains of not having seen the Annuity Contract before, it does not challenge its ...

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