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Pickens v. New York Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammon Division

September 27, 2019

MARY PICKENS, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mary Pickens filed a state court Complaint [ECF No. 7] on March 21, 2017, against Defendants New York Life Insurance Company and AARP Corporation. The case was removed to federal court [ECF No. 1] on April 25, 2017. The Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF No. 14] on June 16, 2017. The Plaintiff filed her Opposition [ECF No. 21] on November 7, 2017. On November 14, 2017, the Defendants filed their Reply [ECF No. 22] in further support of their Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff Mary Pickens made an application for a life insurance policy with Defendants New York Life Insurance Company (“New York Life”) and AARP Corporation insuring the life of her brother, Augustus Williams. A life insurance policy was issued on the life of Augustus Williams on June 12, 2015 with life insurance certificate number A7532637 (“Insurance Certificate”). Def. New York Life Answer, Ex. 1, ECF No. 12-1. The benefits due under the insurance policy were in the amount of $25, 000. The beneficiaries under the life insurance policy were the Plaintiff and Shatasha Plump (“Plump”).

         Augustus Williams died on March 5, 2016. Subsequently, the Plaintiff filed a claim under the life insurance policy with New York Life. After several rounds of communication between the parties, New York Life determined that Augustus Williams “failed to disclose material information concerning his medical history.” Based on this determination, New York Life denied that any payment was owed under the Insurance Certificate, which New York Life communicated to the Plaintiff.

         On October 26, 2016, New York Life sent Plaintiff and Plump checks for $419 that included the following language: “Refund for premiums paid under contract A7532637. Coverage is hereby rescinded.” Def. New York Life’s Answer, ¶ 9, Exs. 2 & 3. Plaintiff and Plump signed and cashed the checks on October 31, 2016 and April 18, 2017, respectively. Id.

         Plaintiff subsequently brought this instant suit against the Defendants alleging that rescission of the life insurance policy was unlawful and brought the following claims against the Defendants: Breach of Contract (Count I); Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count II); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count III); and Violation of Indiana Deceptive Practices Act and Consumer Protection Laws (Count IV).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the plaintiff has filed a complaint and the defendant has filed an answer. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). “A motion for judgment on the pleadings is generally not favored and courts apply a fairly restrictive standard in ruling on the motion.” Urbanski v. Tech Data, No. 3:07-cv- 17, 2008 WL 141574, at *10 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 11, 2008) (citing Fox v. Terra Haute Indep. Broads., Inc., 701 F.Supp. 172, 173 (S.D. Ind. 1988)).

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is subject to the same standard of review as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Buchanan–Moore v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009). Therefore, the 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.’” Boucher v. Fin. Sys. of Green Bay, Inc., 880 F.3d 362, 366 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). When applying this standard, a Court is to accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Tobey v. Chibucos, 890 F.3d 634, 646 (7th Cir. 2018)

         ANALYSIS

         A. Rescission

         The Defendants argue that all four of Plaintiff’s claims fail because the Plaintiff consented to rescission of the Insurance Certificate. In support of their contention, the Defendants point to the Plaintiff cashing a check containing the language: “Refund for premiums paid under contract A7532637. Coverage is hereby rescinded.” Def. New York Life’s Answer, ¶ 9, Exs. 2 & 3.

         Under Indiana law, parties may rescind a contract through mutual agreement to discharge and terminate their rights and obligations under the contract. Lindenborg v. M&L Builders &Brokers, Inc., 302 N.E.2d 816, 823 (Ind.Ct.App. 1973). The parties do not need to enter into an express or written agreement to rescind a contract; parties’ actions demonstrating an intent to rescind the contract is sufficient. See Horine v. Greencastle Prod. Credit Ass’n, 505 N.E.2d 802, 805 (Ind.Ct.App. 1987); Brown v. Young, 110 N.E. 562, 566 (Ind.Ct.App. 1915). “Rescission is a ...


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