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Liberty Corporate Capital Ltd. v. Catus

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 23, 2016



          Jean C. Hamilton UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Partial Motion to Dismiss Defendant’s Counterclaim and Plaintiffs’ Motion to Strike, filed July 20, 2016. (ECF No. 7). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.


         Prior to her disability, Defendant Rochelle G. Catus worked as a self-employed OB/GYN, who saw obstetrics patients for the first six months of pregnancy, and performed certain gynecological surgeries and/or procedures. (Complaint for Declaratory Judgment (“Compl.”), ¶ 11). On June 13, 2013, Defendant saw Dr. Sherry Ma, a neurologist, for the specific symptoms of tingling in her hands, neck and shoulder stiffness, and occasional urinary incontinence.[1] (Id., ¶ 13; Answer, ¶ 13).[2] Defendant was prescribed Gabapentin, which according to Plaintiffs is a medication commonly utilized to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (“MS”). (Id., ¶ 14).

         Defendant underwent an MRI of her cervical spine on June 18, 2013, and an MRI of her brain on June 26, 2013.[3] (Compl., ¶¶ 15, 16). According to Plaintiffs, Dr. Ma’s records from June 26, 2013 state, “demyelinating disease is a serious consideration in this patient.” (Id., ¶ 17).

         On July 12, 2013, Defendant completed a Multi-Life Disability Income Insurance Enrollment Form, applying for permanent and total disability insurance with Lloyd’s of London. (Compl., ¶ 18 and att. Exh. B). Policy No. 13396V13149A-003 went into effect on August 15, 2013, providing certain coverage to Defendant through August 14, 2018, subject to the Policy’s terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions. (Id., ¶¶ 1, 21 and att. Exh. A).

         On December 4, 2013, Defendant was officially diagnosed with MS. (Compl., ¶ 22). In April, 2015, she submitted a Proof of Loss statement to Hanleigh Management, Inc., stating that Defendant became permanently and totally disabled on October 15, 2014, due to MS. (Id., ¶¶ 23, 24 and att. Exh. C). Included with Defendant’s Proof of Loss was neurologist Barbara Green’s Attending Physician’s Statement (“APS”), in which Dr. Green stated that Defendant’s symptoms first appeared in October, 2013, but then qualified that her “symptoms occurred 1991-92, then dissapated (sic) and did not return until 2013.” (APS, ECF No. 1-3, P. 4). Dr. Green noted that Defendant first consulted her for the condition on December 4, 2013, that she met the criteria for a diagnosis of MS in September, 2013, and that she became permanently and totally disabled on approximately September, 30, 2014. (Id., PP. 4-5).

         On or about January 5, 2016, following an investigation of Defendant’s claim and review of her provided medical records, Plaintiffs denied Defendant’s claim. (Compl., ¶ 32 and att. Exh. D). Defendant appealed the decision, and a second denial letter was issued on or about March 17, 2016. (Id., ¶ 36 and att. Exh. E; Answer, ¶ 35).

         On June 8, 2016, Plaintiffs filed the instant Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, seeking a declaration that Defendant’s MS is a pre-existing condition not covered by the Policy (Count I); that there is no loss due to injury or sickness under the Policy (Count II); that the Policy’s pre-existing condition limitation bars coverage (Count III); that Rider #1 bars coverage for Defendant’s claim (Count IV); and that Defendant’s MS did not manifest itself while the Policy was in force and her total disability did not commence within one year of a covered sickness (Count V).

         On June 30, 2016, Defendant filed her Answer and two count Counterclaim. As noted above Plaintiffs filed the instant Partial Motion to Dismiss Defendant’s Counterclaim and Motion to Strike on July 20, 2016, asserting portions of Defendant’s Counterclaim must be dismissed for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted, and her reference to punitive damages should be stricken as such damages are unavailable under relevant Missouri law. (ECF No. 7).


         In ruling on a motion dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008). The Court, “must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). The complaint’s factual allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” however, and the motion to dismiss must be granted if the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007) (abrogating the “no set of facts” standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Furthermore, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (pleading offering only “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not do)).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that “[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” “Although courts enjoy ‘broad discretion’ in determining whether to strike a party’s pleadings, such an action is ‘an extreme measure.’” SSM Health Care Corp. v. Repwest Ins. Co., 2014 WL 5800214, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 7, 2014) (quoting Stanbury Law Firm v. IRS, 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2000)). ...

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