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American-Amicable Life Insurance Co. of Texas v. Snyder

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 30, 2017

AMERICAN-AMICABLE LIFE. INSURANCE COMPANY OF TEXAS, Plaintiff/Cross-Claim Defendant,
v.
SHELIA K. SNYDER and NIKKI J. DAVIS, Defendants/Cross-Claim Plaintiffs/ Cross-Claim Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DAVIS'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE

         This interpleader action involves a dispute over $100, 000 of life insurance proceeds from a policy issued by Plaintiff American-Amicable Life Insurance Company of Texas (“AATX”). AATX filed a complaint in interpleader in the Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri, against Shelia Snyder (“Snyder”) and Nikki Davis (“Davis”). On June 6, 2017, the case was removed to this Court. Afterward, AATX deposited the funds into the Court's registry.

         Now before the Court is Davis's motion to dismiss Snyder's cross-claim against her (Doc. 4). For the reasons stated below, Davis's motion is GRANTED.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Larry Snyder died on May 21, 2016, leaving the proceeds of a life insurance policy (the “Policy”). At the time of his death, he was in the midst of a divorce from Snyder. The Policy application listed Snyder as the designated beneficiary. Before his death, on April 5, 2015, AATX received a beneficiary change request naming Davis as the primary beneficiary. Both Snyder and Davis filed a claim with AATX for the life insurance proceeds.

         On March 31, 2017, AATX filed an interpleader action in the Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri. On May 7, 2017, Snyder answered, and asserted a counterclaim[1] against AATX requesting AATX deposit the policy proceeds with the Clerk of the Court and alleging that AATX improperly accepted a non-compliant change of beneficiary form.[2] She also asserted a cross-claim[3] against Davis alleging the beneficiary change form was forged, not voluntarily executed by Larry Snyder due to Davis's undue influence, and that Larry Snyder was “not of sound mind” at the time the form was completed.

         On June 6, 2017, AATX removed this case, citing the Court's diversity jurisdiction. AATX is a Texas corporation with its principal place of business in Texas. Both Snyder and Davis are citizens of Missouri.[4]

         Also on June 6, 2017, Davis filed an answer to AATX's complaint and asserted two cross-claims against Snyder: (1) requesting the Court find Davis is the beneficiary of the policy; and (2) for defamation. On that same day, Davis filed a motion to dismiss Snyder's cross-claims. Snyder did not file a response to the motion to dismiss.

         On August 8, 2017, the Court ordered Snyder to show cause why the motion to dismiss should not be granted. Snyder did not respond to the Court's Show Cause order.

         Standard

         A complaint may be dismissed if it fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing the adequacy of a complaint, a court assumes that the factual allegations in the complaint are true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Data Mfg. Inc. v. UPS, Inc., 557 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 2009). While courts will accept factual allegations as true, a court must “reject conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences.” Silver v. H&R Block, Inc., 105 F.3d 394, 397 (8th Cir. 1997).

         Discussion

         In a diversity case, the Court must apply Missouri law as declared by the Supreme Court of Missouri and may not disregard decisions of the Missouri Court of Appeals. Int'l Envtl. Mgmt., Inc. v. United Corp. Servs., Inc., 858 F.3d 1121, 1125 (8th Cir. 2017). Federal pleading standards govern despite the application of state substantive law. Id.

         Davis moves to dismiss Snyder's cross claim against her. She doesn't state she is seeking dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) explicitly, but she does state that Snyder's claims fail “the pleading standard” and then argues Snyder has not pled the necessary elements of her claim. As best the Court can tell, Snyder alleges: (1) Davis committed fraud/forgery; (2) Davis exercised undue influence over Larry Snyder; ...


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