United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
AMERICAN-AMICABLE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF TEXAS, Plaintiff/Cross-Claim Defendant,
SHELIA K. SNYDER and NIKKI J. DAVIS, Defendants/Cross-Claim Plaintiffs/ Cross-Claim Defendants.
ORDER ENTERING JUDGMENT AGAINST DEFENDANT
KAYS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE
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”) and a cross-claim of defamation. Nikki
Davis (“Davis”), the decedent's daughter, and
the decedent's wife, Shelia Snyder (“Snyder”)
dispute who is entitled to the policy proceeds. Davis also
alleges Snyder has defamed her.
before the Court is Davis's motion for default judgement,
damages, attorneys' fees, and costs, and supporting
affidavits (Doc. 25). For the reasons below, the Court enters
default judgment against Snyder and in favor of Davis in the
amount of the insurance proceeds ($100, 000 plus interest),
and $9, 087.78 on the defamation claim.
and Procedural Background
Snyder died on May 21, 2016, leaving the proceeds of a life
insurance policy (the “Policy”). The Policy
application listed Snyder as the designated beneficiary. On
April 5, 2015, AATX received a beneficiary change request
naming Davis as the primary beneficiary. At the time of his
death, Larry Snyder was in the midst of divorcing Snyder, but
the divorce was not final. Both Snyder and Davis filed a
claim with AATX for the life insurance proceeds.
March 31, 2017, AATX filed an interpleader action in the
Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri. On May 7, 2017,
Snyder answered, and asserted counterclaims against AATX and
a cross-claim against Davis, alleging Davis committed fraud
or forgery relating to the Policy beneficiary change form.
Subsequently, the case was removed to this Court (Doc. 1),
and the cross-claim against Davis was dismissed for failing
to state a claim (Doc. 22).
6, 2017, Davis asserted two cross-claims against Snyder (Doc.
17). Count I claimed Davis was the proper beneficiary. Count
II alleged Snyder defamed Davis by alleging in court
documents and telling members of her community that Davis
forged Larry Snyder's life insurance beneficiary change
form or exercised undue influence over him, which caused him
to sign the beneficiary change form against his wishes.
Snyder did not answer the cross-claims against her, and on
July 11, 2017, Davis moved for default judgment. After Snyder
failed to respond to the Court's Show Cause order, the
Clerk entered default against Snyder (Doc. 21).
then moved for default judgment, which the Court granted in
part, finding Davis was the proper beneficiary of the life
insurance policy and Snyder was liable for defamation (Doc.
24). The Court ordered Davis to file a brief and evidence in
support of her claim for money damages and attorneys'
fees on the defamation claim.
factual allegations in the complaint are generally taken as
true, allegations relating to the amount of damages must be
proven by the plaintiff, to a reasonable degree of certainty.
See Everyday Learning Corp. v. Larson, 242 F.3d 815,
818 (8th Cir. 2001). The district court must provide detailed
findings regarding damage calculations even in default
judgments. Stephenson v. El-Batrawi, 524 F.3d 907,
916-17 (8th Cir. 2008) (finding “generic reference to
evidentiary support for the damages determination” is
insufficient). Plaintiff may prove damages by a sworn
affidavit and supporting documentation. See, e.g.,
id. at *2-3 (relying on affidavits from accountant
and controller of pension funds and plaintiffs' attorney
to enter damages award for ERISA default); SSM Managed
Care Org., L.L.C. v. Comprehensive Behavioral Care,
Inc., No. 4:12-CV-2386 CAS, 2014 WL 1389581, at *2-4
(E.D. Mo. Apr. 9, 2014) (relying on affidavits of
movant's attorney and executive officer as sufficient to
establish attorney's fees and costs, and damages from
breach of facility provider agreement, respectively).
October 25, 2017, Davis filed a brief and three supporting
affidavits outlining her damages on the defamation claim.
Davis seeks medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering,
and attorneys' fees and costs. These requests, which all
pertain to the defamation claim, are discussed below.
Davis is entitled to recover $154.28 for medical expenses and
$462.00 for lost wages.
Davis seeks medical expenses for anxiety and depression. She
states defending her reputation in the community and
combatting Snyder's false allegations caused her
depression and anxiety. She was prescribed anti-anxiety
medication and submits receipts of $154.28 for those
medications and a doctor visit. See (Doc. 25 at
12-13). Davis also seeks $462.00 in lost wages for the seven
days she missed work for appointments relating to her medical
treatment and meetings with her attorney related with this
damages are compensable in a defamation case. Kenney v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 100 S.W.3d 809, 817 (Mo. 2003).
The evidence proffered to establish actual damages may not be
too speculative and must be founded upon more than the
plaintiff's embarrassment or perception of their own
reputation. Id. “To demonstrate actual
damages, plaintiffs must show that the defamatory statement
caused a quantifiable professional or personal injury, such
as interference with job performance, psychological or