United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JAMES T. HALPERN and HOLLY STEIN, as Trustee for the Halpern Insurance Trust dated June 7, 1994, Plaintiffs,
PHOENIX LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. BODENHAUSEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to
dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a
claim for relief, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P.
Plaintiffs have filed a response in opposition in which they
request leave to amend their complaint to amend any
deficiencies. The Court will deny defendant's motion
to dismiss, grant plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint,
and set this matter for a Rule 16 Scheduling Conference.
1994, plaintiff James T. Halpern purchased from defendant
Phoenix Life Insurance Company a policy of whole life
insurance with a face value of $850, 000.00. On October 27,
2016, defendant mailed plaintiffs a notice that the policy
had lapsed for failure to pay the premium. Plaintiffs allege
that they did not receive timely notice of the amount of
premium they owed. Plaintiffs further allege that they
repeatedly informed defendant of their new mailing address
but that defendant failed to update its records. When they
received the Notice of Lapse, plaintiffs immediately
contacted defendant and were advised to pay the premium and
apply for reinstatement. Plaintiffs mailed defendant $10,
785.02 and an application for reinstatement. Defendant
returned the premium payment and rejected the reinstatement
application based on Mr. Halpern's medical history.
filed suit in state court, asserting claims for declaratory
judgment and breach of contract. Defendant timely removed the
matter to this Court, invoking diversity of citizenship
jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
“a 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 Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A
claim is facially plausible “where the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Wilson v. Arkansas Dep't of Human
Servs., 850 F.3d 368, 371 (8th Cir. 2017). In their
response to defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiffs
identify a number of additional material facts which they
assert preclude dismissal. “However, it is axiomatic
that a complaint may not be amended by the briefs in
opposition to a motion to dismiss.” Morgan Distrib.
Co. v. Unidynamic Corp., 868 F.2d 992, 995 (8th Cir.
1989) (citation omitted).
argues that plaintiffs' contract claim as presented in
their original complaint must be dismissed because plaintiffs
fail to identify any specific contractual obligation that it
breached. The parties have not provided a copy of
the 1994 policy and, as a result, the Court cannot
evaluate defendant's argument. Defendant filed what it
calls a “sample policy, ” but there is nothing in
the record from which the Court can conclude that this sample
policy is substantively identical to the policy issued to
plaintiffs in 1994.
argues that plaintiffs' declaratory judgment claim must
be dismissed as duplicative of the contract claim.
“Where a party's declaratory judgment claim is
purely duplicative of its breach of contract claim, the
declaratory judgment claim may be properly dismissed.”
MidCountry Bank v. Rajchenbach, No. 15-CV-3683
(SRN/TNL), 2016 WL 3064066, at *3 (D. Minn. May 31, 2016)
(citing MASTR Asset Backed Sec. Trust 2006-HE3 ex rel.
U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n v. WMC Mortgage, LLC, 983
F.Supp.2d 1104, 1116 (D. Minn. 2013)). “However, the
mere fact that claims for declaratory judgment and breach of
contract are closely related-even where the declaratory
judgment claim ‘encompasses' the breach of contract
claim-does not require dismissing the declaratory judgment
claim.” Id. (citing Marty H. Segelbaum,
Inc. v. MW Capital, LLC, 673 F.Supp.2d 875, 882 (D.
Minn. 2009) (“While plaintiff's claim for a
declaratory judgment encompasses its breach of contract
claim, the declaratory judgment's scope is broader; were
the Court to issue one, it might well delineate all three
parties' rights and obligations, as well as resolve
plaintiff's breach of contract claim. This goes well
beyond any pure contract remedy.”)). Because plaintiffs
will be allowed to amend their complaint, the Court declines
to address defendant's argument at this time.
have requested leave to file an amended complaint, which the
Court will grant. See Rule 15(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P.
(leave to amend pleadings should be “freely give[n] . .
. when justice so requires.”). The Court will set this
matter for a Rule 16 Scheduling Conference, at which time
deadlines for filing an amended complaint and answer will be
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant's
motion to dismiss [Doc. # 9] is denied.
 All matters are pending before the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of
the parties, pursuant to 28 ...