United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
HOLLY STEIN, as Trustee for the Halpern Insurance Trust dated June 7, 1994, Plaintiff,
PHOENIX LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. BODENHAUSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on defendant's partial motion
to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim
for relief, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P.
Plaintiff filed a response and the issues are fully
briefed. All matters are pending before the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
1994, defendant Phoenix Life Insurance Company issued a
policy of whole life insurance insuring the life of James T.
Halpern. The policy, which has a face value of $850, 000,
named the Halpern Insurance Trust as the sole owner and
beneficiary. Plaintiff Holly Stein is the current trustee.
Over the years, defendant mailed plaintiff statements for the
amount of premium owed, which plaintiff paid. On July 16,
2016, plaintiff notified defendant that she had moved and
asked that all correspondence and billing statements be sent
to her new address. Defendant failed to update its records,
however, and plaintiff did not receive any correspondence
from defendant until November 3, 2016, when she received a
notice that the policy had lapsed for failure to pay the
premium. Plaintiff immediately contacted defendant and asked
for the policy to be reinstated. She was advised to pay the
outstanding premium and apply for reinstatement. Plaintiff
mailed defendant $10, 785.02 and an application for
reinstatement. Defendant rejected the reinstatement
application based on Mr. Halpern's medical history.
filed suit, asserting claims for declaratory judgment and
breach of contract. Defendant moves to dismiss the
declaratory judgment claim, arguing that it is wholly
duplicative of the contract claim.
purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. To 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 plaintiff need not
provide specific facts in support of his allegations.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per
curiam), but “must include sufficient factual
information to provide the ‘grounds' on which the
claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a
speculative level.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding
Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8h Cir. 2008) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3). This obligation
requires a plaintiff to plead “more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. Rather, the complaint must set forth
“enough facts to raise reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim or
element].” Id. at 556.
motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all of the
factual allegations contained in the complaint, even if it
appears that “actual proof of those facts is
improbable” and reviews the complaint to determine
whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to
relief. Id. at 555-56. “The tenet that a court
must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions, ”
however. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (“While
legal conclusions can provide the framework for a complaint,
they must be supported by factual allegations.”)
Finally, courts review the plausibility of a plaintiff's
claim “as a whole, not the plausibility of each
individual allegation, ” considering only the materials
that are “necessarily embraced by the pleadings and
exhibits attached to the complaint[.]” Whitney v.
Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d 1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012)
relief is discretionary “and an important factor in
exercising that discretion is whether the declaratory
judgment plaintiff has another, more appropriate
remedy.” MidCountry Bank v. Rajchenbach, No.
15-CV-3683 (SRN/TNL), 2016 WL 3064066, at *3 (D. Minn. May
31, 2016) (quoting Gulf Underwriters Ins. Co. v.
Burris, 674 F.3d 999, 1004 (8th Cir. 2012)). Where a
party's declaratory judgment claim is purely duplicative
of its breach of contract claim, the declaratory judgment
claim may be properly dismissed. Id. (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.”). In this case, plaintiff's
declaratory judgment claim seeks a declaration that the
policy is still in effect, relief that may not be available
under her breach of contract claim. Because the declaratory
judgment claim is broader in scope than the contract claim,
the Court will deny defendant's motion to dismiss.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant's
partial motion to dismiss [Doc. # 29] is
 The amended complaint was filed by
James T. Halpern, individually, as well as Holly Stein as
trustee for the Halpern Insurance Trust. After defendant
argued that he lacked standing to sue, plaintiff Halpern
voluntarily dismissed his claims. For the purposes of this