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Ross v. American General Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

May 26, 2015

BILLY ROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL GROUP, INC., and JACKSON NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendants two motions for summary judgment. (Docket #27, 28). Plaintiff has responded. (Docket #29, 30). Defendants have replied. (Docket #31). Accordingly, these matters now are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

This matter arises out of a life insurance policy purchased by Mayme Sue Ross in 1968 (the "Policy"). The current status of the Policy is in dispute. The history of the Policy can be traced to 1980. Complicating factors is a series of mergers and acquisitions through which Defendant Jackson National Life Insurance Company ("Jackson Life") arguably assumed obligation for the Policy. The parties dispute whether, in light of the lack of recent evidence concerning the Policy, it is still valid and which insurance company remains obligated under the Policy.

Mayme Sue Ross purchased the Policy from Anchor National Life Insurance Company ("Anchor Life") on February 13, 1968. In 1969, Anchor Life assigned the Policy to Teacher's National Life Insurance Company ("Teacher's Life"). In 1972, Teacher's Life consolidated with Western Pioneer Life Insurance Company ("Western Pioneer"). Western Pioneer sent several correspondences to Mayme Sue Ross through 1970's concerning the Policy. On February 13, 1980, Western Pioneer sent Ross[1] a letter stating:

"Enclosed is the necessary form for converting your Contract to a Paid Up Life Policy as you recently requested. On the Paid to Date shown above, your total value will purchase a Paid Up Policy of $5, 162.00. Please sign the enclosed form and return it to us, at which time we will convert it to a Paid Up Policy and mail the endorsement to that effect." (Docket #27-16).

On April 3, 1980, Western Pioneer sent a letter that stated: "This Contract has been converted to a Paid Up Life Policy, and enclosed is an Endorsement to that effect. Please attach this Endorsement to your Contract for safekeeping." (Docket #27-17). This April 3, 1980 letter is the last correspondence regarding the Policy that the parties have so far been able to discover.

In 1996, Western Pioneer merged with Reassure America Life Insurance Company ("Reassure Life"). The Policy was not listed as one of the policies received by Reassure Life. (Docket #30-3). Reassure Life subsequently merged with two other insurance companies, both of whom assumed the name of Reassure Life. In 2012, Reassure Life merged with Jackson Life.

Mayme Sue Ross passed away on March 20, 2013. (Docket #1-2). A few months before her death, Milner & Orr Funeral Home had sent Reassure Life a letter inquiring about the status of the Policy. Reassure stated it could not locate the Policy and that it "must have been terminated many years ago." (Docket #1-2). Billy Ross, the beneficiary of the Policy, sent a complaint to the Kentucky Department of Insurance in 2013. On March 19, 2014, Billy Ross filed this lawsuit.

Billy Ross claims that the Policy premiums were properly paid and that neither he nor his wife cashed the Policy or ever received any benefit from it. (Docket #30-2). Jackson Life claims that the Policy "was not listed as in-force" when Western Pioneer merged with Reassure Life and that "it would appear that the Plaintiff's decedent's policy may have been surrendered or cashed in' sometime prior to 1996, although Jackson has no information to that effect." (Docket #30-1).

STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "[N]to every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact." Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of her position; she must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for her. Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: "[T]he mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate." Monette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996), abrogated on other grounds by Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., Inc., 681 F.3d 312 (6th Cir. 2012).

DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants American General Life Insurance Company ("American General") of Delaware and American International Group, Inc. ("AIG"). The parties agree that there is no evidence that American ...


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