Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. Jacques et al

Filing 35

ORDER adopting in part and denying in part Report and Recommendation re 31 ; denying 25 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Hon. Richard J. Arcara on 5/12/2009. (JMB) Modified on 5/12/2009 (JMB).

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT W ESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff, v. D E C IS IO N AND ORDER 0 6 -C V - 4 4 4 A ANNE M. JACQUES and CRAIG JACQUES, Defendants. ----------------------------------CRAIG JACQUES, Counter and Cross-Claimant, v. ANNE M. JACQUES, Cross-Defendant. T h is case was referred to Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio, pursuant to 2 8 U.S.C. 636(b)(1). Defendant Craig Jacques ("Craig") filed a motion for s u m m a ry judgment on February 15, 2008. On February 24, 2009, Magistrate J u d g e Foschio filed a Report and Recommendation, in which he denied Craig's m o tio n and granted summary judgment to defendant Anne Jacques ("Anne") sua s p o n te . Craig filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on March 20, 2 0 0 9 . Oral argument on the objections was held on May 8, 2009. P u rs u a n t to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1), this Court must make a de novo d e te r m in a tio n of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which o b je c tio n s have been made. Upon a de novo review of the Report and R e c o m m e n d a tio n , and after reviewing the submissions and hearing argument fro m the parties, the Court adopts the proposed findings of the Report and R e c o m m e n d a tio n in part, as follows. F o r the reasons stated in the Report and Recommendation, the Court a g re e s with Magistrate Judge Foschio that it may exercise subject matter ju ris d ic tio n over this case. Accordingly, the Court hereby adopts so much of the R e p o rt and Recommendation as pertains to subject matter jurisdiction. T h e Court further agrees with Magistrate Judge Foschio that Craig's motion fo r summary judgment should be denied. Simply put, there is a factual dispute as to how the Kodak computer system at issue became updated 1) to log a phone c a ll requesting a change of beneficiary; or 2) to complete execution of that a p p a re n t request by replacing Craig with Anne as beneficiary of 50% of the life in s u ra n c e proceeds in question. Nonetheless, these updates did find their way in to the computer system. Craig argues, in essence, that the erroneous nature of th e s e updates can be inferred from the absence of direct evidence that Kodak e ve r received a completed change form. Anne argues that an affirmative effort to c h a n g e beneficiaries can be inferred from testimony that Kodak does not change b e n e fic ia r ie s without first receiving a completed change form. Both parties ask 2 th a t the Court draw certain inferences in their favor based on the existing facts. However, the plausibility of each side's inferences is a question of fact and th e re fo re not subject to resolution at the summary judgment stage. See Rattner v. Netburn, 930 F.2d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 1991) ("The function of the district court in c o n s id e rin g the motion for summary judgment is not to resolve disputed issues of fa c t but only to determine whether there is a genuine issue to be tried.") (citations o m itte d ). Accordingly, the Court hereby adopts so much of the Report and R e c o m m e n d a tio n as pertains to the denial of Craig's summary judgment motion. F o r this same reason plus an additional reason, the Court finds that s u m m a ry judgment should not be granted to Anne. "[A]lthough a district court m a y, on an appropriate record, grant summary judgment sua sponte--after giving th e party against which the court is contemplating such a decision notice and an o p p o rtu n ity to present evidence and arguments in opposition--the court, in c o n s id e r in g such a decision, is required to view the record in the light most fa vo ra b le to the party against which summary judgment is contemplated and to re s o lve all ambiguities and draw all factual inferences in favor of that party. Summary judgment is not appropriate if the evidence is such that a reasonable ju ry could return a verdict in favor of the party against which summary judgment is c o n te m p la te d ." NetJets Aviation, Inc. v. LHC Commc'ns, LLC, 537 F.3d 168, 1 7 8 -7 9 (2d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). On the merits, a finder of fact could c o n c lu d e from the evidence that the decedent did not take any action to 3 im p le m e n t an intent to change beneficiaries beyond, possibly, a single telephone c a ll. This conclusion could be reached after drawing all reasonable inferences a g a in s t Anne, as the Court must when considering a summary judgment motion. See, e.g., W e g v. Macchiarola, 995 F.2d 15, 18 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). Additionally, the Court notes that Craig did not receive prior notice of the p o s s ib ility that Anne would receive summary judgment sua sponte. Craig's c o u n s e l advises the Court that Craig first learned of that possibility through the R e p o rt and Recommendation. Under these circumstances, the Second Circuit d is c o u ra g e s the granting of summary judgment sua sponte. See also B.F. G o o d ric h v. Betkoski, 99 F.3d 505, 531 (2d Cir. 1996) ("[W ]e again note that sua s p o n te summary judgment should generally only be granted after the losing party is given notice and an opportunity to present evidence and arguments in o p p o s itio n ."), overruled on other grounds by N.Y. v. Nat'l Servs. Indus., Inc., 352 F .3 d 682 (2d Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the Court declines to adopt Magistrate J u d g e Foschio's recommendation that Anne receive summary judgment sua s p o n te . For the reasons explained above, Craig's motion for summary judgment is d e n ie d . As the parties have indicated that discovery is complete, they are d ire c te d to appear before the Court on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. fo r a meeting to set a trial date. 4 T h e parties shall have 60 days from the docketing of this decision to make a n y motions under Rule 39(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. SO ORDERED. s/ Richard J. Arcara HONORABLE RICHARD J. ARCARA CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DATED: May , 2009 5

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