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Bono v. Monarch Life Insurance Co.

March 26, 2006

CLARK BONO, AND CLARK BONO, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MONARCH LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

In this case, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Monarch Life Insurance Company ("Monarch") engaged in deceptive practices and fraudulent claims handling with respect to their disability claims. Plaintiffs seek relief pursuant to New York State law, including General Business Law § 349. Currently before this Court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The following facts, which are alleged in the Complaint, are assumed true for purposes of the instant motion. Defendant Monarch issued policies of disability insurance for Plaintiff Clark Bono and his company, Clark Bono, Inc. (Compl., ¶¶ 1-4). In February of 2004, Mr. Bono tendered proof to Monarch that he had suffered an injury that rendered him disabled. (Compl., ¶ 5). In addition, Mr. Bono filed proof of business losses resulting from his disability. (Compl., ¶ 6). To date, Monarch has failed to pay Mr. Bono disability benefits for either himself or his company. (Compl., ¶ 6). Moreover, Monarch continues to take deductions from Plaintiffs' checking accounts in violation of the insurance policies, which provide that such deductions must cease in the event that the insured becomes disabled. (Compl., ¶ 8).

Monarch's conduct in handling this particular claim is markedly different from how Monarch has responded to claims made by Mr. Bono or his company in the past. (Compl., ¶ 14). In this instance, Monarch has purposefully engaged in tactics to deny or delay the payment of benefits to force Plaintiffs, who are cash poor, to settle their claims. (Compl., ¶¶ 13-19). As a result, Mr. Bono has suffered severe stress, depression and other injuries. (Compl., ¶ 23).

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs commenced this action on February 14, 2005, by filing a Summons and Complaint in the New York State Supreme Court, Erie County. On April 25, 2005, Defendant removed this case to the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. On May 10, 2005, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 This Court heard oral argument on June 29, 2005, and reserved decision at that time. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is granted.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Judgment on the Pleadings

Rule 12(c) provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(c). Courts faced with motions under Rule 12(c) apply the same standard used to decide motions brought under Rule 12(b). Patel v. Contemporary Classics of Beverly Hills, 259 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2001). That is, the court "must accept all allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences in the non-moving party's favor." Id. The case cannot be dismissed unless the court "is satisfied that the complaint cannot state any set of facts that would entitle [plaintiff] to relief." Id.

B. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiffs' Complaint is construed to assert the following claims: (1) breach of contract; (2) violation of General Business Law ยง 349; (3) fraudulent claims handling; and (4) intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages. Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' non-contractual claims and their claim for punitive ...


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