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Dun v. Transamerica Premier Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

January 2, 2019

WILLIAM DUN, Individually and as the PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF IRMADEL DUN, IRENE DUN, SHERYL DUN, PAT RUGGIERI, and DORA MENGEL, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
TRANSAMERICA PREMIER LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, F/K/A MONUMENTAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, F/K/A PEOPLES BENEFIT LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, FINANCIAL PLANNING SERVICES, INC., BUENA SOMBRA INSURANCE AGENCY, INC., AMPAC INSURANCE AGENCY, INC., AEGON DIRECT MARKETING SERVICES, INC., and DOES V.- XI, Defendants,

          ORDER

          BRIAN MORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         The Court addresses two motions. Plaintiffs William Dun (“Dun”), individually and as personal representative for Irmadel Dun, Irene Dun, Sheryl Dun, Pat Ruggieri, Dora Mengel, and all others similarly situated, move the Court to transfer this case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. (Doc. 58). Defendants Financial Planning Services, Inc. (“FPS”) and Aegon Direct Marketing Services, Inc. (“ADMS”) ask the Court to dismiss FPS and ADMS as parties based upon the Court's alleged lack of personal jurisdiction. (Doc. 62).

         Background

         This matter began as a denial of insurance benefit claim when Dun filed an action against Transamerica Premier Insurance Inc. (“Transamerica”) in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, Montana. (Doc. 1 at 2). Irmadel Dun had purchased a life insurance policy in response to a solicitation that she had received in the mail at her home in Montana. Id. Transamerica properly removed the case to the Montana District Court's Butte Division by means of diversity jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id.

         Initial discovery unearthed new information regarding the insurance policy purchased by Irmadel Dun. (Doc. 21 at 2). Dun discovered that the insurance policy purchased by Irmadel Dun had been placed in a Trust with its situs in Washington D.C. (Doc. 59 at 4-5). Dun amended his Complaint twice to reflect the new information.

         Dun added two potentially liable parties involved in the dissemination of the insurance policy attached to the Trust - ADMS and FPS. (Docs. 21, 28). Transamerica currently serves as Trustor of the Trust, ADMS serves as the Administrator of the Trust, FPS serves as the Trustee, and the insureds serve as the beneficiaries of the Trust. (Doc. 59 at 3-6). Dun lacked knowledge of the existence of the Trust and the roles played by ADMS, and FPS before he filed his original complaint. Id. at 2.

         Discussion

         I. Transfer

         “For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district court or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The trial court typically determines the question of personal jurisdiction in advance of venue. Leroy v. Great W. United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 180 (1979). Personal jurisdiction reflects the court's power to exercise control over the parties. Id. A court may reverse the normal order of considering personal jurisdiction and venue when there exists a “sound prudential justification for doing so . . ..” Id.

         The party seeking transfer bears the burden of demonstrating that the transferee district provides a more appropriate forum. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2000). Courts possess broad discretion to transfer cases. Id. at 498. A court must consider, however, the factors of convenience and fairness to the parties in choosing whether to exercise this discretion. Id.

         A district court's consideration of a transfer pursuant to § 1404(a) typically involves two steps. A district court first must decide whether the action originally could have been brought in the proposed transferee districts. Hatch v. Reliance Ins. Co., 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir. 1985). If the answer is yes, then the district court must make an individualized, case-specific, analysis of convenience and fairness to the parties and witnesses, and an assessment of the interests of justice. See Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99. This assessment incorporates multiple factors. These factors include the following items: (1) the location where the parties negotiated and executed the relevant agreements; (2) the forum most familiar with the governing law; (3) the plaintiffs' choice of forum; (4) contacts of the different parties with the forum; (5) local interest in the controversy; (6) the ease of access to sources of proof and evidence; and (7) relative congestion in each forum. Id.

         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         Federal courts follow state law in determining the bounds of jurisdiction over a party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). Montana's long-arm statute provides that “[a]ny person is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state as to any claim for relief arising from the doing personally, through an employee, or through an agent, of . . . the transaction of any type of business within this state . . . contracting to insure any person, property or risk located within this state at the time of contracting.” Mont. R. Civ. P. 4(b)(1)(A), (D). The Court must comport with the limits imposed by federal due process when determining personal jurisdiction. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 464 (1985).

         The U.S. Supreme Court in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945), determined that a state may exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant if the defendant has certain minimum contacts such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play.” International Shoe's ‚Äúconception of fair play and substantial justice presaged ...


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