Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lincoln Benefit Life Company v. Wilmington Trust, N.A.

Superior Court of Delaware

April 5, 2018

LINCOLN BENEFIT LIFE COMPANY Plaintiff,
v.
WILMINGTON TRUST, N.A., AS SECURITIES INTERMEDIARY, Defendant.

          Submitted: January 19, 2018

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss DENIED

          Joseph C. Schoell, Esq., Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Jason P. Gosselin, Esq., Katherine L. Villaneuva, Esq., Christopher F. Petrillo, Esq., Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Steven L. Caponi, Esq. K&L Gates LLP, Wilmington, DE, Attorney for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROCANELLI, J.

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Wilmington Trust, N.A. as Securities Intermediary ("Defendant"). Defendant moves to dismiss this declaratory judgment action filed by Plaintiff Lincoln Benefit Life Company ("Plaintiff) on the basis of forum non conveniens. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion. This is the Court's decision on Defendant's motion to dismiss.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a life insurance company incorporated in Nebraska and having its principal place of business in Nebraska. Defendant is a national banking association having its principal place of business in Delaware. On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff issued a $17.7 million life insurance policy ("Policy") on the life of Adele Frankel to the Adele Frankel Irrevocable Life Trust, located in Mississippi. The Policy subsequently changed ownership multiple times. Defendant became the owner and beneficiary of the policy in November 2013.

         Frankel allegedly died on August 20, 2016 in Neptune, New Jersey. According to Plaintiff, it received a request for Policy proceeds from Defendant on July 20, 2017. However, Plaintiff claims that while reviewing the claim it was unable to officially confirm Frankel's death, and it otherwise became concerned that the Policy was fraudulently procured.

         On August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action against Defendant in this Court seeking a declaration that the Policy is void ab initio under Mississippi law ("Delaware Action"). In the Delaware Action, Plaintiff alleges that the Policy was part of a stranger originated life insurance ("STOLI") scheme, and that STOLI policies are contrary to Mississippi law.

         In response to the Delaware Action, Defendant filed a complaint against Plaintiff in a federal district court in Mississippi ("Mississippi Action") on September 22, 2017. In the Mississippi Action, Defendant alleges breach of contract, bad faith, and fraud in connection with Plaintiff's refusal to honor the terms of the Policy.

         Defendant then filed this motion to dismiss on October 20, 2017, contending that the Delaware Action should be dismissed in favor of the Mississippi Action. Defendant argues that dismissal on the grounds of forum non conveniens is appropriate because this action raises an issue of first impression of Mississippi law and, therefore, should be decided by a Mississippi court. This is the Court's decision on Defendant's motion to dismiss.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court.[1] In order to prevail on a motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, the moving defendant must demonstrate that it will face "overwhelming hardship" if litigation proceeds in Delaware.[2] Upon a motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, this Court's analysis is guided by the framework originally set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in General Foods Corp. v. Cryo-Maid, Inc.[3] The Court must assess (1) the relative ease of access to proof; (2) the availability of compulsory process for witnesses; (3) the possibility of the view of the premises; (4) whether the controversy is dependent upon application of Delaware law; (5) the pendency or nonpendency of similar actions in another jurisdiction; and (6) all other practical problems that would make trial of the case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.[4] Plaintiffs' choice of forum is entitled to respect unless Defendant demonstrates that litigating in Delaware is "inappropriate and inconsistent with the administration of justice."[5]

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant argues that the Delaware Supreme Court's decision in Martinez changed the legal standard that trial courts should apply when assessing a motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens. According to Defendant, Martinez gives dispositive weight to the fourth Cyro-Maid factor, such that trial courts should dismiss when a case involves an uncertain question of law from another jurisdiction. To that end, Defendant argues that the interest of a Mississippi court in resolving an issue of first impression of Mississippi law is dispositive in this case. However, this Court finds that Defendant misinterprets Martinez's discussion of the fourth Cyro-Maid factor, and that Martinez is otherwise inapposite to the present case. Further, this Court finds that the remaining Cyro-Maid factors do not warrant dismissal.

         A. The Court Rejects Defendant's Argument that Martinez Placed Dispositive Weight on the Fourth Cyro-Maid Factor.

         Martinez was one of approximately thirty-two cases filed by Argentine nationals against a Delaware company alleging exposure to asbestos while working in textile plants in Argentina.[6] This Court dismissed the case on several grounds, including forum non conveniens. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed, finding that "the unique circumstances presented by this foreign asbestos case created the 'overwhelming hardship' required for a forum non conveniens dismissal under Delaware law."[7] Specifically, the Supreme Court found that the Superior Court could permissibly exercise its discretion to dismiss given the fact that the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.