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Hood v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 22, 2017

JULIAN R. HOOD, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge

         This is one of a series of lawsuits brought by plaintiff claiming improper denial of federal employee group life insurance (FEGLI) benefits. “The Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Act of 1954, 5 U.S.C. § 8701, et seq., establishes a life insurance program for federal employees and provides that an employee may designate a beneficiary to receive the proceeds of her life insurance at the time of her death.” Hood v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., 1:15-cv-609, 2016 WL 4411365, at * 1 (W.D. Mich. May 17, 2016). “The program is administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). 5 U.S.C. § 8716. Pursuant to the authority granted to it by FEGLIA, OPM entered into a life insurance contract with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. See § 8709; 5 CFR § 870.102 (2013). Individual employees enrolled in the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program receive coverage through this contract.” Hillman v. Maretta, 133 S.Ct. 1943, 1947 (2013). The Office of Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI) is an administrative unit of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) responsible for administering the claims process of the FEGLI program. See Reed v. United States, No. 97-6525, 1999 WL 503586, at * 1 n.1 (6th Cir. July 12, 1999); Graber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 855 F.Supp.2d 673, 674 (N.D. Ohio 2012).

         “Plaintiff's mother, Deborah Covington Jackson was a federal employee. On March 18, 2002, she executed a waiver which canceled her coverage under the FEGLI Program. Ms. Jackson died on September 22, 2013. After Ms. Jackson's death, plaintiff attempted to obtain FEGLI benefits, but benefits were denied because Ms. Jackson had waived those benefits more than a decade before her death.” Hood v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., 2016 WL 4411365, at * 1.

         In Hood v. Office of Personnel Management, plaintiff argued that his mother had not been mentally capable of executing a waiver of life insurance in 2002. 2016 WL 4411365, at * 1. The Court held that sovereign immunity barred plaintiff's claims. Id. at * 6. Alternatively, plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at * 6-8. “Assuming that plaintiff ha[d] standing to contest the validity of a waiver executed by his now-deceased mother, any such cause of action accrued no later than May 14, 2002, when defendant advised Ms. Jackson that all of her life insurance coverage was cancelled pursuant to her written request.”[1] 2016 WL 4411365, at * 7.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on April 21, 2016. (ECF No. 1). Here, plaintiff once again claims entitlement to FEGLI benefits based on arguments that his mother was not mentally capable of executing the 2002 waiver of FEGLI life insurance coverage. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff named six defendants in this complaint: United States of America, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), OPM's Director, Beth Cobert (collectively referred to as the OPM defendants), and MetLife, Inc., its Office of Federal Group Life Insurance (more properly identified as Office of Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI), and its Chief Executive Officer, Steven Kandarian (collectively referred to as the MetLife defendants). Plaintiff seeks to recover damages on a broad range of legal theories. (ECF No. 1, PageID.1, 16).

         The matter is before the Court on a series of motions by plaintiff (ECF No. 11, 16, 22, 28) and defendants (ECF No. 7, 10, 13, 25). For the reasons set forth herein, plaintiff's first motion for leave to amend his complaint (ECF No. 11) will be granted and plaintiff's amended complaint (ECF No. 12, PageID.148-99) will be deemed filed instanter. Plaintiff's other motions (ECF No. 16, 22, 28) will be denied. Three of defendants' dispositive motions (ECF No. 7, 10, 13) will be dismissed without prejudice. The motion for summary judgment by the Metlife defendants based on claim preclusion[2](ECF No. 25) will be granted.

         I. Plaintiff's Motions

         On June 30, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking leave to amend his complaint. (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff indicated that he had listed an FTCA claim in the caption of his complaint, but he was not sure that he had listed an FTCA claim against the OPM defendants in the body of the complaint “as he as he had done in [his] other complaints[.]” (Id. at PageID.137-38). He also wanted to “make [his] defense to the statute of limitations that the United States and the OPM may claim.” (Id. at PageID.138). Defendants did not file a brief in opposition to this motion and at that juncture they had filed nothing precluding plaintiff from amending his pleading once as of right. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 11) will be granted and plaintiff's amended complaint (ECF No. 12, PageID.148-69) will be deemed filed instanter.

         On July 20, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. (ECF No. 16). Plaintiff stated that he was seeking leave to dismiss all his claims against the United States and OPM. (Id. at PageID.208). However, defendants are correct that plaintiff is not clear regarding what he proposed to do with his claims against defendant Colbert (Id.), and plaintiff's proffered second amended complaint persists in making numerous allegations of wrongdoings by OPM (ECF No. 16, PageID.216, 221). The OPM defendants would be severely prejudiced and the procedural posture of this case would be needlessly complicated by allowing the proposed amendment. Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint will be denied.

         Plaintiff's three-sentence motion asking the Court to submit his “complaint” to a magistrate judge for decision (ECF No. 22) will be denied. Assuming that plaintiff was alluding to pending motions, the Court finds that no referral is necessary because all such motions are addressed herein.

         On February 15, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for relief from judgment under the caption of one of his other lawsuits: Hood v. United States Postal Service, No. 1:14-cv-1104. Plaintiff asked that his motion be filed in fourteen additional lawsuits that he has filed in this Court. (ECF No. 28, PageID.317). Plaintiff cannot seek relief from judgments entered in other cases in this lawsuit. The only instances where this case is even mentioned in plaintiff's motion are the first and last pages where this case's number appears in a list. (Id. at PageID.317, 351). Plaintiff asked to have the “judgment” in this case vacated. (Id. at PageID.351). Plaintiff's motion was decidedly premature in this case because a final judgment has yet been entered. Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

         II. Defendants' Motions

         Three of the defendants' dispositive motions (ECF No. 7, 10, 13) were filed early in this case and they were directed against plaintiff's original complaint rather than his amended complaint. Accordingly, those motions will be dismissed without prejudice. On September 16, 2016, the MetLife defendants filed a motion seeking summary judgment on the ground that all plaintiff's claims against the MetLife defendants are barred by claim preclusion stemming from the judgment this Court entered in Case No. 1:15-cv-609.

         “Claim preclusion is the doctrine by which a final judgment on the merits in an action precludes a party from bringing a subsequent lawsuit on the same claim or raising a new defense to defeat a prior judgment.” Hood v. United States, No. 1:16-cv-665, 2016 WL 7334836, at * 2 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 19, 2016) (citing Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153 (1979) and Mitchell v. Chapman, 343 F.3d 811, 819 (6th Cir. 2003). “The elements of claim preclusion are: (1) a final decision on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) the same parties or their privies that were involved in the first action are present in the second action; (3) the second action raises an issue or claim that was or should have been litigated in the first action; and (4) there is an identity of claims between the first and second actions. Hood v. United States, 2016 WL 7334836, at * 2 (citing Sanders Confectionery Prods., Inc. v. Heller Fin. Inc., 973 ...


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