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Beard v. New York Life Insurance & Annuity Corp.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 27, 2013

Jason C. Beard, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corporation et al., Defendants-Appellees.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 12CV03-3103

Morrow, Gordon & Byrd, Ltd., and James R. Cooper, for appellant.

Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.PA., John B. Schomer and Leigh A. Maxa, for appellee New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corporation.

Reminger Co., L.PA., Michael Romanello and Melvin J. Davis, for appellee Phillip B. Rosen.

DECISION

McCORMAC, J.

(¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, James C. Beard, appeals from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas' dismissal of his action against defendants-appellees, New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corporation ("NYLIAC"), and Phillip B. Rosen ("Rosen").

(¶ 2} This matter commenced with appellant's filing of a complaint on March 8, 2012. According to the allegations in the complaint, in 2004, appellant's father, David Beard ("decedent"), purchased an individual retirement annuity from NYLIAC, naming appellant as the beneficiary. In 2007, decedent was diagnosed with Level IV melanoma. In 2010, decedent purchased an individual retirement annuity from NYLIAC, which replaced the 2004 annuity. Under the 2010 annuity, NYLIAC agreed to make payments to the decedent beginning on March 24, 2010. In his application for the 2010 annuity, decedent named appellant as his beneficiary. However, decedent later executed an amendment to the 2010 annuity which purportedly retracted the beneficiary designation. Rosen, an NYLIAC agent, advised and assisted decedent in the purchase of both annuities.

(¶ 3} Decedent died on March 25, 2011. Thereafter, appellant filed claims with NYLIAC as a purported beneficiary under both the 2004 and 2010 annuities. NYLIAC denied both claims.

(¶ 4} Appellant alleged he was a third-party beneficiary of both the 2004 and 2010 annuities and that NYLIAC breached both by failing to pay him the amount due and payable thereunder. Appellant alleged that NYLIAC and Rosen were negligent in preparing the annuities for decedent and in advising decedent with respect thereto. Appellant further asserted that NYLIAC and Rosen breached their fiduciary duties to decedent. Appellant also sought a declaratory judgment as to the rights and duties of the parties. Finally, appellant asserted that NYLIAC and Rosen were unjustly enriched as a result of their failure to pay him the proceeds of the annuities.

(¶ 5} In response to appellant's complaint, NYLIAC and Rosen filed separate motions to dismiss on May 15 and September 7, 2012, respectively. Both appellees argued that appellant was not entitled to recover under either the 2004 annuity or the 2010 annuity, that appellant lacked standing to pursue the action, and that neither owed a fiduciary duty to appellant. Appellant opposed both motions.

(¶ 6} The trial court granted NYLIAC's motion to dismiss on August 1, 2012 and granted Rosen's motion to dismiss on October 25, 2012; the October 25, 2012 filing also included a dismissal entry. In granting the motions to dismiss, the court found that: (1) appellant was not entitled to recover under the 2004 annuity because it was no longer in effect at the time of decedent's death; (2) appellant was not entitled to recover under the 2010 annuity because he was neither a party to nor an intended third-party beneficiary of that annuity; and (3) appellant lacked standing to pursue the action. Appellant timely appealed and advances the following assignment of error for our review:

THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED ERROR IN ITS DECISIONS AND JUDGMENTS ENTERED AUGUST 1, 2012, AND OCTOBER 25, 2012, WHEN, IN GRANTING APPELLEES' MOTIONS TO DISMISS UNDER RULE 12(B)(6) OF THE OHIO RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, IT RULED THAT APPELLANT WAS NOT A THIRD-PARTY BENEFICIARY AND LACKED STANDING TO BRING HIS CLAIMS AGAINST APPELLEES.

(¶ 7} Standing is a jurisdictional requirement that a party has a sufficient stake in an otherwise justiciable controversy to obtain judicial resolution of that controversy. Fed. Home Loan Mtge. Corp. v. Schwartzwald, 134 Ohio St.3d 13, 2012-Ohio-5017, ¶ 21-22. "Where the party does not rely on any specific statute authorizing invocation of the judicial process, the question of standing depends on whether the party has alleged a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy." (Internal quotations omitted.) Id. at ¶ 21. "The doctrine of standing requires a litigant to be in the proper position to assert a claim or seek judicial enforcement of a duty or right." Kormanik, Guardian v. HSBC Mtge., 10th Dist. No. 12AP-18, 2012-Ohio-5975, ¶ 41. The burden is on the plaintiff to establish that he or she "has a present interest in the subject matter of the litigation and that [he or she] has been prejudiced." Id. A motion to dismiss for lack of standing is properly brought pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Brown v. Columbus City Schools Bd. of Edn., 10th Dist. No. 08AP-1067, 2009-Ohio-3230, ¶ 4.

(¶ 8} We first address appellant's breach of contract claim. Only a party to a contract or an intended third-party beneficiary of a contract may assert a breach of contract claim. Grant Thornton v. Windsor House, Inc., 57 Ohio St.3d 158, 161 (1991). Appellant asserts he has standing to pursue his breach of contract claim because he is an intended third-party beneficiary of both the 2004 and 2010 annuities. Thus, in order to determine whether appellant has standing to assert his ...


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