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Wiener v. Axa Equitable Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

July 12, 2018

MALCOLM H. WIENER, Plaintiff,
v.
AXA EQUITABLE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          David S. Cayer United States Magistrate Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on “Defendant's Motion to Transfer [to the Southern District of New York]” (document #10) and “Plaintiffs Motion to Strike Reply Brief or.in the Alternative for Leave to File Surreply …” (document #17), as well as the parties' associated briefs and exhibits.

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and is now ripe for consideration. Having fully considered the arguments, the record, and the applicable authority, the Court denies Defendant's Motion to Transfer as discussed below.

         The Court has considered all of the parties' briefs. Accordingly, “Plaintiffs Motion to Strike Reply Brief or in the Alternative for Leave to File Surreply …” (document #17) is denied.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In 1986 and 1987, Plaintiff purchased three universal life insurance plans from Defendant. (the “Policies”). Plaintiff is a Connecticut resident. Defendant is an international life insurance company incorporated under New York law. Defendant has an operations hub in Charlotte with over 500 employees. Plaintiffs former employer had assumed responsibility for paying the premiums on the Policies. The Policies lapsed in 2009 due to an oversight by Plaintiffs former employer. Defendant subsequently approved Plaintiffs application for reinstatement. In December 2013, Plaintiff received another notice that the Policies had lapsed. After receiving the notice, Plaintiff contacted Defendant and was advised to file an application for reinstatement. Plaintiff filed the application for reinstatement on December 23, 2013. In March 2014, Defendant advised Plaintiff that it had denied his application for reinstatement based upon information provided by his doctor. On May 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant and others styled Malcolm Wiener v. AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, David Hungerford, AXA Advisors, LLC, and AXA Network, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:16-CV-04019 in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. This action was ultimately transferred to the Southern District of New York (the “New York Action”). The claims alleged in the New York Action center on Defendant's termination of the Policies and specifically whether the appropriate notices were sent to Plaintiff.

         During depositions in August and October 2017, Plaintiff discovered that Defendant had disseminated inaccurate information about his medical history to the Medical Information Bureau (“MIB”) without his knowledge. MIB collects medical information from life insurance applicants. Discovery closed in the New York Action on December 22, 2017. The New York Action remains pending.

         The present action involves some of the same parties and operative facts as the New York Action. However, the gravamen of Plaintiffs Complaint here involves Defendant's alleged reporting of inaccurate medical information to MIB. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's underwriter reported the inaccurate information to its Charlotte operations facility who in turn reported it to MIB. Plaintiff alleges that this inaccurate report to MIB has rendered him uninsurable.

         On January 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action alleging claims for negligent misrepresentation, libel, negligence, and unfair and deceptive trade practices based upon Defendant's inaccurate report to MIB and his resulting uninsurability.

         On April 12, 2018, Defendant moved pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer this matter to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice. In support of its Motion, Defendant argues that this action arises from the “same background facts” as the New York Action and has already been the subject of discovery there.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, ... transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” The question of transfer under section 1404(a) is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. See Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Brock v. Entre Computer Ctrs., Inc., 933 F.2d 1253, 1257 (4th Cir.1991).

         The Court must first determine whether the action could have been brought in the transferee district. As the parties agree, this action could have been brought in the Southern District of New York.

         If venue in the transferee court is proper, as it is here, the Court must then consider the following factors in deciding ...


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