Benoist v. Jackson Nat'l Life Ins. Co.

Decision Date14 April 2023
Docket Number2022 CA 0878
PartiesVIRGINIA ANNE GERACE BENOIST v. JACKSON NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, NORMA FORD GERACE, AND MARY KATHRYN GERACE CARLETON
CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US

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VIRGINIA ANNE GERACE BENOIST
v.
JACKSON NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, NORMA FORD GERACE, AND MARY KATHRYN GERACE CARLETON

No. 2022 CA 0878

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

April 14, 2023


Appealed from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court Parish of East Baton Rouge • State of Louisiana Docket Number 710,447 • Section 27 The Honorable Trudy M. White, Presiding Judge

Jerry F. Pepper, Baton Rouge, Louisiana COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT PLAINTIFF-Virginia Anne Gerace Benoist

Dawn D. Bonnecaze, F. Charles Marionneaux, Melissa J. Avant, Thomas C. Naquin, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE DEFENDANT-Mary Kathryn Gerace Carleton

Michelle Lorio St. Martin, David G. Koch, Riley E. Huntington, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE DEFENDANT-Norma Ford Gerace

Covert J. Geary, Taylor Wimberly, Eric P. Morvant, New Orleans, Louisiana COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE DEFENDANT-Jackson National Life Insurance Company

Before: Welch, Penzato, and Lanier, JJ.

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WELCH, J.

The plaintiff, Virginia "Ginny" Anne Gerace Benoist, challenges the trial court's judgment sustaining a peremptory exception raising the objection of no cause of action for intentional interference with contractual rights filed by the defendant, her sister Mary Kathryn "Mary Kay" Gerace Carleton, which dismissed all claims against Mary Kay. For the following reasons, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

This lawsuit involves a dispute among family members. This case has previously been before this Court.[1] In addition to the instant matter, there is also another appeal pending.[2] Pertinent to the instant appeal, Ginny filed a "Petition for Breach of Contract, and Intentional Interference with Contractual Rights, and for Removal of Agent" on August 9, 2021. Ginny alleged that Jackson National Life Insurance Company ("JNLIC") issued an annuity contract ("Annuity") to her mother, Norma F. Gerace, on December 6, 2007. Mrs. Gerace named Ginny's daughter, Mary Turner Benoist, as her mandatary; named Ginny a per stirpes irrevocable beneficiary of the Annuity; and named Mary Kay a per stirpes beneficiary of the Annuity. Ginny alleged that despite the "substantial adverse tax

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consequence" and "carefully crafted estate plan," on January 3, 2020, Mrs. Gerace withdrew the entire balance of her Annuity, in the then-present amount of $226,259.80.

Pertinent to the instant appeal, Ginny raised a claim of intentional interference with contractual rights against Mary Kay. From 2005 to 2019, Mrs. Gerace lived with her daughter Mary Kay. Ginny alleged that during that time, Mary Kay interfered and tampered with Mrs. Gerace's mail, installing a lock on the mailbox in which Mrs. Gerace received mail, and refusing to furnish her mother with a key to the mailbox in order to retrieve her own mail. Ginny alleged that she believed, "based on her own reasonable conclusions drawn from substantial circumstantial evidence," that her sister Mary Kay caused the Annuity "disinvestment, wholly without proper authority, and without any proper form of legal mandate, power of attorney, or direction" from Mrs. Gerace. Ginny claimed Mrs. Gerace denied ever authorizing the disinvestment of her Annuity. Ginny further alleged that Mary Kay "tortuously interfered with" Ginny's "contractual rights as a third party and irrevocable beneficiary under the JNLIC" Annuity.

Thereafter, Mary Kay filed a peremptory exception raising the objection of no cause of action for intentional interference with contractual rights. The trial court set the exception for hearing on March 22, 2022. Following the argument of counsel, the trial court sustained Mary Kay's peremptory exception raising the objection of no cause of action for intentional interference with contractual rights. The trial court signed a judgment in accordance with its ruling on April 1, 2022...

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