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In Re: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Sales Practices Litigation v. Metropolitan Tower Life Ins. Co. and Metlife

November 10, 2011


(11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade County, Fla.)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge, U.S. District Court

This matter relates to:



Before the Court is Defendant's effort to enjoin an action pending in Miami-Dade County, Florida, involving an insurance policy and disability rider that Plaintiff purchased from Defendant. In that action, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts nine counts, including class and individual claims for declaratory and ancillary relief regarding benefits due under a disability rider (Counts I and II); unfair claims practices pursuant to Florida statute (Count III); fraud (Count IV); negligent misrepresentation (Count V); declaratory relief regarding the duty of care owed (Count VI); breach of fiduciary duties (Count VII); statutory civil theft or exploitation (Count VIII); and conversion (Count IX).*fn1

To preclude the Florida litigation, Defendant has filed a Motion to enforce the settlement agreement and release entered into in In re Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. Sales Practices Litigation, Misc. Docket No. 96-179, MDL 1091 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 28, 1999). Defendant's supporting briefs are fairly general, but its primary objection is that Plaintiff's claims are based on conduct that falls within the time period subject to the release, and are of the type released. Plaintiff opposes the Motion, on grounds that the release does not apply to his claims, for various reasons.

For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be granted in part, and denied in part.



Federal courts have broad powers under the All Writs Act, to protect their own judgments. In re Diet Drugs, 282 F. 3d 220 (3d Cir. 2002). Moreover, the Anti-Injunction Act permits federal courts to prevent state court litigation of an issue that was previously presented to, and determined by, a federal court. In re Prudential Ins. Co. of America Sales Prac. Litigation, 261 F. 3d 355, 364 (3d Cir. 2001). Thus, a federal court may enjoin an action that threatens the administration of a settlement.


Defendant's Motion stems from an MDL class action proceeding, at W.D. Pa. Docket No. 1091, with which both parties are obviously familiar. Thus, I will merely sketch the aspects of the proceeding that are pertinent to the present dispute.

The MDL litigation settlement class was described as including persons and entities who have or had an ownership interest in any permanent life insurance policy or any deferred annuity issued by MetLife in the United States during the period from January 1, 1982 through December 31, 1997 pursuant to an individual sale. Ultimately, I issued a final order dismissing the claims of all members of the settlement class, and the release and waiver of "released transactions." The "released transactions" in the MDL were defined, in the Stipulation of Settlement, as follows:

Any and all claims arising out of, concerning, or in any way relating to the marketing, solicitation, application, underwriting, issuing, pricing, charges, rates, acceptance, sale, purchase, operation, retention, administration, servicing or performance of any Policy; and any and all claims arising out of, concerning, or in any way relating to the matters alleged in the Complaint and Amended Complaint.

Further, the Release and Waiver that accompanied the settlement encompassed the following:

[Claims] including, without limitation, any acts, omissions, nondisclosures, facts, matters, transactions, occurrences, or oral or written statements of representations..relating to: . the ability to keep or not to keep a policy or Policies in-force based on a fixed number and/or amount of premium payments..; the fact that a Policy or Policies were or were not life insurance..whether a Policy or Policies were, would operate or could function as an Investment Plan..the relationship between a Policy's or Policies' cash surrender value and the cumulative amount of premiums paid;..the use of an existing Policy' value.. with respect to Policies, the Company's practices regarding..policy or premium charges and monthly deductions.or any other matters relating to dividends with respect to the Policies, interest or other policy crediting rates; interest or other policy bonuses..policy charges, premium charges, monthly deductions or cost of insurance and administrative charges... disclosures in any local, state or federal filing by the Company relating to the released transactions. the sale of Policies as an investment, savings.vehicles, or any representations.regarding such matters.

The release contained the following exclusionary language:

Nothing in this Release shall be deemed to alter (a) a Class Member's contractual make a claim for contractual benefits that will become payable in the future pursuant to the express written terms of the Policy or Annuity issued by the Company (b) a Class Member's right to assert any claim that independently arises from acts, facts, or circumstances arising after the end of the Class Period; (c) a Class member's right to make a claim for theft, or the wrongful taking of customer funds, relating to a Policy or Annuity..

In the MDL, as detailed in the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of law entered in that proceeding, the plaintiffs' allegations, broadly speaking, involved churning, or misrepresentations regarding replacement policies; misrepresentations regarding vanishing premiums; improper passing of tax liability onto insureds; misrepresentations ...

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