United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
The Estate of Soad Wattar, Haifa Sharifeh as Executrix, and Ragda Sharifeh, Plaintiffs,
Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company and Wells Fargo Financial Advisors, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
S. SHAH JUDGE.
attempt to comply with an order issued by a bankruptcy court,
defendants Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company and
Wells Fargo Financial Advisors turned over assets in their
possession to a bankruptcy trustee designated by that court.
Plaintiffs claim that defendants misinterpreted that order,
improperly transferred the assets, and did so without
providing plaintiffs with proper notice. They bring claims of
breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence.
Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' claims. For the
following reasons, the motions are granted.
must dismiss an action if it determines, at any time, that it
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3), and
a defendant may move to dismiss an action for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).
jurisdiction depends in part on Article III standing-the
requirement that plaintiffs present an actual case or
controversy. See Silha v. ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d 169,
172-73 (7th Cir. 2015). The plaintiff bears the burden of
proving that jurisdiction is proper, and must allege facts
sufficient to plausibly suggest that subject-matter
jurisdiction exists. Silha, 807 F.3d at 173-74.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain factual allegations that plausibly suggest a
right to relief. Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206,
212 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 558 (2009)). “The purpose
of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the
complaint, not to decide the merits.” Triad
Assocs., Inc. v. Chicago Hous. Authority, 892 F.2d 583,
586 (7th Cir. 1989). On a 12(b)(6) motion, a court may
consider only the allegations in the complaint, documents
attached to the complaint, documents that are both referred
to in the complaint and central to its claims, and
information that is subject to proper judicial notice.
Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1
(7th Cir. 2012). When analyzing a motion under either Rule
12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), a court must construe all factual
allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor, but a court need not accept legal
conclusions or conclusory allegations. Virnich, 664
F.3d at 212 (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
680-82 (2009)); Silha, 807 F.3d at 174.
August 5, 2010, a bankruptcy court, presiding over the
bankruptcy of Richard Sharif, entered an order directing the
seizure of certain assets.  ¶ 1. The court ordered
that defendant Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company
turn over to a designated bankruptcy trustee “any and
all beneficial, equitable, legal, or other interests
attributable to, concerning, in, or related to any life
insurance policies issued by any Hartford insurance entity
concerning or related to [Sharif] or Soad Wattar or the Soad
Wattar Revocable Living Trust.” [1-4] at 1. At the
time, Hartford held $500, 000 in proceeds resulting from a
policy insuring the life of Soad Wattar, who had died on
March 17, 2010.  ¶¶ 12-13. The bankruptcy court
also ordered that defendant Wells Fargo Financial Advisors
“shall process all necessary documents to reflect
change in ownership from Soad Wattar Revocable Living Trust
to [the bankruptcy trustee] for the estate of Richard Sharif,
for [seven specified accounts].” [1-4] at 1-2. Wells
Fargo had been in possession of $1, 600, 000 that had
belonged to the Soad Wattar Revocable Living Trust. 
¶ 15. Both defendants, upon receiving the bankruptcy
court's order, turned over the assets in their possession
to the bankruptcy trustee.  ¶¶ 3, 16.
Ragda Sharifeh and the estate of Soad Wattar allege that,
when the bankruptcy court entered the order, the life
insurance proceeds held by Hartford rightfully belonged to
Sharifeh, and that the assets held by Wells Fargo belonged to
the estate of Soad Wattar.  ¶¶ 13, 15.
Plaintiffs allege that defendants should not have transferred
the assets to the bankruptcy trustee and should have notified
plaintiffs of their intent to do so.  ¶¶ 16, 26.
Plaintiffs bring claims for breach of contract, breach of
fiduciary duty, and negligence against both defendants.
Article III Standing
defendants seek dismissal of the complaint under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of Article III standing.
To establish standing under Article III, a plaintiff must
allege that she has “(1) suffered an injury in fact,
(2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the
defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a
favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, Inc. v.
Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (citing Lujan v.
Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). A
plaintiff suffered an injury in fact if she “suffered
‘an invasion of a legally protected interest' that
is ‘concrete and particularized' and ‘actual
or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'”
Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1548 (quoting Lujan,
504 U.S. at 560). Here, plaintiffs argue that Hartford caused
Ragda Sharifeh financial injury by failing to give her the
insurance proceeds that she was owed as beneficiary to the
insurance policy, and that the estate of Soad Wattar has
standing to pursue claims against Hartford because Soad
Wattar was the insured. And plaintiffs argue that Wells Fargo
injured the estate by transferring its assets to a third
party. Plaintiffs also claim injury based on defendants'
failure to notify them of the transfers. Plaintiffs'
arguments rest on the assumption that they hold some interest
in the assets at issue. But as defendants note, that
assumption is invalid, because plaintiffs fail to adequately
plead any interest in the assets that were turned over.
example, plaintiffs' interest in the insurance proceeds
that Hartford turned over is founded on the allegation that
Ragda Sharifeh is the beneficiary of the Soad Wattar life
insurance policy. In support of that statement, plaintiffs
refer to an exhibit to the complaint that they identify as
the life insurance policy. But that document is titled
“A Life Insurance Policy Illustration, ” states
on the bottom of every page, “This is an illustration
not a contract, ” and does not identify any
beneficiaries. See [1-3]. Hartford attaches to its
motion what it identifies as the insurance policy itself,
along with all endorsements and beneficiary changes.
See [26-2]. According to that document, the owner of
the policy, Richard Sharif, submitted a request to change the
beneficiary from “Richard Sharif Revocable Living Trust
U/A dated 04/24/07” to Ragda Sharifeh on June 4, 2009.
[26-2] at 41- 42. But about an hour later, Sharif submitted a
request to change the beneficiary back to the Richard Sharif
Revocable Living Trust. [26-2] at 38-39. Hartford says,
consistent with the document, the trust remained the
beneficiary of the policy, and no further changes were made.
Moreover, because Sharif had listed the policy among his
assets and the trust as an entity within his control when he
filed for bankruptcy ([26-4] at 10, 28), Hartford argues that
changing the policy's beneficiary to Ragda Sharifeh would
have violated several bankruptcy laws and likely would have
been voided had Sharif not reversed course. Plaintiffs do not
object to the introduction of the document, challenge its
authenticity, or otherwise dispute Hartford's
characterization of the document or Sharif's actions.
Instead, plaintiffs simply restate their position that Ragda
Sharifeh is the policy beneficiary and again refer to the
Life Insurance Policy Illustration.
allegation that Ragda Sharifeh is named as the beneficiary to
the life insurance policy is not plausible. It does not find
support in the exhibit to the complaint that is explicitly
cited as support, and it is contradicted by the insurance
policy attached to Hartford's motion. Further, plaintiffs
make no effort to reconcile their allegation with the
language of the insurance policy or address Hartford's
arguments, and they make no other argument in support of
Ragda Sharifeh's standing. Plaintiffs do not adequately
plead that Ragda ...