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Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Mason

March 30, 2010

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LINDA SUE MASON, ROYAL FUNERAL HOME, CINDY CASWELL, AND GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR K.W., A MINOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Paul L. Maloney

Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody

OPINION and ORDER

Approving Settlement and Directing Distribution of Proceeds; Directing the Guardian Ad Litem to Provide Information with Regard to Minor's Share

On Thursday, February 11, 2010, the U.S. Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") [doc. # 45] recommending that this court approve the settlement reached by the parties regarding the distribution of the proceeds of the decedent's life-insurance policy. The sum at issue equals at least $17,001.51 -- the amount which the former plaintiff Met Life deposited into this court's interest-bearing account on June 16, 2009 (see non-document docket entry preceding Document 29, noting receipt number GR015054)-- plus the interest that has accrued thereon. The parties agreed to ask the court to distribute the proceeds as follows:

$6,554.85 to Royal Funeral Home, which constitutes the decedent's funeral bill plus interest through an unspecified date;

$400.00 to attorney Ann L. Nowak, for her services representing the interests of a minor interested party known as K.W.

The remaining balance in equal one-quarter shares to Linda Sue Mason, Cindy Caswell, Nicole Douglas, and the minor K.W., with K.W.'s share being distributed to her only when she reaches the age of majority.

R&R (Doc 42) at 1-2. The parties agreed that by February 22, 2010, K.W.'s guardian ad litem, Ann L. Nowak, would file a recommendation with the court as to the best means of protecting K.W.'s interests with regard to her share of the proposed settlement. During the time which this court's Local Civil Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for objections to an R&R -- fourteen calendar days, including weekends and holidays -- the court received no objections from Linda Sue Mason, Cindy Caswell, Nicole Douglas, or any other potentially-interested adult party.

On February 18, 2010, K.W.'s guardian ad litem, Nowak, timely filed a notice stating as follows, in its entirety:

Following the Settlement Conference held on February 18, 2010, I was able to obtain the current address of K.W., whose interests I represent as the minor beneficiary of part of the life insurance money that was the subject of this litigation. I spoke by telephone with K.W.'s mother, with whom K.W. resides. Her mother was initially quite uncooperative, but later stated that she "wanted to get this over with," and agreed to provide me with the social security number and a copy of the birth certificate of K.W.

I have mailed IRS Form W-9 to her mother with a stamped, return envelope, and am waiting for its return to me. Her mother stated that K.W. is currently 13 years old, so the issue facing the court is how to assure that her share of the settlement is used for her benefit.

Given the extreme animosity among the family members who are participants in this litigation, including numerous accusations of fraud, misappropriation and misuse of funds, various forms of theft, and the failure to pay the decedent's funeral expenses, I do not find it appropriate to simply deliver K.W.'s funds to her mother, who is part of this extended family, or to any other family member. K.W.'s mother is not married to the child's father, and the minor and her mother do not reside in the same state as the minor's father. Although I have not attempted to contact K.W.'s father, I think that to involve him at this point would only serve to delay and complicate this matter further.

After consulting with the Court's financial manager, I recommend that the Court retain custody of the funds for K.W.'s benefit until she reaches age 18, and invest those funds in United States Savings Bonds of a type which will pay the greatest rate of interest currently available, as soon as practicable. When K.W. reaches age 18, the bonds should be released directly to her. I will provide the court's ...


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