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Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. McLean

April 30, 2010

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLINE MCLEAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul D. Borman United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING RICHARD AND SHAWN MCLEAN'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND ORDERING THE CLERK OF COURT TO DISBURSE FUNDS TO RICHARD AND SHAWN MCLEAN

I. INTRODUCTION

This is an interpleader action involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). Donald McLean, who was enrolled in his employer's life insurance plan for life insurance coverage in the amount $37,500, died on June 7, 2008. Donald's ex-wife, Caroline McLean, on the one hand, and his two sons, Richard and Shawn McLean, on the other hand, claim an entitlement to the benefits.*fn1 Richard and Shawn have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in which they ask the Court to resolve the rival claims. The matter is fully briefed and oral argument was held on April 28, 2010. For the reasons that follow, Richard and Shawn are entitled to the insurance benefits and their motion will be granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Donald was an enrollee in his employer's life insurance plan ("the plan") for life insurance coverage in the amount $37,500. On August 18, 1994, Donald designated his then-wife, Caroline, as the beneficiary. Compl. at Ex. B.

Donald and Caroline divorced on September 15, 2000. One of the decrees in their divorce judgment reads:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that any rights of either party in any policy or contract of life endowment or annuity insurance of the other as beneficiary are hereby extinguished unless specifically preserved by this Judgment.

Mot. at Ex. 1.

Shortly after the divorce, Donald completed a change of beneficiary form designating his two sons, Richard and Shawn, as the primary beneficiaries under the plan (50% each). Mot. at Ex. 2. According to the Complaint, the new beneficiary designation form "was rejected by Hewitt Associates ("Hewitt"), the record keeper for [Donald's employer] . . . , because the names of the [new] beneficiaries, the percentages, [Donald's] signature, and the date . . . are illegible." Compl. at ¶ 14. A copy of the illegible beneficiary form is attached as Exhibit D to the Complaint.

As stated in the Complaint,

MetLife has also received a legible copy of an October 14, 2000, beneficiary designation form, which names Richard McLean and Shawn McLean, as coequal primary beneficiaries of the Plan Benefits.

Compl. at ¶ 15. The legible copy of the beneficiary designation form is attached as Exhibit E to the Complaint and as Exhibit 2 to Richard and Shawn's motion. The form is signed by Donald and hand dated October 14, 2000. Id.

The plan document states that "[a]ny change of beneficiary becomes effective the date you sign the form . . ." Compl. at ¶ A, p. 20.

Donald died on June 7, 2008. Compl. at Ex. C.

On June 23, 2008, and October 12, 2008, Richard completed a statement of claim for the plan benefits. Compl. at Ex. G. On December 9, 2008, Shawn completed a statement of ...


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