United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
METROPOLITAN LIFE INS. CO., Plaintiff,
PHYLLIS HOENSTINE, MARCUS W. MILLARD and R.S.H. (a minor), Defendants. PHYLLIS HOENSTINE and R.S.H. (a minor), Cross-Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants,
MARCUS W. MILLARD, Cross-Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Page Hood Chief, U.S. District Court
Life Insurance Company (“Metropolitan Life”)
filed this interpleader action on April 15, 2014 against
Phyllis Hoenstine, the decedent's sister, Marcus W.
Millard, a caretaker, and R.S.H., the decedent's minor
grandson. All three defendants made claims for the proceeds
of the decedent Robert Hynds' life insurance benefits
under a group life insurance policy issued by Metropolitan
Life through Hynds' employer, General Motors. The life
insurance benefit was part of the General Motors Life and
Disability Program (the “Plan”), an employee
welfare benefit plan regulated by the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §
1001 et seq.
died on July 22, 2013. The primary beneficiary of record
pursuant to the latest designation form dated December 3,
2011 is Millard. In a prior March 9, 2008 beneficiary
designation form, Hoenstine, the decedent's sister, and
R.S.H., the decedent's grandson, were named as primary
beneficiaries. Metropolitan Life sent letters to Hoenstine,
R.S.H. and Millard indicating their claims were adverse to
one another and that Metropolitan Life could not resolve the
issue without exposing the Plan to the danger of double
liability. Metropolitan Life deposited the proceeds of the
insurance policy into the Court and was dismissed from this
case then proceeded on Hoenstine's claim that Millard had
falsified the change of beneficiary forms filed by decedent
or that Millard had unduly influenced decedent to change the
insurance policy beneficiary. Pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the
Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court makes the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law.
jurisdiction of the Court is not in dispute.
FINDINGS OF FACTS
and policyholder Hynds lived alone and was blind. He was in
need of physical care and help with his daily meals and other
affairs. For a time, Hoenstine's son, Steve Hoenstine,
took care of Hynds. When her son took care of Hynds,
Hoenstine and R.S.H. would visit her brother and Hynds would
play with R.S.H. R.S.H.'s mother, Hynds' daughter,
died when R.S.H. was two years old. R.S.H. lived with Hynds
until R.S.H. was four years old. R.S.H. was ten years old
when Hynds died.
claims that Hynds told her that the insurance money should go
to R.H.S. Hoenstine was familiar with Hynds' signature,
but she did not recognize the signature on the Metropolitan
Life forms shown to her at trial.
2011, Millard came to help Hynds and lived with Hynds for
about six months until January 2012. Millard was a friend of
Steve, Hynds' nephew and previous caregiver.
Millard's fiancée and children also stayed at
Hynds' home some of this time, although Millard claims
his children never lived at the home. Hynds paid Millard and
his fiancée approximately $900 per month for caring
for him. Millard would read Hynds' mail to him, which
were mostly bills. Hynds saved his records in folders.
Millard, his fiancée, his mother, Katherine Millard,
and some of Hynds' friends would drive Hynds to do his
errands. Millard would take Hynds to the bank when Hynds got
paid, which was twice a month. Millard paid his bills in
cash. Millard's mother would drive Hynds and Millard
around town to pay Hynds' bills and buy cigarettes.
Millard cleaned and cooked Hynds' meals. Millard was able
to shower himself. Millard claims he was not interested in
did not see Hynds fill out the two beneficiary forms. Millard
was not present when Hynds signed the forms. Millard does not
know how Hynds possessed the beneficiary forms. Millard
claims that Hynds was capable of signing forms if his hand
was placed on the signature line. Hynds had signed forms for
nurses who visited him. Millard asserts he does not know what
Hynds' signature looks like.
did not feel comfortable at Hynds' home when Millard, his
fiancée and children lived there. She visited her
brother a couple of times while Millard lived there, but
would not stay for very long. Hoenstine initially had the
ability to call her brother, until Millard took the telephone
away from her brother.
claims that Millard fraudulently executed a new beneficiary
on Hynds' insurance policy or unduly influenced him to
change the policy beneficiary during the time Millard lived
with and cared for him. Millard asserts that he was only a
“helper” and never assisted him in changing the
beneficiary. Millard claims he had no knowledge of the
beneficiary designation until ...