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Teenor v. Leblanc

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 10, 2019

BARBARA TEENOR, Cross-Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN LEBLANC, Cross-Defendant.

          Anthony P. Patti, United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING CROSS-PLAINTIFF BARBARA TEENOR’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT[#27]ANDDENYING CROSS-DEFENDANT SUSAN LEBLANC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#23]

          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain, United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”) initiated this Interpleader action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), asking the Court to determine the appropriate beneficiary to Decedent Clarence J. Teenor’s life insurance policy. MetLife joins four potential beneficiaries: (1) Susan LeBlanc, the domestic partner of the Decedent; (2) Barbara Teenor, the ex-wife of the Decedent; and (3) Theresa Teenor and Nicole Johnson, the daughters of the Decedent.

         Present before the Court are Susan LeBlanc and Barbara Teenor’s Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. The Court will resolve the Motions without hearing oral argument. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT Barbara Teenor’s Motion [#27] and DENY Susan LeBlanc’s Motion [#23].

         II. Background

         The Decedent, Clarence Teenor, was a retiree of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Dkt. No. 1, p. 3 (Pg. ID 3). Through his former employer, Decedent obtained a life insurance policy funded by MetLife. Id.

         On January 5, 1970, the Decedent named Barbara Teenor, his then-wife, as the sole primary beneficiary under his life insurance plan. Id. at p. 4 (Pg. ID 4).

         When the two divorced, they agreed to a Statutory Life Insurance Provision that read:

Defendant, CLARENCE J. TEENOR, shall maintain Plaintiff [BARBARA TEENOR] as principal beneficiary on all life insurance policies so long as spousal support is payable.

Dkt. No. 1-4, pp. 7-8 (Pg. ID 25-26). Under their agreement, spousal support was payable until Barbara Teenor either passed away or remarried. Id. at p. 3 (Pg. ID 21). All of this was set forth in the Judgment of Divorce entered by the Wayne County Circuit Court on March 16, 2006. See Dkt. No. 1-4.

         On August 15, 2009, despite the provision in the Judgment of Divorce, the Decedent named Susan LeBlanc, his then-domestic partner, as primary beneficiary under his life insurance plan. Dkt. No. 1, pp. 4-5 (Pg. ID 4-5). She remained the listed beneficiary until April 21, 2017, when some unknown individual removed her. Id. at p. 5 (Pg. ID 5). Later that evening, the Decedent passed away, leaving behind $49,172 in life insurance proceeds. Id.

         On May 7, 2017, Barbara Teenor submitted a claim to MetLife for the Decedent’s life insurance proceeds pursuant to the Judgment of Divorce. Id. Susan LeBlanc also submitted a claim for the insurance proceeds, asserting the April 21, 2017 attempt to remove her from the policy was fraudulent. Id. at pp. 5-6 (Pg. ID 5-6). By letter on June 12, 2017, MetLife informed both women that their claims were adverse to one another and raised questions of fact and law that MetLife could not resolve. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID 6).

         MetLife therefore comes to the Court seeking a determination of the proper beneficiary to the Decedent’s life insurance benefits. Susan LeBlanc and Barbara Teenor have filed Cross-Motions ...


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