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Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Dice

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 29, 2014

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DENESE DICE, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DANIEL D. CRABTREE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Metropolitan Life Insurance Company filed this case as an interpleader action seeking a declaratory judgment determining the proper beneficiaries entitled to the proceeds of a life insurance policy that it issued for Edna Jean Turgeon under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Act (FEGLIA), 5 U.S.C. ยง 8701 et seq . After plaintiff deposited the proceeds of the policy with the Court ( see Doc. 30 and docket annotation of financial receipt dated November 25, 2013), the Court dismissed plaintiff with prejudice from this action and discharged plaintiff from liability arising from the life insurance benefits payable under the FEGLIA life insurance policy as a consequence of Ms. Turgeon's death (Doc. 36).

The matter is currently before the Court on Defendants Denese Dice, Kelsie Dice, Britni Dice, Ashlie Smithy (Dice), and Cheyenne Dice's ("the Dice Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 43), and a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 44), filed by Albert E. Grauberger, guardian ad litem for minors D.D., T.D., and M.S ("the Minor Defendants"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Dice Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 43), and denies the Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 44), filed by Albert E. Grauberger, guardian ad litem for the Minor Defendants.

I. Uncontroverted Facts

The parties have stipulated to the following facts in their Stipulated Facts (Doc. 35). Edna Jean Turgeon ("the insured") was employed by the United States Postal Service and was insured under the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program underwritten by a policy issued by plaintiff Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. On June 16, 1995, the insured executed a Designation of Beneficiary form for her life insurance policy issued by plaintiff. On the form, the insured listed her beneficiaries, with the shares to be paid to those beneficiaries as follows:

[1]

Ex. 1 to Am. Compl. in Interpleader (Doc. 23-1). The insured and two witnesses signed the Designation of Beneficiary form, which was submitted to the insured's employer. There is no record that the insured ever submitted a subsequent Designation of Beneficiary form.

Denese Dice is the insured's only child. Doris D. Turgeon was the insured's mother. Doris D. Turgeon pre-deceased her daughter. The other four named individuals on the Designation of Beneficiary form are the insured's grandchildren and Denese Dice's natural born children.

On June 16, 1995 (the date the insured completed the Designation of Beneficiary form), Denese Dice was pregnant. She gave birth to Cheyenne Dice in September 1995. Cheyenne Dice was the insured's only unborn grandchild in utero on June 16, 1995, and the only unborn child referenced in the Designation of Beneficiary form. Afterwards, Denese Dice gave birth to three additional children, D.D., T.D., and M.S, who are represented by the guardian ad litem in this action. None of the three additional children are referenced in the Designation of Beneficiary form.

The insured died on September 26, 2012. On July 12, 2013, plaintiff filed the present declaratory judgment action, naming Denese Dice, Kelsie Dice, Britni Dice, Ashlie Smithy (Dice), and Cheyenne Dice as defendants. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in Interpleader (Doc. 23) on October 23, 2013, adding as a defendant Albert Grauberger, as guardian ad litem for D.D., T.D., and M.D., minors. Plaintiff filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment identifying the proper beneficiaries of the insured's life insurance policy and those entitled to the policy proceeds.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that it is "entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When it applies this standard, the Court views the evidence and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Nahno-Lopez v. Houser , 625 F.3d 1279, 1283 (10th Cir. 2010) (citing Oldenkamp v. United Am. Ins. Co ., 619 F.3d 1243, 1245-46 (10th Cir. 2010)). "An issue of fact is genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party' on the issue." Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "An issue of fact is material' if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim' or defense." Id. (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248)).

The moving party bears "both the initial burden of production on a motion for summary judgment and the burden of establishing that summary judgment is appropriate as a matter of law." Kannady v. City of Kiowa , 590 F.3d 1161, 1169 (10th Cir. 2010) (citing Trainor v. Apollo Metal Specialties, Inc. , 318 F.3d 976, 979 (10th Cir. 2003)). To meet this burden, the moving party "need not negate the non-movant's claim, but need only point to an absence of evidence to support the non-movant's claim." Id. (citing Sigmon v. CommunityCare HMO, Inc. , 234 F.3d 1121, 1125 (10th Cir. 2000)).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the non-moving party "may not rest on its pleadings, but must bring forward specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial as to those dispositive matters for which it carries the burden of proof.'" Id. (quoting Jenkins v. Wood , 81 F.3d 988, 990 (10th Cir. 1996)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248-49. "To accomplish this, the facts must be identified by reference to affidavits, deposition transcripts, or specific exhibits incorporated therein." Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Thomas v. Wichita Coca-Cola Bottling Co. , 968 F.2d 1022, 1024 (10th Cir.), cert. denied , 506 U.S. 1013 (1992)).

Summary judgment is not a "disfavored procedural shortcut." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 327. Rather, it is an important procedure "designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

The Court applies this same standard to cross motions for summary judgment. Each party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Atl. Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank of Wichita , 226 F.3d 1138, 1148 (10th Cir. 2000). Cross motions for summary judgment "are to be treated separately; the denial of one does not require the grant of another." Buell Cabinet Co. v. Sudduth , 608 F.2d 431, 433 (10th Cir. 1979). But where the cross motions overlap, the Court may address the legal arguments together. Berges v. Standard Ins. Co. , 704 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1155 (D. Kan. 2010) ...


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