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Edwards v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 4, 2015

LAURA LEE WILLS EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE CO., Defendant. METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE CO., Counter-Claim and Third Party Interpleader Plaintiff,
v.
LAURA LEE WILLS EDWARDS, CAROLYN IVORY, and MIRIAM BROWN, Counter-Claim and Third Party Interpleader Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

ALETA A. TRAUGER, District Judge.

Pending before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 26) filed by the plaintiff, Laura Lee Will Edwards. The remaining parties to the action, [1] Third Party Interpleader Defendants Carolyn Ivory and Miriam Brown, have not opposed the motion. For the reasons discussed herein, the plaintiff's motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

I. Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Facts

In support of the pending motion, the plaintiff has filed a Statement of Undisputed Facts ("PSUF") in conformity with the federal and local rules (Docket No. 27). Pursuant to Local Rule 56.01, because the other parties have failed to respond to the PSUF, the court considers the plaintiff's asserted facts to be undisputed for purposes of her summary judgment motion.

II. Relevant Facts

The plaintiff is the natural daughter of Harry Debernia Wills ("HW"). HW, who was born on September 24, 1950, retired from the General Electric Company as the owner of a life insurance policy that was administered by MetLife (the "Policy"). The Policy provides life insurance coverage in the amount of $43, 062. An initial form designating beneficiaries for the Policy is dated January 21, 1995. It designates Evelyn Wills ("EW"), HW's wife, as the primary beneficiary ("Initial Beneficiary Form"). The Initial Beneficiary Form identifies the plaintiff, Ivory, and Brown (who are also daughters of HW) as contingent beneficiaries.

On May 11, 2009, EW executed a Power of Attorney that designated HW as her agent. On September 8, 2011, apparently while EW was still alive, HW executed a Change of Beneficiary Form ("Change Form"). The Change Form designates the plaintiff as the primary beneficiary of the Policy and identifies Rodney Moore, HW's stepson, as the contingent beneficiary. The Change Form requires two signatures for execution: (1) a signature from HW, the insured; and (2) a signature from HW's spouse. In both signature fields, HW signed his name and wrote the letters "POA" after his signature. MetLife accepted the Change Form on September 27, 2011.

At some point in time after the Change Form was executed, EW died, predeceasing HW. HW died on March 8, 2014. The plaintiff submits as an undisputed fact that HW signed the Change Form designating the plaintiff as his sole beneficiary voluntarily and intentionally. The plaintiff further submits that, when HW signed the Change Form, he was of sound mind. It is further undisputed that HW was not declared incompetent at any time before his death.

III. Procedural Background

On August 5, 2014, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Chancery Court for Sumner County, Tennessee, seeking a declaratory judgment. (Docket No. 1, Ex. 1.) Specifically, the plaintiff requested that the court declare her the sole beneficiary of her father's life insurance policy. MetLife removed the case to this court on September 10, 2014. (Docket No. 1.)

On October 16, 2014, MetLife filed its Answer to the Complaint and a Third Party Complaint for Interpleader against Brown and Ivory, HW's other daughters. (Docket No. 7.) MetLife also filed a counterclaim against the plaintiff related to its interpleader claim. In its interpleader complaint, MetLife wrote that, because HW signed both the signature field for the insured (himself) and for his spouse (EW) on the Change Form using the letters "POA, " MetLife is unable to determine whether the form was signed by HW or someone other than HW.

According to the interpleader complaint, on April 22, 2014, the plaintiff submitted a claim form to MetLife for HW's life insurance benefits under the Policy. MetLife alleged that, because of the confusion as to whether HW signed the Change Form personally, it contacted Brown, Ivory, and the plaintiff on July 28, 2014, advising them that their claims for benefits were adverse and suggesting that the parties reach a compromise among themselves. It appears that an agreement among the parties was not reached and, in August 2014, Ivory and Brown filed their respective claims to MetLife for benefits under the policies.

On December 2, 2014, Ivory and Brown filed an Answer to the Third Party Interpleader Complaint. (Docket No. 15.) In their Answer, Ivory and Brown admitted all of the allegations of the Third Party Interpleader Complaint and requested that ...


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