United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves, United States District Judge.
Union Security Insurance Company (“Union
Security”) brings this interpleader action seeking to
resolve a controversy concerning the payment of life
insurance proceeds. Defendants Timothy and Margaret
(“Maggie”) Hockensmith (“the
Hockensmiths”) have filed motions for judgment on the
pleadings [Record No. 11] and to dismiss the interpleader
action [Record No. 30]. Union Security has filed a motion to
dismiss the Hockensmiths' counterclaims [Record No. 17]
and the Hockensmiths have moved for leave to amend their
counterclaims [Record No. 24');">24].
Mora (“Mora” or the “decedent”) was
formerly employed by Vuteq USA, Inc. (“Vuteq”)
and participated in its employee welfare benefit plan
(“the Plan”), which provided life insurance
benefits. [Record No. 1, p. 3 ¶ 9] Union Security
insured the Plan under Group Term Life Insurance Policy
Number G 5469917. Mora had life insurance benefits under the
policy in the amount of $41, 000.00. Id. at ¶
policy provided that the life insurance proceeds would be
paid to Mora's beneficiary upon her death. The policy
defined “beneficiary” as “the person or
entity you choose to receive your amount of insurance at your
death.” Id. at ¶ 14. Mora was free to
change the beneficiary at any time, but such requests had to
be signed and in writing, and in a form acceptable to Union
Security. Requests to change a beneficiary could be sent to
Union Security's home office or Vuteq's main office.
[See Record No. 1-1. p. 24');">24.] The policy provided
default beneficiaries in the event a beneficiary was not
named or the beneficiary was not living at the time of the
policyholder's death. [Record No. 1 at ¶ 14]
Security informed Mora by letter dated August 25, 2015, that
it did not have a beneficiary designation on file and asked
her to complete and return one. Id. at ¶ 18.
However, Mora passed away on January 21, 2016, without having
returned the form. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.
Mora's ex-husband, Timothy Hockensmith
(“Timothy”) asserted a claim for benefits under
the policy in April 2016. Id. at ¶ 20. Shortly
thereafter, Mora's sister-in-law, Shawna Passero, filed
an “incomplete claim, ” which appeared to be made
on behalf of Mora's estate. Id. at ¶ 21.
Passero advised Union Security that she intended to assert a
claim on behalf of herself and Mora's daughter Maggie,
who was a minor at the time. Mora's sister, Guadalupe
America Mora Chichino (“America”), asserted a
claim for benefits under the policy in October 2016.
Id. at ¶ 22.
Security sought to determine Mora's true beneficiary in
light of the competing claims. While it did not have a
signed, written beneficiary designation in its records, Union
Security's “census records” from 2015
indicated that Mora signed a beneficiary designation on May
8, 2014, naming America as the sole primary beneficiary.
Union Security asked Vuteq to provide a copy of the
beneficiary designation that it had in its file. Vuteq had
Mora's original application for coverage in 1999, which
named her mother, Margarita Chichino
(“Margarita”), and her daughter Maggie as primary
beneficiaries. Id. at ¶ 25. Vuteq also provided
a signed statement to Union Security which provides:
I, Doreen St. Onge, reviewed the beneficiary designation
signed by Lucia Mora under policy 5469917/0/1. The
beneficiary designation appeared to be signed by the insured,
was dated after June 1, 2014, and named Timothy Hockensmith
as the sole primary beneficiary. I also hereby certify the
original beneficiary designation was mailed to Mr. Timothy
Hockensmith, and a copy was not retained in our records.
Id. at ¶ 24');">24. Timothy advised Union Security
that he did not have a copy of the document.
also had a record of a 2011 divorce decree under which
Timothy agreed to “waive, release, and relinquish unto
[Mora] . . . all of his right, title, and interest in and to
all property now owned or hereafter acquired by [Mora],
including . . . the right to take any non-probate assets of
the other (such as life insurance proceeds . . .) for which
Husband may be named beneficiary . . . .” Id.
at ¶ 26.
Security filed this action in interpleader naming Timothy,
Maggie, America, Shawna, and Margarita as defendants. 28
U.S.C. § 1331; 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.
It appears that Shawna has been served with the Complaint,
but has not filed an Answer or otherwise made an appearance.
[See Record No. 7.] Union Security is still
attempting to serve the remaining defendants in Mexico.
[See Record Nos. 33-35.]
Hockensmiths have moved for judgment on the pleadings under
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or,
alternatively, for summary judgment under Rule 56. [Record
No. 11] A party's Rule 12(c) motion is properly granted
when there is no issue of material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. JPMorgan
Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 10 F.3d 577');">510 F.3d 577, 582
(6th Cir. 2007). The Court accepts as true “all
well-pleaded material allegations, ” but “need
not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual
inferences.” Id. at 581-82 (quoting Mixon
v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389');">193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999)).
to dismiss under Rule 12(c) are reviewed under the same
standard as those under Rule 12(b)(6). Lindsay v.
Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 437 n.5 (6th Cir. 2007). To survive
a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must
allege sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief
that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Peatross v. City
of Memphis, 18 F.3d 233');">818 F.3d 233, 239-40 (6th Cir. 2016). The
Court may consider exhibits attached to the Complaint so long
as they are referred to in ...