United States District Court, D. Oregon
TAMISHA RAE DUNN, Cross-Claimant / Cross-Defendant in Interpleader,
KRISTEENA ROBINSON, in her capacity as guardian ad litem to I.R., Cross-Defendant / Cross-Claimant in Interpleader.
OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Paul Papak United States Magistrate Judge
Insurance Company of America ("Prudential") filed
this action in interpleader against Tamisha Rae Dunn (the
domestic partner of Prudential's insured at the time of
the insured's decease), minor child I.R.
(Prudential's insured's minor daughter), and
Kristeena Robinson ("Robinson, " Prudential's
insured's former wife) in her capacity as guardian ad
litem to I.R. on May 10, 2016. By and through its
complaint in interpleader, Prudential alleged that prior to
his decease, its insured Sean Robinson (Prudential's
"insured") received life insurance coverage under a
group insurance plan (the "Plan") Prudential issued
to CUNA Mutual Group, the insured's then-employer.
Prudential further alleged that the insured designated I.R.
as his sole beneficiary in connection with Plan benefits on
October 15, 2015, that on or around November 5, 2015, the
insured expressed his intention to change that designation to
name Dunn as his sole beneficiary of Plan benefits, and that
on December 25, 2015, the insured died, triggering a $221,
000 life insurance benefit under the Plan. Prudential further
alleged that on December 31, 2015, the insured's former
employer made a claim on the Plan for the benefit on behalf
of I.R., and that Dunn made a similar claim, on her own
behalf, on February 8, 2016. By and through its complaint,
Prudential sought judicial resolution of the competing claims
for Plan benefits made on behalf of I.R. and Dunn.
11, 2016, Dunn filed a cross-claim against I.R. and Robinson
seeking this court's declaration that she (Dunn) is the
sole valid designee for puiposes of determining the
beneficiary of the insured's Plan benefits, and on that
same day Robinson filed a cross-claim against Dunn on
I.R.'s behalf seeking this court's declaration that
I.R. is the sole valid designee. On August 3, 2016,
Prudential deposited money in the amount of the disputed life
insurance benefit into escrow for the benefit of the
insured's beneficiary, following which it was discharged
from this action. This court has subject-matter jurisdiction
over this interpleader action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1335 and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2).
before the court are Robinson's motion (#22) for summary
judgment and Dunn's cross-motion (#23) for summary
judgment as to the remaining parties' competing claims
for declaratory relief. I have considered the motion, oral
argument on behalf of the parties, and all of the pleadings
and papers on file. For the reasons set forth below,
Robinson's motion (#22) for summary judgment is granted,
Dunn's motion (#23) for summary judgment is denied, and
this court declares that I.R. is the insured's sole
beneficiary for the purpose of Plan life insurance benefits,
and is the person entitled to receive the entirety of the
proceeds of those benefits from the escrow account into which
they have been deposited.
judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party taking the position that a
material fact either "cannot be or is genuinely
disputed" must support that position either by citation
to specific evidence of record "including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes
of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or
other materials, " by showing that the evidence of
record does not establish either the presence or absence of
such a dispute, or by showing that an opposing party is
unable to produce sufficient admissible evidence to establish
the presence or absence of such a dispute. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). The substantive law governing a claim or defense
determines whether a fact is material. See Moreland v.
Las Vegas Metro. Police Dept 159 F.3d 365, 369 (9th Cir.
judgment is not proper if material factual issues exist for
trial. See, e.g., Celotex Corp, v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 318, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Warren v. City of
Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441 (9th Cir. 1995), cert,
denied, 116 S.Ct. 1261 (1996). In evaluating a motion
for summary judgment, the district courts of the United
States must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party, and may neither make credibility
determinations nor perform any weighing of the evidence.
See, e.g., Lytle v. Household Mfg., Inc., 494 U.S.
545, 554-55 (1990); Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must consider
each motion separately to determine whether either party has
met its burden with the facts construed in the light most
favorable to the other. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56;
see also, e.g., Fair Notts. Council v. Riverside
Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001). A court may
not grant summary judgment where the court finds unresolved
issues of material fact, even where the parties allege the
absence of any material disputed facts. See id.
an Oregon resident who at the time of the insured's
decease was his domestic partner. I.R. is the insured's
minor daughter, Robinson is I.R.'s mother and guardian
ad litem, and was the insured's ex-wife prior to
Material Factual History
material times prior to his decease, the insured was employed
by the CUNA Mutual Group, also known as CMFG Life Insurance
Company ("CUNA"). See Dunn's Motion
(#23) for Summary Judgment, Exh. 2 (Deposition of Brenda
Schmidt (collectively with Robinson's Motion (#22) for
Summary Judgment, Exh. A, "Schmidt Depo."),
6:21-23. During the tenure of his employment, CUNA provided
the insured with a basic life insurance policy pursuant to an
Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA")
plan (the Plan), in connection with which CUNA was the Plan
administrator. See id., 7:2 - 8:4; see also
Dunn's Motion (#23) for Summary Judgment, Exh, 4
("Plan Summary"); Schmidt Depo., Exh. 2 ("Plan
Document"). Pursuant to the Plan, Prudential agreed to
pay the insured's designated beneficiary a benefit of
twice the insured's annual salary in the event of the
insured's death prior to the end of the month in which he
attained age 70. See Plan Summary at 4, The Plan
provided that the insured could "change the [designated]
Beneficiary at any time without the consent of the present
Beneficiary, unless [he] ha[d] made an irrevocable choice of
Beneficiary." Id. at 27. It is undisputed that
the insured herein never made an irrevocable choice of
beneficiary at any material time. See Schmidt Depo.,
12:19-25. The Plan further provided that such a change
"must be filed through ...