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Prudential Insurance Company of America v. Alkhafaji

June 1, 2010

THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FATIN ALKHAFAJI IN HER CAPACITY AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ABBASS ALKHAFAJI, A.A. A MINOR, ALLIAH ALKHAFAJI, SHAEMAH ALKHAFAJI, BETOOL ALI IN HER CAPACITY AS EXECUTOR/ ADMINISTRATOR/ TRUSTEE/ REPRESENTATIVE OR GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE OF HAMZIAH ALKHAFAJI, AND SANA ALI IN HER CAPACITY AS GUADIAN FOR A.A. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 24)

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

A. Introduction

At issue in this case is whether plaintiff, The Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential"), may disburse the disputed death benefits reward from an insurance policy through an interpleader action. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment in an attempt to adjudicate its rights to an escrow fund in a single action through interpleader pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 67, and 28 U.S.C. § 2361. The Court will grant the plaintiff's complaint in interpleader and will grant summary judgment because defendants, five alleged beneficiaries, assert "adverse" claims against each other and Prudential has no interest in the disputed death benefits reward.

B. Procedural History

On November 5, 2009, Prudential filed a complaint in interpleader in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Defendants Fatin Alkhafaji ("Fatin"), in her capacity as Administrator of the Estate of the Insured, A. A., a minor at the time Prudential's Complaint was filed, ("A. A."), Sana Ali ("Sana"), in her capacity as guardian of A. A., Alyah Alkhafaji ("Alyah"), Shaemah Alkhafaji ("Shaemah"), and Betool Ali ("Betool"), in her capacity as Executor, Administrator, Trustee, Representative and/or Guardian of the Estate of Hamziah, are named in this action as putative beneficiaries of a Prudential group life insurance policy insuring the life of the Insured. Sana has been appointed permanent plenary guardian of the person and estate of A. A. by the Court of Commons Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Orphans' Court Division, which has adjudged A. A. to be incapacitated.

Plaintiff moved for summary judgment (Doc. No. 24) on June 10, 2010, seeking the following relief: the appointment of Sana as guardian ad litem to A. A.; the appointment of Betool Ali ("Ali") as representative of the estate of Hamziah Alkhafaji ("Hamziah"); direct Prudential to deposit the sum of $50,000.00, together with claim interest, if any, into the Court's Registry; direct all defendants to interplead their claims to the insurance death benefit; discharge Prudential from any and all liability with respect to the subject insurance policy and payment of the death benefit; and dismiss Prudential from this action with prejudice. Four of the five defendants*fn1 responded; none of the responses opposed Prudential's motion. See Defendants' Responses, Doc. Nos. 25-28. Defendant Ali has not responded to the Plaintiff's motion.

C. Statement of Fact

In 1987 Abbass Alkhafaji ("Insured") purchased a $50,000 life insurance policy from Prudential. The policy had three beneficiaries, Alliah, entitled to 35%, Shaemah, entitled to 35%, and Hamziah, entitled to 30%. See Plaintiff's Brief in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. No. 24-1. In 1995, the Insured changed the beneficiaries of his policy by giving Prudential a Change in Beneficiary Form, which is the proper procedure set out by the Insured's policy to change beneficiaries. Id. In the reformed policy, the Insured downgraded Shaemah to 30% and he took Hamziah off the policy. Id. The Insured added A.A., a minor represented by Sana, as a beneficiary of the policy and entitled him to 35% of the policy. Id. The policy remained the same for Alliah. The Insured died in 2007. Id. A dispute arose as to who should be the beneficiaries among the defendants. Id. None of the defendants are claiming that Prudential owes more than the amount of the death benefit reward, which is $50,000. Id. Rather, the parties dispute who is entitled to receive the payment of the death benefit reward. Id.

After careful review of plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, the briefs filed, the statement of material facts, the Court finds, as a matter of law based upon undisputed material facts, that plaintiff is entitled to interplead the proceeds of the insurance policy. Because a reasonable jury could not find otherwise on the record before the Court, the Court will grant the Motion for Summary Judgment for plaintiff for the reasons to follow.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2) currently provides that on a motion for summary judgment, the "judgment sought should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." "Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 'mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). Summary judgment is appropriate "'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Woodside v. Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia Bd. of Educ., 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Foehl v. United States, 238 F.3d 474, 477 (3d Cir. 2001) (citations omitted)).

An issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Doe v. Abington Friends Sch., 480 F.3d 252, 256 (3d Cir. 2007) ("A genuine issue is present when a reasonable trier of fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally find in favor of the non-moving party in light of his burden of proof.") (citing Anderson and Celotex Corp.)Recently, the United States Supreme Court emphasized, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving ...


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