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Equicor v. Messinger

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 15, 2014

EQUICOR, Plaintiff,
v.
TAMMALA D. MESSINGER, DARLENE M. MESSINGER, DESIREE PYTLAK, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This is an action brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Security Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 1001 et seq. (ERISA), and involves a claim for benefits on a life insurance policy owned by the estate of decedent, Robert G. Messinger, a former employee of United States Steel, in the amount of $16, 750.00.

Mr. Messinger died on December 14, 1992, and following his death, three persons made claims to his life insurance policy: his current wife, Tammala D. Mesinger, who was the designated beneficiary on the policy; his former wife, Darlene Messinger; and his daughter, Desiree Pytlak. Equicor then filed an interpleader action in this Court, and the funds have remained with this Court since being paid in by Equicor in 1993. There has been no action on this case since that time. However, on February 14, 2013, Tammala Messinger's attorney, received notice from this Court that this case was still pending (doc. no. 23), and her attorney, William Garvin, then filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on March 12, 2014. On that same date, a response was ordered for March 21, 2014 at noon. When Mr. Garvin filed a notice of death of opposing counsel, on March 21, 2014 (doc. no. 27), the Court then ordered Mr. Garvin, as attorney for Defendant Tammala Messinger, to "promptly serve notice of this Order on Defendant Desiree Pytlak." Further, the Court ordered Defendant Pytlak to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment on or before April 9, 2014. On April 3, 2014, Mr. Garvin filed a proof of service indicating that on March 26, 2014, Darlene Messinger (mother of Defendant Pytlak) signed for the certified mailing of the documents (doc. no. 28).

As of this date, the Court has received no communication or written response from Defendant Pytlak. Pending before this Court is Defendant Tammala Messinger's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. no. 24), with no opposition thereto.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, "the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Melrose, Inc. v. Pittsburgh , 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2010). Manolovich v. Park , 461 Fed.Appx. 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2012).

A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, (1986); see also Lamont v. New Jersey , 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011). Smith v. Borough of Dunmore , 516 Fed.Appx. 194, 200 (3d Cir. 2013). Disputes must be both (1) material, meaning concerning facts that will affect the outcome of the issue under substantive law, and (2) genuine, meaning there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute "to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." In re Lemington Home for Aged , 659 F.3d 282, 290 (3d Cir. 2011); see also S.H. ex rel. Durrell v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 729 F.3d 248 (3d Cir. 2013).

A party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of supporting its assertion that fact(s) cannot be genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the record - i.e., depositions, documents, affidavits, stipulations, or other materials - or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by the non-moving party do not establish the presence of a genuine dispute, or (2) that the non-moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The moving party may discharge its burden by "pointing out to the district court" the "absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case" when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof for the claim in question. Conoshenti v. Public Service Elec. & Gas Co , 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections , 266 F.3d 186, 192 n. 2 (3d Cir. 2001)). Estate of Beim v. Hirsch , 121 Fed.Appx. 950, 953 (3d Cir. 2005).

Conversely, in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must support its assertion that fact(s) are genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the record, or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by the moving party do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute, or (2) the moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact, all inferences should be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Gallup v. Clarion Sintered Metals, Inc. , 489 Fed.Appx. 553, 555 (3d Cir. 2012); Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. v. Colkitt , 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court does not make credibility determinations, and summary judgment is "inappropriate when a case will turn on credibility determinations." El v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Authority , 479 F.3d 232 (3d Cir. 2007).

III. Factual History

For purposes of this Opinion, the following facts are not in dispute:

1. Robert Messinger had a life insurance policy as part of his pension benefits ...


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