United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MITCHELL United States Magistrate Judge.
pending before the Court is a Motion for Permanent Injunction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2361 filed on behalf of
Plaintiff Jackson National Life Insurance Company
(“Jackson National”). For the reasons stated
herein, the motion will be granted.
we write solely for the parties we will keep our background
summary as succinct as possible. For a more detailed summary,
see Mem. P. and Order dated Feb. 23, 2016 [ECF No.
63] (staying and administratively closing this case).
National initiated this action by filing a Complaint in
Interpleader as the action arises out of conflicting multiple
claims to the proceeds of three life insurance annuity
policies (“the Policies”) issued by Jackson
National to Flora Yurkanin. who died testate on January 17,
2015. [ECF No. 1]. Defendants herein are claimants Lonnie
Brice, Lisa Donovan, Brian Laurich, Alexander Polkowski, and
Richard Polkowski (hereinafter “Beneficiaries”),
as well as adverse claimant, represented by separate counsel,
April 13, 2015, Jackson National filed the instant action in
the United States District Court for the Middle District of
Pennsylvania at Case Number 3:15-cv-00717 (Conaboy, J). On
July 17, 2015, Jackson National filed its Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings and supporting Brief. [ECF Nos. 25, 26]. On
June 19, 2015 Judge Conaboy ordered the parties to file
briefs setting forth all relevant factual and legal issues
supporting their competing claims to the proceeds of three
annuities within thirty days.
apparently dissatisfied with Jackson National's choice of
forum, certain Defendants filed a subsequent Action for
Declaratory Judgment and Other Relief in the Westmoreland
County Orphan's Court on July 10, 2015
(“Westmoreland County Action”). [ECF No. 29-1].
defendants then filed a motion for extension of time to file
briefs in the instant action, which was granted. Briefs
supporting competing claims were due August 10, 2015. [ECF
No. 27]. On July 31, 2015, certain Defendants herein filed a
motion to stay [ECF No. 28], which Jackson National and
claimant Lunt opposed [ECF Nos. 31, 34].
Conaboy granted Jackson National's Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings by Order dated November 23, 2015, stating that
Jackson National “is released from any further
liability in this matter.” [ECF No. 36]. The Motion was
uncontested and “Defendants have explicitly concurred
in Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings.” [ECF No. 37-3] The Court ordered Jackson
National to pay the entire accrued sums on its annuity
policies into that Court's registry and released Jackson
National from further liability. [ECF No. 36]. Judge Conaboy
ruled that Jackson National has no interest in who receives
the proceeds of the subject death benefits, and that Jackson
National filed suit to protect itself from financial
liability that could have arisen if Jackson National paid the
proceeds to the wrong party. [ECF No. 37]. “The
Plaintiff's only interest here is to make the policy
proceeds available to whichever party or parties is
ultimately judicially determined to be the appropriate
recipient.” [ECF No. 37 at 3].
December 10, 2015, those sums were so received by the Court.
On December 11, 2015, Judge Conaboy summarily denied the
Motion to Stay Proceedings in federal court and sua
sponte directed transfer of the case to this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). [ECF No. 38 at 6.]
December 21, 2015, this Court entered an Order that the Clerk
of Court for this district deposit to the registry of this
court the proceeds of the three annuity policies whose
beneficiary designation is at issue. Those sums were so
deposited and totaled $141, 003.40.
February 23, 2016, this Court stayed this case “pending
resolution of the litigation in the Court of Common Pleas of
Westmoreland County at No. 65-15-0133” and
administratively closed the case but stated that
“[s]hould further proceedings therein become necessary
or desirable, either party may initiate them in the same
manner as if the Order had not been entered.” [ECF No.
63]. The resolution of the conflicting claims to the death
benefits has been left in the hands of the state court, and
the funds remain held pending that outcome.
National is a named defendant in a declaratory judgment
action in the Westmoreland County Action [ECF No. 66-1].
Plaintiffs therein at Count I request entry of a declaratory
judgment that they are the proper beneficiaries of the
annuity policies and that Jackson National must pay the
interpled death benefits to plaintiffs therein (and not
claimant Linda Lunt). Count II alleges breach of contract,
averring Jackson National owed the beneficiaries a
contractual duty to properly pay the policy benefits,
breached the duty by failing to pay the benefits, and lacked
justification or good faith basis to withhold the benefits
and to commence its suit in the Middle District of
Pennsylvania, and finally, that Jackson National is obligated
to pay plaintiffs therein under the term of the policies at
time we entered our order staying this case, the Westmoreland
County Action was also stayed pending disposition of this
federal interpleader action. The Court presumed that in
accord with the Judgment on the Pleadings granted in favor of
Jackson National it would similarly be relieved of liability
in the state court action. That has not
February 10, 2017 Jackson National filed the present motion
for a permanent injunction. The matter has been fully