United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JOSEPH B. FITZPATRICK, III Plaintiff
PATRICK AND BONNIE VASSALOTTI, co-legal custodians of minor children E.F. and R.F., Defendants.
John E. Jones III J.
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants, Patrick and Bonnie Vassalotti (collectively
“the Vassalottis”), Co-Legal Custodians of Minor
Children E.F. and R. F. (“the Motion”)(Doc. 55).
The Motion has been fully briefed by the parties (Docs.
56-60, 63) and is therefore ripe for our review. For the
reasons that follow, we shall grant summary judgment in favor
of the Vassalottis.
interpleader action was filed on October 14, 2015 by
Reliastar Life Insurance Company (“Reliastar”).
Reliastar filed the action to resolve the competing claims of
certain individuals for proceeds of a $500, 000 twenty-year
term policy purchased on the life of Annemarie Fitzpatrick
(“the decedent” or “Mrs.
Fitzpatrick”) who died on June 6, 2012. The competing
claimants are Joseph Bernard Fitzpatrick, III (“Mr.
Fitzpatrick”) and Patrick and Bonnie Vassalotti,
custodians of minor children E.F. and R.F. Mr. Fitzpatrick,
the decedent's husband, was charged with and convicted of
the decedent's murder.E.F. and R.F. are the decedent's
children, over whom the Vassalottis have had custody
following the decedent's death and Mr. Fitzpatrick's
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate if the moving party establishes
“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 dispute is
“genuine” only if there is a sufficient
evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the
non-moving party, and a fact is “material” only
if it might affect the outcome of the action under the
governing law. See Sovereign Bank v. BJ's Wholesale
Club, Inc., 533 F.3d 162, 172 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). A court should view the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable
inferences therefrom, and should not evaluate credibility or
weigh the evidence. See Guidotti v. Legal Helpers
Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764, 772 (3d
Cir. 2013) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods.,
Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).
the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, and upon
satisfaction of that burden, the non-movant must go beyond
the pleadings, pointing to particular facts that evidence a
genuine dispute for trial. See Id. at 773 (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
In advancing their positions, the parties must support their
factual assertions by citing to specific parts of the record
or by “showing that the materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
should not grant summary judgment when there is a
disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a
fact finder could draw from them. See Reedy v.
Evanson, 615 F.3d 197, 210 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing
Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d
81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982)). Still, “the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.” Layshock ex rel. Layshock v.
Hermitage Sch. Dist., 650 F.3d 205, 211 (3d Cir. 2011)
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
1, 2010, Reliastar issued a life insurance policy (the
“Policy”) for Annemarie Fitzpatrick, the
decedent. (Doc. 56, ¶1). The decedent died on June 6,
2012. (Doc. 56, ¶2). The Policy identified Mr.
Fitzpatrick as the primary beneficiary. (Doc. 56, ¶3).
The Policy identified the decedent's children, E.F. and
R. F., as contingent beneficiaries. (Doc. 56, ¶4). At
the time of her death, the decedent had 2 minor children.
Child #1 is currently sixteen years old and Child #2 is
currently 13 years old. (Doc. 56, ¶¶8-10).
13, 2015, Mr. Fitzpatrick was convicted of first-degree
murder in the death of the decedent in the Court of Common
Pleas of York County and sentenced to life in prison. (Doc.
56, ¶5). On post-trial motions, the trial court reversed
the conviction based on insufficiency of the evidence. The
Commonwealth appealed the trial court's decision to the
Superior Court of Pennsylvania. In an opinion issued on April
12, 2017, the Superior Court reversed and remanded “to
the trial court with direction to reinstate the jury's
guilty verdict and original judgment of sentence.”
Commonwealth v. Fitzpatrick, 159 A.3d 562, 572 (Pa.
Super. Ct. 2017). On October 23, 2017, the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court denied Mr. Fitzpatrick's Petition for
Allowance of Appeal. (Doc. 63, ¶7, Ex. C). Thereafter,
on December 6, 2017, the York County Court of Common Pleas
reinstated the guilty verdict. (Doc. 63, ¶8, Ex. D).
Vassalottis move for summary judgment in this matter on the
basis that Mr. Fitzpatrick is the slayer of the decedent, and
as such he forfeits his claim as a beneficiary to the
decedent's life insurance policy proceeds. As a result,
the Vassalottis posit that the policy proceeds should be
distributed to them, as they are the legal custodians of E.F.
and R.F., the contingent beneficiaries under the policy. We
Pennsylvania law, a “slayer” is prohibited from
collecting life insurance proceeds. See 20 Pa. C.S.
§ 8802. It is undisputed that Mr. Fitzpatrick is the
slayer of his wife, the decedent, Annemarie Fitzpatrick.
(See Doc. 63, ¶8, Ex. D). As such, he is
prohibited from collecting the insurance policy proceeds due
under the Reliastar policy. As a result of this
determination, E.F. and R.F. are the rightful beneficiaries
of the life insurance policy proceeds. Accordingly, summary