United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
GIBSO, NUNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Third-Party Defendant Charles Wilcox (ECF No. 25). The Motion
is fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 26, 27, 42, 43, 44)
and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the
Court will DENY Charles Wilcox's Motion
for Summary Judgment.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332 because the parties are completely diverse and the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Venue is proper under
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial portion of the
events giving rise to the claims occurred in the Western
District of Pennsylvania.
case involves a dispute between Kreger and Charles Wilcox
about which one of them is the rightful beneficiary of a life
insurance policy held by Janet Wilcox, now deceased. The
Court will briefly summarize the relevant procedural history
before turning to the facts.
filed an action against Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance
Company ("Hartford") in the Court of Common Pleas
of Somerset County on March 15, 2017. (ECF No. 1 at 2.)
Kreger asserted two counts against Hartford: (1) a claim for
declaratory judgment that Kreger is the Beneficiary under Ms.
Wilcox's Hartford Life Insurance Policy
("Policy") and (2) a claim for breach of contract
for Hartford's failure to distribute the Death Benefits
payable under Ms. Wilcox's Policy to Kreger upon Ms.
Wilcox's death. (Id. at 5-14.)
removed the action to this Court on April 10, 2017.
(Id.) Shortly thereafter, Hartford filed a
Third-Party Complaint for Interpleader against Charles Wilcox
who, like Kreger, submitted a claim to Hartford for the Death
Benefit payable under Ms. Wilcox's Policy. (ECF No. 2.)
Charles Wilcox filed a crossclaim against Kreger, seeking a
declaratory judgment that he- rather than Kreger-is the
Beneficiary under Ms. Wilcox's Policy. (ECF No. 11.)
to a Consent Order entered by the Court on February 16, 2018,
Hartford deposited Ms. Wilcox's Death Benefit (totaling
$120, 490.00) with the Clerk of Court. (ECF No. 33.) The
Consent Order discharged Hartford "from any and all
liability to Kreger and [Charles] Wilcox relating to or
arising out of the Policy and/or Death Benefit, and all
claims, rights, interests, and actions that Kreger and
[Charles] Wilcox might otherwise have held against Hartford .
. . ." (Id. at 2.) Accordingly, Hartford is out
of the case. The only remaining issue is whether Kreger or
Charles Wilcox is the Beneficiary of the Death Benefit which
Hartford paid pursuant to Ms. Wilcox's Policy.
Wilcox obtained her Policy from ITT Life Insurance,
predecessor to Hartford, in 1993. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 1;
ECF No. 42 at ¶ 1.) Ms. Wilcox died on December 6, 2016,
as a result of a "sudden cardiac event." (ECF No.
27 at ¶ 6; ECF No. 42 at ¶ 6.) As a result of her
death, a Death Benefit of $120, 490.00 is payable under Ms.
Wilcox's Policy. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 2; ECF No. 42 at
Wilcox listed Charles Wilcox as the Beneficiary on her
application for the Policy. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 5; ECF No.
42 at ¶ 5.) On March 29, 2015, Ms. Wilcox signed two
change of beneficiary forms stating that Ms. Wilcox wished to
insert Kreger as her Beneficiary. (ECF No. 26 at 6; ECF No.
42 at ¶¶ 11, 13, 16.) Hartford received these forms
and, in a letter dated April 24, 2015, informed Ms. Wilcox
that it was "unable to process the request at this
time" for two reasons: Ms. Wilcox had submitted old
forms which Hartford no longer accepted and the forms she
submitted contained corrections, whiteouts, and/or erasures.
(ECF No. 27 at ¶ 17; ECF No. 42 at ¶ 17.) The April
24, 2015 letter informed Ms. Wilcox that she needed to submit
a valid change of beneficiary form to complete her change of
beneficiary request. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 17; ECF No. 42 at
¶ 17.) According to Hartford's letter, Hartford
enclosed a valid change of beneficiary form in the notice it
sent back to Ms. Wilcox. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 17; ECF No. 42
at ¶ 17.) Hartford "mailed" the April 24, 2015
letter to Ms. Wilcox's residential address. (ECF No. 27
at ¶ 18; ECF No. 42 at ¶ 18.)
Wilcox never filed a valid change of beneficiary form. (ECF
No. 27 at ¶ 19; ECF No. 42 at ¶ 19.) In fact,
Hartford never received any additional correspondence or
communication from Ms. Wilcox regarding changing the
Beneficiary of her Policy. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 19; ECF No.
42 at ¶ 19.) Between April 24, 2015 and her death, Ms.
Wilcox was mentally sound and capable of filling out a change
of beneficiary form. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 21; ECF No. 42 at
is the executrix of Ms. Wilcox's estate. (ECF No. 27 at
¶ 25; ECF No. 42 at ¶ 25.)