written acknowledgment of paternity by the father.
Second, MetLife submits a letter to Teara from the United States Office of Personnel Management ("OPM"). The letter states that Teara is "eligible for continued health benefits coverage as the surviving child of Joseph P. Mobley." This document constitutes secondary evidence of the type referred to in 5 C.F.R. § 870.901(a)(2)(ii).
Jacqueline disputes the authenticity of the signature on the Patient Registration Form. She claims that it is forged, and submits other samples of Joseph's signature for comparison. She also argues that the samples show that Joseph was in the habit of signing his name as "Joseph P. Mobley," and that therefore the "Joseph Mobley" signature on the form was not his. Whether or not this signature is authentic constitutes an issue which the Court cannot resolve at the summary judgment stage. There is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Teara is a "recognized natural child" pursuant to FEGLIA. This issue must be resolved at trial.
Jacqueline also argues that the Court should accord credit to a decision reached in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. That decision held that Teara was not Joseph's child for purposes of probate proceedings involving another life insurance policy held by Joseph. There are two reasons why this decision is inapposite. First, the probate proceedings in Superior Court did not involve the life insurance policy at issue here and did not include MetLife as a party. Second, and more importantly, the Superior Court decision did not apply the definitions set forth in the FEGLIA regulations. The only reported federal decision considering the matter held that the FEGLIA and its "natural recognized child" regulation preempted conflicting state law. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Browning, 839 F. Supp. 1508, 1512 (W.D. Okla. 1993). See also Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Christ, 979 F.2d 575, 577-78 (7th Cir. 1992) (holding that other provision of FEGLIA preempts divorce decree).
Therefore, the Court cannot adopt the Superior Court's decision when the FEGLIA regulations suggest a different result. Furthermore, Jacqueline presented none of the evidence relied upon by the Superior Court in her motion here.
For the above-stated reasons, the Court will deny the motion for summary judgment. However, it will rule that the Superior Court decision is not binding on this Court. The Court will also deny Jacqueline's motion for punitive damages and attorney's fees against MetLife. MetLife's handling of this matter was completely appropriate and professional.
Susan has not filed a motion or presented any evidence arguing that she is the widow of Joseph for purposes of FEGLIA. If she is the widow, she would be entitled to the entire proceeds of the MetLife policy, including those portions already distributed to Jacqueline and Jason. It is not clear whether Susan intends to assert any right to those proceeds. Her answer and counterclaim maintain that she is the widow of Joseph, but at various times she has represented to MetLife that she would not pursue the issue. Affidavit of Charles Wallace, submitted with MetLife's Response to Motion for Declaratory Judgment. Therefore, the Court will provide Susan with an opportunity to raise this issue and provide the necessary evidence, but the Court will not delay other proceedings in this case.
It is therefore ORDERED that the motion for summary judgment is DENIED.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that the above-mentioned Superior Court decision shall not have preclusive effect on the FEGLIA analysis this Court must perform.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion for punitive damages and attorney's fees is DENIED.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that a status call and pretrial conference shall be held on Thursday, December 7, 1995, at 1:30 p.m.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that a bench trial shall be held on Monday, December 11, 1995, at 9:30 a.m. The plaintiff's request for a jury trial is denied. Though she deems this suit a "declaratory judgment action," for which the right to a jury trial is guaranteed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 57, it is properly construed as an interpleader action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a). Interpleader actions are tried by the Court in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2361.
November 29th, 1995
Thomas F. Hogan
United States District Judge