The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah Ann Robinson, United States Magistrate Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On January 1, 1990, plaintiff issued a life insurance policy
purchased by the law firm of Speiser, Krause & Madole, P.C.
Complaint, ¶ 8. Donald Madole married defendant Judith Madole in
August, 1990. See Complaint, Exhibit E. On October 9, 1996,
Donald Madole died. Complaint, ¶ 9. According to plaintiff's
files, the designated beneficiary on the policy at the time of
Donald Madole's death was his daughter, defendant Kinskey.
Complaint, ¶ 10. No beneficiary change form was on file with
plaintiff. Id. On or about November 15, 1996, plaintiff
received a claimant's certificate from defendant Judith Madole,
Donald Madole's widow and the executrix of his estate. Complaint,
¶ 9. On or about January 7, 1997, plaintiff received a claimant's
certificate from defendant Kinskey. Complaint, ¶ 11.
On February 10, 1997, plaintiff received from defendant Judith
Madole's counsel copies of two letters. Complaint, ¶ 12. The
first letter, "proportedly submitted" to plaintiff on July 31,
1990, was from Cathy Sweetman, the insurance coordinator for the
firm of Spieser, Krause & Madole, P.C. The writer states that
Donald Madole "does wish to add his new wife to his insurance
coverage" effective September 1, 1990, and that "[e]nclosed you
will find a beneficiary change form[.]" Id. Plaintiff maintains
that no beneficiary change form was attached. Id. The second
letter, "proportedly sent" to plaintiff on August 6, 1990 by
Donald Madole requests that Judith Madole be added to his
insurance coverage. Complaint, ¶ 13. Plaintiff has been unable to
locate or confirm receipt of either letter, or of any beneficiary
change form. Complaint, ¶ 14.
On or about October 16, 1997, Cathy Sweetman, whose name
appears as the author of the July 31, 1990 letter, sent a letter
to plaintiff in which she stated that she had "no independent
recollection of writing the [July 31, 1990] letter or any
conversation with Donald Madole concerning the contents of the
letter. Also, I have no recollection of mailing the letter."
Complaint, Exhibit 1. Ms. Sweetman stated that she had "no other
documents concerning this matter in [her] files." Id.
In her answer to the Complaint, defendant Kinskey maintains
that the documents upon which defendant Madole relies "do not
alter or impact upon the unambiguous identification of Mrs.
Kinskey as the sole beneficiary of the Life Insurance Policy in
question, nor do the documents comply with the written terms of
the Guardian policy for affecting a change in the named
beneficiary under the Life Insurance portion of the Guardian
policy." See Defendant Kinskey's Answer at 1.
In her answer to the Complaint, defendant Madole "denies any
inference that the reference to the beneficiary change form is
not effective and valid as to a change in designated beneficiary
to that of defendant Madole." Defendant, Judith Madole's, Answer
and Claim Under Federal Interpleader Act, ¶ 19.
Defendant Kinskey seeks summary judgment in her favor in
accordance with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In the memorandum in support of her motion, defendant Kinskey
maintains that her name appears as the designated beneficiary of
Donald Madole's life insurance policy, and that there is no
evidence that any change of beneficiary form exists. See
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant
Motion for Summary Judgment ("Kinskey's Memorandum") at 2-5.
Defendant Kinskey maintains that the dispute at issue in this
action is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. Defendant Kinskey
submits that "in order to determine the proper beneficiary in
this case, the Court must look solely to the written terms of the
Guardian plan[,]" Kinskey's Memorandum at 7, and that there is no
evidence that Donald Madole affected a change in the named
beneficiary in the manner prescribed by the Guardian plan. Id.
at 8. Finally, defendant Kinskey maintains that even if the Court
finds that the issues presented are not governed by ERISA, "the
result is the same under the law of this jurisdiction." Kinskey's
Memorandum at 10. In support of her motion, defendant Kinskey
includes a Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute supported
by references to the record. The statements include
13. It is undisputed that at the time of enrollment,
Mr. Madole named Mrs. Kinskey as the beneficiary on
his enrollment form. See Exhibit 2, p. 2.
14. In Mrs. Kinskey's Request for Admissions, she
asked Ms. Madole to admit the following:
4. Defendant Madole does not have in her possession
any document written by the Guardian or at its
direction which notifies Mr. Donald W. Madole of a
change in the named beneficiary of the Guardian Life
Insurance Policy which is the subject of his
In response, Ms. Madole admitted that she does not[.]
Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute in Support of
Defendant Kinskey's Motion for Summary Judgment at 5, ¶¶ 13-14.
Defendant Madole, in her opposition to defendant Kinskey's
motion for summary judgment, submits that ERISA does not apply,
and that substantive common law must be applied to determine the
proper beneficiary. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in
Opposition to Defendant Kinskey's Motion for Summary Judgment
("Madole's Opposition") at 7. Defendant Madole maintains that
"the insured undertook affirmative acts designed to comply with
the requirement as to change of beneficiary[,]" and that "[his]
intentions should be given effect." ...