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Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Blyther

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 29, 2013

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
CIERA L. BLYTHER, et al., Defendants

Page 62

For METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff: John S. Bolesta, LEAD ATTORNEY, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, P.C., Washington, DC.

CIERA L. BLYTHER, Defendant, Pro se, Waldorf, MD.

GERMANY D. BLYTHER, Defendant, Pro se, Washington, DC.

TIANA N. BLYTHER, Defendant, Pro se, Washington, DC.

KHADARIA BUSH, Defendant, Pro se, Washington, DC.

CRYSTAL L. BLYTHER, Defendant, Pro se, Washington, DC.

SHARRON BLYTHER, Defendant, Pro se, Fort Washington, MD.

ANTOINETTE BLYTHER, legal guardian of minor child C.M.B, Defendant, Pro se, District Heights, MD.

OPINION

Page 63

BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case stems from an effort by the interpleader plaintiff, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (" MetLife" or " the plaintiff" ), to ensure that the life insurance benefits of a deceased federal employee, Geneva Blyther, are paid to the proper beneficiaries. Pending before the Court are three motions: MetLife's Motion for Interpleader Relief, ECF No. 34; and interpleader-defendant Tiana N. Blyther's Motions for Reconsideration, ECF No. 41, of the Court's prior Order, ECF No. 36, dismissing the defendants' counterclaims and to Amend her Pleading, ECF No. 43. For the reasons set forth below, the interpleader plaintiff's motion will be granted and Ms. Blyther's two motions will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

On November 15, 2010, Geneva Blyther (" Geneva [1]" ) died from artherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, leaving behind three living children and at least eight living grandchildren. See Compl. ¶ ¶ 2-13, ECF No. 1; Feb. 1, 2013 Hr'g Tr. (" Hr'g Tr." ) 17:21- 18:15. [2] A long time Federal employee, Geneva was covered under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (" FEGLI" ) plan and had a life insurance policy valued at $64,000. Compl. ¶ ¶ 16, 23. On the death of a FEGLI-covered federal employee, " the life insurance benefits from her coverage under the FEGLI policy . . .

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bec[o]me payable to the proper beneficiary." Id. ¶ 23. The life insurance benefits flow first to those individuals named " in a signed and witnessed writing received before death in the employing office." 5 U.S.C. § 8705(a) (2006).

On the face of the beneficiary designation forms, notice is provided that the designations on the most recent form will supersede any previous forms. See, e.g., Compl. Ex. A., ECF No. 1-1 at 1 (including above signature line declaration that the signatory is " canceling any and all previous Designations of Beneficiary under the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program and [is] now designating the beneficiary(ies) named above). Thus, the most recent valid beneficiary form is the operative form. See id.

Over her lifetime, Geneva completed three FEGLI beneficiary forms. The first, executed on January 10, 1983, named Geneva's five children as her beneficiaries, each taking an equal share of the benefits: Sharron Blyther (" Sharron" ), Calvin Blyther, Jr. (" Calvin" ), Joseph Evans Blyther (" Joseph" ), Germany Derris Blyther (" Germany" ), and Tiana Nicole Blyther (" Tiana" ). Compl. Ex. C, ECF No. 1-1. The second beneficiary form, signed on September 24, 2004, named as beneficiaries six persons: Germany, Tiana, Khadaria Bush (" Bush" ), J.N., [3] M.L.M., and Crystal Blyther (" Crystal" ). Id., Ex. B, ECF No. 1-1. The September 24, 2004 form directs that each of the six beneficiaries take " 1/5%" of the policy benefits. Id. Taken literally, the September 24, 2004 form standing alone would have disbursed only 1.2 percent of Geneva's life insurance benefits. [4] Alternatively, this form could be interpreted as intended to give one-fifth of the total life insurance benefits to each beneficiary, which would result in disbursement of 120 percent of the benefits.

Finally, on September 30, 2004, Geneva signed a third life insurance beneficiary form, naming as beneficiaries three additional persons, C.M.B., Ciera L. Blyther (" Ciera" ), and A.B., with each taking " 1/5" of the life insurance benefits. Id., Ex. A. This form, standing alone, could be interpreted as disbursing only 60 percent of Geneva's life insurance benefits, as each of the beneficiaries was to receive " 1/5" of the proceeds. Id.

On December 3, 2010, Tiana filed a claim for Geneva's FEGLI benefits. Compl. ¶ 24. On December 22, 2010, Tiana wrote a letter to MetLife explaining that Geneva's intent was for the September 24 and September 30, 2004 forms to be read together, designating a total of nine beneficiaries for the life insurance policy. Compl. ¶ 25; Ex. F, ECF No. 1-3 at 2. According to the letter, Geneva wished to name more beneficiaries than the number of lines on a standard beneficiary form allowed and consequently filled out two beneficiary designation forms and submitted them. Compl. Ex. F. at 2. The second form " was dated by Ms. Doris E. Taylor, a Human Resources Representative for [Geneva's] employer" and given a different date Geneva wrote on the first form. Compl. Ex. F at 2. Thus, the second form, which Tiana asserts is merely a second

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page to the first form, should have been given the same date as the first form, designating nine people [5] as beneficiaries with all sharing equally ...


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