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Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Gorman-Hubka

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 3, 2016

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDITH ANN GORMAN-HUBKA, et al, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

T. S. Ellis, III United States District Judge

In this interpleader action, claimants dispute who is entitled to receive the benefits of decedent's life insurance policy. Plaintiff, the stakeholder, filed an interpleader complaint for the purpose of determining the rightful beneficiary. Thereafter, claimants filed answers and cross-claims against each other. Claimant Judith Gorman-Hubka also filed a counterclaim against plaintiff, alleging two claims. Claimants then filed cross-motions for summary judgment with respect to their cross-claims. As the motions have been fully briefed and argued, they are now ripe for disposition.

I.[1]

• Stakeholder-plaintiff Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is a New York corporation.
• Defendant-claimant Judith Gorman-Hubka ("Claimant Gorman-Hubka") is the ex-wife of Eugene James Hubka, Jr. ("Decedent"), and is a citizen of Virginia.
• Defendant-claimants Terri Price, Sherri Berkman, and Heather Sage are Decedent's sisters ("Sister Claimants") and are citizens of Virginia.
• Decedent was an employee of Exxon Mobil Corporation and was insured under a group universal life insurance policy issued by plaintiff to Exxon ("Policy").
• Under the Policy, an insured has the right to name a beneficiary to receive the benefits under the policy upon the insured's death ("Life Insurance Benefits").
• The Policy provides: (i) that "[t]he 'Beneficiary' is the person or persons you choose to receive any benefit payable because of your death"; (ii) that "[y]ou make the choice in Writing on a form approved by us" that "must be filed with the records for This Plan"; and (iii) that "[y]ou may change the Beneficiary at any time by filing a new form with us." Policy, at 13.
• The Policy further provides that "[i]f there is no Beneficiary at your death the Death Benefit will be divided and paid in equal shares to each member of the first class in the order listed ... in which there is a person who is related to you and who survive[s] you": (i) "[s]pouse"; (ii) "child"; (iii) "parent"; (d) "brother or sister." Policy, at 13.
• On September 1, 2004, Decedent designated his then-wife, Claimant Gorman-Hubka, as the sole primary beneficiary under the Policy.
• On September 13, 2012, Decedent and Claimant Gorman-Hubka entered a Property Settlement and Separation Agreement ("Settlement Agreement"), and on May 30, 2014, Decedent and Claimant Gorman-Hubka divorced.
• Thereafter, on July 22, 2014, Decedent called plaintiffs employee, Operator Ben, regarding the Policy. During the telephone call, Decedent informed Operator Ben that he was recently divorced, but stated that he wished to keep his ex-wife, Claimant Gorman-Hubka, as the beneficiary of the Policy. Decedent asked Operator Ben what steps were necessary to keep Claimant Gorman-Hubka as the beneficiary of the Life Insurance Benefits. See Stip. Transcript of Telephone Call (July 22, 2014).[2]
• During the same telephone call, Operator Ben advised Decedent that he could keep Claimant Gorman-Hubka ...

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