United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
C. Hoppe United States Magistrate Judge
interpleader action concerns the competing claims of
Defendant Sherry Sturrock and of Defendants Ken Biggs,
Malinda Biggs, Frank Biggs, and Iva Biggs-Gordon
(collectively, the “Biggs Defendants”) to the
proceeds of Peggy Phillips's life insurance policy held
with Plaintiff Globe Life & Accident Insurance Company
(“Globe”). The dispute centers around two
change-of-beneficiary letters signed by Phillips on November
5, 2015, one naming the Biggs Defendants as equal
beneficiaries of Phillips's life insurance policy, and
the other naming Sturrock as the sole beneficiary of the
policy. Pl. Exs. 8, 10, ECF Nos. 1-8, 1-10. Sturrock and the
Biggs Defendants are proceeding pro se.
the Court is Sturrock's motion for summary judgment.
Sturrock Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 21. The Biggs Defendants
filed a response in opposition, ECF No. 29, and Sturrock
filed a reply, ECF No. 30. Sturrock's motion has been
fully briefed, neither party requested a hearing, and the
Court has determined that oral argument would not aid in the
decisional process. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for
disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will deny
Sturrock's motion for summary judgment.
instituted an Interpleader Complaint against Sturrock and the
Biggs Defendants on May 10, 2016, requesting that the Court
resolve competing claims to the life insurance proceeds of a
single life insurance policy held by Peggy Phillips. Pl.
Interpleader Compl., ECF No. 1. The Biggs Defendants are
Phillips's children, and Sturrock is Phillips's
former daughter-in-law, having at one time been married to
Frank Biggs. Sturrock Ex. 10, at 1, ECF No. 21-10.
initially issued a $10, 000 life insurance policy to Phillips
on November 7, 1994. Pl. Ex. 2, at 1-10, ECF No. 1-2. The
policy was given the identification number 00-B641002, and
Phillips named Frank Biggs as the designated beneficiary.
Id. at 1. The policy had an expiry date of November
7, 2014, but Phillips had the option of purchasing a new term
insurance policy to continue her insurance coverage if the
original policy continued in force to the expiry date.
Id. at 5. On February 7, 1997, in response to
Phillips's request to increase her coverage from $15, 000
to $20, 000, Globe issued a term life insurance rider in the
amount of $5, 000. Id. at 11- 17. The rider had the
same policy number, expiry date, beneficiary, and terms as
the original policy. Id. On August 25, 2008,
Phillips submitted a change of beneficiary form to Globe,
requesting that Ken Biggs be designated the primary
beneficiary and Malinda Biggs be designated the contingent
beneficiary on her life insurance policy. Pl. Ex. 3, ECF No.
1-3. On September 4, 2013, Globe notified Phillips that it
had, as Phillips requested, changed the beneficiary of her
policy to Lisa Cashin, Pl. Ex. 4, ECF No. 1-4, who was Frank
Biggs's girlfriend at the time, Sturrock Ex. 10, at 1.
November 8, 2014, Phillips renewed her policy, which Globe
assigned a different policy number (00-6R94321). Pl. Ex. 5,
ECF No. 1-5. Sherry Sturrock was the designated beneficiary.
Id. Although the renewed policy had a different
identification number, it was essentially an extension of
Phillips's original policy with the same terms and
benefits, Pl. Interpleader Compl. ¶¶ 16-17;
Sturrock Ex. 9, at 2, ECF No. 21-9, insuring Phillips for
$20, 000 for a period set to expire on November 8, 2034, Pl.
Ex. 5, at 5. On February 17, 2015, Globe notified Phillips
that it had, per her request, changed the beneficiary of her
policy to Iva Biggs. Pl. Ex. 6, ECF No. 1-6. On March 9,
2015, in response to Phillips's inquiry regarding the
status of her policy, Globe confirmed that Iva Biggs was the
primary beneficiary of the policy and that there were no
other beneficiaries. Pl. Ex. 7, ECF No. 1-7.
November 5, 2015, Phillips signed two change-of-beneficiary
letters, and they were mailed together to Globe. One letter
requested that Globe change the beneficiary on policy number
00-B641002 to her four children, Ken Biggs, Malinda Biggs,
Frank Biggs, and Iva Biggs-Gordon, in equal shares. Pl. Ex.
8. The other letter requested that Globe change the
beneficiary on policy number 00-6R94321 to Sherry Sturrock.
Pl. Ex. 10. Other than the identified policy number and the
listed beneficiaries, these letters are substantially the
same. Globe responded to both letters. In a reply dated
November 17, 2015, Globe notified Phillips that it had
changed the primary beneficiaries on policy number 00-6R94321
to her four children to reflect her request. Pl. Ex. 9, ECF
No. 1-9. In a reply dated November 18, 2015, Globe notified
Phillips that it had changed the primary beneficiary on that
same policy-number 00-6R94321- to Sherry Sturrock to reflect
her request. Pl. Ex. 11, ECF No. 1-11. Phillips made no
further changes in beneficiary. On December 3, 2015, Phillips
and Sturrock signed a letter in which Sturrock agreed to pay
Malinda Biggs $2, 500.00 “that was saved by [Phillips]
for Malinda.” Sturrock Ex. 11, ECF No. 21-12.
January 8, 2016, Phillips died, after which Globe received
claims to the proceeds of policy number 00-6R94321 from both
Sturrock and the Biggs Defendants. Pl. Interpleader Compl.
¶¶ 24-25. As a result of these competing claims,
Globe moved to deposit the funds with the Court, ECF No. 4,
and neither Sturrock nor the Biggs Defendants objected. As
such, Globe deposited the insurance proceeds in the amount of
$20, 471.78 with the Court on October 27, 2016. ECF No. 27.
Globe was then terminated from this action. In the
intervening time, on September 12, 2016, Sturrock filed her
motion for summary judgment.
Standard of Review
diversity action, the Court applies federal law to determine
questions of procedural law and the law of the forum state to
determine questions of substantive law. Nationwide Mut.
Ins. Co. v. Overlook, LLC, 785 F.Supp.2d 502, 511-12
(E.D. Va. 2011) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins,
304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). The Court applies the choice-of-law
rules of the jurisdiction in which it sits-in this case,
Virginia. Elec. Motor & Contracting Co. v. Travelers
Indem. Co. of Am., __ F.Supp.3d __, 2017 WL 385043, at
*4 (E.D. Va. Jan. 27, 2017) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor
Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941)). Under
Virginia's choice-of-law rules for insurance contracts,
the law of the forum in which the contract is written and
delivered controls. Buchanan v. Doe, 431 S.E.2d 289,
291 (Va. 1993). Here, there is no dispute that the policy at
issue was acquired by and delivered to Phillips while she
lived in Virginia, and thus Virginia law controls. See
Elec. Motor & Contracting Co., 2017 WL 385043, at
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate only if “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
Tolan v. Cotton, __ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866
(2014) (per curiam). Facts are material when they
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute over a
material fact exists if “a reasonable jury could return
a verdict in favor of the ...