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The Prudential Insurance Company of America v. Nguyen

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

January 31, 2018

THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAN CHAU NGUYEN, individually and as the Executor of the Estate of Laura Ngo, and LIEN NGO, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon two (2) motions by Plaintiff The Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Plaintiff): Motion for Relief in Interpleader, Doc. 18 ("Motion for Relief), and Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendant Lien Ngo, Doc. 28 ("Motion for Default Judgment"). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the Motion for Relief, Doc. 18, and ORDERS Plaintiff to pay the remaining death benefits at issue to Defendant Chau Nguyen, plus applicable claim interest. The Court AWARDS Plaintiff half of its costs, as well as attorney's fees in the amount of five hundred dollars ($500). The Court DISMISSES the Motion for Default Judgment, Doc. 28, as MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action involves a life insurance policy issued by Plaintiff and covering Laura T. Ngo ("the Insured"). Doc. 1 ¶ 7. The Insured designated Lien Ngo, Chau Nguyen, and Doan Ngo as beneficiaries of the policy. Id. ¶ 8. The policy includes death benefits in the amount of $1, 250, 000, broken down as follows: "Basic" death benefits in the amount of $50, 000; "Optional" death benefits in the amount of $1, 000, 000; and Accidental Death and Dismemberment ("AD&D") benefits in the amount of $200, 000. Id. ¶ 10. Lien Ngo was the designated beneficiary of 40% of the policy's proceeds, and Chau Nguyen and Doan Ngo were the designated beneficiaries of 30% each of the policy's proceeds. Id. ¶ 8. Doan Ngo predeceased the Insured, forfeiting his share of the policy proceeds to the other two beneficiaries. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

         The Insured died on February 28, 2016, as the result of a hit and run car accident. Id. ¶ 9. Lien Ngo and Chau Nguyen each made a claim for their share of the policy proceeds, and Plaintiff distributed all of the Basic and Optional death benefits to them in April 2015. Id. ¶¶ 13-16. Plaintiff did not distribute the AD&D benefits at that time, because the cause of death of the Insured had not yet been established, and thus Plaintiff could not yet determine whether the AD&D benefits were payable. Id. ¶ 17.

         On or about May 11, 2016, Plaintiff was informed by the Southampton County Sheriffs Department that Chau Nguyen had not been ruled out as a suspect in connection with the Insured's death. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff is precluded by Virginia law from distributing death benefits to any individual convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter of the Insured. Id. ¶¶ 19-20; see Va. Code § 64.2-2508.

         On or about September 27, 2016, Plaintiff distributed Lien Ngo's share of the AD&D benefits. Id. ¶ 25. Not knowing whether Chau Nguyen might be tried and ultimately convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter of the Insured, Plaintiff did not distribute to him the remaining AD&D benefits, which amount to $90, 000. See id ¶ 26.

         On November 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in Interpleader, naming Lien Ngo and Chau Nguyen as Defendants. Id. Plaintiff asserts that it "is ready, willing and able to pay the [remaining proceeds] to whomever this Court shall designate, " but states that it "cannot determine factually or legally who is entitled to" such proceeds. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. Plaintiff was given leave to file an Amended Complaint by Court Order entered February 13, 2017. Doc. 11. Plaintiff filed its Amended Complaint on February 17, 2017. Doc. 12.

         Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Relief on September 12, 2017, Doc. 18, requesting the following relief:

1. Allow Plaintiff to interplead the remaining death benefits at issue, plus applicable claim interest;
2. Discharge Plaintiff of liability under the life insurance policy and dismiss Plaintiff from this action, with prejudice;
3. Permanently enjoin all Parties from bringing any other actions in connection with the policy; and
4. Award Plaintiff attorneys' fees and costs.

         Doc. 19 at 1. In support of the Motion for Relief, Plaintiff reiterated the facts stated in the Amended Complaint, and further stated that on September 7, 2017 the Southampton County Sheriffs Department informed Plaintiff that Chau Nguyen had not yet been ruled out as a suspect in the death of the Insured. Id. at 3. Because the investigation into the Insured's death was still pending, Plaintiff reiterated ...


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