The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR D. SPATT
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") has commenced this action under the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act, ("FEGLIA") as amended, 5 U.S.C. §§ 8701-8716 (1988), seeking a court order directing MetLife to pay life insurance benefits which accrued under the life insurance policy of John M. Sullivan's ("the Insured") to the Insured's children, the defendants Jeanne M. Tundis (formerly Sullivan) ("Jeanne"), Kathleen A. Sullivan ("Kathleen"), and Michael J. Sullivan ("Michael"). The Insured's children were designated beneficiaries of the MetLife policy by the Insured on December 3, 1987. The Insured died on July 17, 1993.
MetLife's request to pay the benefits to the Insured's children is opposed by the Insured's brother, the defendant Joseph P. Sullivan ("Joseph"), who claims that he is entitled to the life insurance proceeds pursuant to a Designation of Beneficiary Form executed by him on July 15, 1993, under a power of attorney allegedly bestowed upon him by the Insured four days before his death. MetLife now seeks summary judgment on the complaint in its favor pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(a). Joseph Sullivan responded to MetLife's motion by filing a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment in his favor.
MetLife rejected Joseph's claim maintaining that the Designation of Beneficiary Form executed by Joseph is invalid because it fails to comply with the requirements of the FEGLIA.
At the time of his death, John M. Sullivan was employed by the United States Postal Service. As a condition of his employment, he was covered by MetLife Group Life Insurance Policy No. 17000-G (the "MetLife Policy") which is governed by the provisions of the FEGLIA. On December 3, 1987, the Insured named his children, Jeanne, Kathleen and Michael as beneficiaries of the MetLife Policy, pursuant to a duly executed Designation of Beneficiary Form. According to the terms of the Designation of Beneficiary Form, Michael was to receive 50% of the proceeds while Jeanne and Kathleen each would receive 25%. The total value of the proceeds at issue is $ 216,000.
On July 13, 1993, four days before his death, the Insured allegedly executed a general power of attorney naming his brother, Joseph, as attorney-in-fact in accordance with New York General Obligations Law § 5-1501. On July 15, 1993, pursuant to the power of attorney, Joseph executed a second Designation of Beneficiary Form on behalf of the Insured naming himself as the exclusive beneficiary of the MetLife Policy.
While the legitimacy of Joseph's power of attorney is disputed by the plaintiff and Joseph's nephews and nieces, MetLife assumes the validity of Joseph's appointment as attorney-in-fact under the power of attorney, for the purpose of its summary judgment motion.
MetLife moves for summary judgment in its favor on the complaint so that it may distribute the proceeds of the Insured's life insurance policy as expeditiously as possible. It argues that even if the power of attorney executed in favor of Joseph is valid, the Designation of Beneficiary Form which he subsequently filed, naming himself as beneficiary of the MetLife policy, is unenforceable as a matter of law. Specifically, MetLife maintains that the FEGLIA provides that only the employee himself may designate the beneficiaries of a life insurance policy under the Act, and that designations by third parties on behalf of the insured are void. Moreover, to the extent that the second Beneficiary Form might have been otherwise enforceable under New York law because it does not directly contradict any explicit provision of the FEGLIA, MetLife contends that such enforcement is preempted by the FEGLIA.
MetLife's motion is opposed only by Joseph Sullivan. He contends that MetLife's interpretation of the provisions of the FEGLIA is overbroad. Joseph argues that the FEGLIA does not expressly prohibit a change of beneficiary by a third party appointed pursuant to a power of attorney. Therefore, according to Joseph, the federal statute has no application here. Moreover, he states that the change in beneficiaries is consistent with New York General Obligations Law § 5-1502F. Accordingly, Joseph argues that his designation of himself as beneficiary of his brother's life insurance policy is valid.
In addition to responding to MetLife's motion, Joseph Sullivan has also filed a cross motion for summary judgment in his favor, arguing that the July 15, 1993 Designation of Beneficiary Form is enforceable because he was acting pursuant to a valid power of attorney. Joseph also moves: (1) to strike three of MetLife's supporting affidavits on the ground that they were not properly verified; (2) to strike portions of the Kathleen's affidavit in that the allegations contained therein did not constitute "fact"; and (3) to strike portions of the Answer filed by the other defendants for the alleged failure to serve in a timely manner.
1. The Standard For Summary ...