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New York Life Insurance Company v. Maria Apostolidis

January 24, 2012

NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARIA APOSTOLIDIS, PENELOPE APOSTOLIDIS, HELEN APOSTOLIDIS, AND LISA APOSTOLIDIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

The Plaintiff New York Life Insurance Company ("NY Life") has filed the present motion, requesting the Court to permit the company to interplead life insurance proceeds that have been the subject of conflicting claims by the Defendants. In addition, NY Life has moved for (1) a discharge from the present action, (2) a permanent injunction enjoining any of the parties to this action from commencing any other actions or proceedings seeking payment of the interpleader funds, and (3) attorneys' fees and costs.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

There are two relevant life insurance policies at issue: Policy 34 575 081 ("Policy 081") and Policy 37 310 131 ("Policy 131") (collectively, the "Policies"). The Plaintiff's submissions to the Court do not indicate the face amount of either policy, but only state that the amounts due and payable are $10,847.52 for Policy 081 and $118,191.20 for Policy 131. Both of the Policies were issued by NY Life, the Plaintiff, to insure the life of Konstantinos Apostolidis ("the Insured"). On December 16, 1974, the Insured designated his wife, Defendant Maria Apostolidis, as the first beneficiary of Policy 081, and "Children" as secondary beneficiaries. On May 6, 1980, the Insured again designated his wife, Defendant Maria Apostolidis, as the first beneficiary of Policy 131, and "Children" as secondary beneficiaries.

On November 25, 2005, the Insured filed a Change of Beneficiary Request Form for both Policies and designated his wife, Defendant Maria Apostolidis, as the first beneficiary, and his children, Defendants Penelope Apostolidis, Helen Apostolidis, and Lisa Apostolidis, as secondary beneficiaries. On February 10, 2010, the Insured filed another Change of Beneficiary Request Form only for Policy 131, designating Penelope Apostolidis as the beneficiary.

The Insured died on July 30, 2010. As a result of his death, proceeds in the amounts of $10,847.52 for Policy 081 and $118,191.20 for Policy 131 (the "Death Benefits") became due and payable to a beneficiary or beneficiaries, as the Plaintiff NY Life concedes.

On August 5, 2010, the Defendant Penelope Apostolidis advised the Plaintiff that, among other things, she was the named beneficiary of the Policies. In response, the Company informed Penelope Apostolidis that she was the named beneficiary of Policy 131, but that she was not the named beneficiary of Policy 081. On August 10, 2010, the Insured's wife Defendant Maria Apostolidis asked the Plaintiff by letter not to pay the Death Benefits to Penelope Apostolidis.

Thereafter, on September 3, 2010, the Defendant Helen Apostolidis also made a claim for the Death Benefits and questioned the validity of the beneficiary change to her sister, Defendant Penelope Apostolidis, because the Insured had been ill for the last one and one-half years of his life. In addition, also on September 3, 2010, the Defendant Lisa Apostolidis made a claim for the Death Benefits, similarly questioning any beneficiary change made in the last two years before the Insured's death because he had been ill. On September 6, 2010, the Defendant Penelope Apostolidis made a claim for the proceeds of Policy 131.

On September 8, 2010, NY Life requested both Helen Apostolidis and Lisa Apostolidis to provide a statement from the Insured's physician regarding his mental competency. (See Pl. Ex. I) ("Due to the circumstances of this claim, it will be necessary to secure a Statement of Competency from the insured's Attending Physician, indicating the insured's state of mind during that time period."). However, the Plaintiff states that it never received such a medical statement.

Finally, on October 6, 2010, Maria Apostolidis also made a claim for the Death Benefits of both policies.

B. Procedural History and the Present Motion

On December 8, 2010, the Plaintiff NY Life filed this Complaint in Interpleader, seeking to deposit the Death Benefits with the Court. Counsel for the Plaintiff subsequently secured consent to interplead and deposit the proceeds of both policies from the pro se Defendants Maria Apostolidis, Helen Apostolidis, and Lisa Apostolidis. However, counsel for Penelope Apostolidis refused to consent. On April 6, 2011, the Plaintiff filed the instant motion to deposit the insurance proceeds and for a dismissal of NY Life from this action. Only the Defendant Penelope Apostolidis has filed an objection in response to this motion.

NY Life states that it is ready, willing, and able to pay the Death Benefits, plus interest, if any, in accordance with the terms of the Policy. However, under the circumstances, the Plaintiff states that it cannot determine factually or legally who is entitled to the Death Benefits, and thus the Company may be exposed to multiple liability.

On the other hand, Penelope Apostolidis argues first, that she is entitled to the benefits of Policy 131 and thus the Court should simply direct the Plaintiff to pay her the Death Benefits. Second, she contends in the alternative that this case should be transferred to Suffolk County Surrogate's Court, where the Insured's estate is currently being probated.

II. DISCUSSION

A.As to Statutory Interpleader in General

NY Life has filed a statutory interpleader suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335. "[I]nterpleader is designed to protect stakeholders from undue harassment in the face of multiple claims against the same fund, and to relieve the stakeholder from assessing which claim among many has merit." Fidelity Brokerage Servs., LLC v. Bank of China, 192 F. Supp. 2d 173, 177 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (citing Washington Elec. Coop. v. Paterson, Walke & Pratt, P.C., 985 F.2d 677, 679 (2d Cir. 1993)). Section 1335 provides in pertinent part:

(a) The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action of interpleader or in the nature of interpleader filed by any person, firm, or corporation, association, or society having in his or its custody or possession money or property of the value of $500 or more . . . if

(1) Two or more adverse claimants, of diverse citizenship as defined in subsection (a) or (d) of section 1332 of this title, are claiming or may claim to be entitled to such money or property . . . and if (2) the plaintiff has deposited such money . . . into the registry of the court, there to abide the judgment of the court, or has given bond payable to the clerk of the court in such amount and with such surety as the court or judge may deem proper, conditioned upon the ...


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