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Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Mitchell

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 13, 2013

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM L. MITCHELL, JR. and CHARMAINE E. COOPER, Defendants

Page 98

For Plaintiff: Randi F. Knepper, Esq., Of Counsel, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP, Newark, New Jersey.

For William L. Mitchell, Jr., Defendant: Patrick G. Lyle, Esq., of Counsel, Lyle Legal Services, Bloomfield, Connecticut.

For Charmaine E. Cooper, Defendant: Lance D. Clarke, Esq., Of Counsel, Cooke & Clarke, Hempstead, New York.

OPINION

Page 99

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

ARTHUR D. SPATT, United States District Judge.

On April 10, 2012, the Plaintiff Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (" the Plaintiff" ) commenced this action by filing a Complaint in interpleader. In the Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that it is a mere stakeholder that could be exposed to double liability arising from the Defendant William L. Mitchell, Jr.'s (" Mitchell" ) and the Defendant Charmaine E. Cooper's (" Cooper," and collectively, " the Defendants" ) competing claims to life insurance benefits due and owed as a consequence of the death of William L. Mitchell, Sr.'s (" the Decendent" ).

Presently before the Court is the Plaintiff's unopposed motion for interpleader relief, requesting that this Court compel the Defendants to litigate, adjust and/or settle among each other their respective and lawful entitlement to the life insurance benefits, or otherwise to permit the Court to settle and adjust the claims and determine to whom the life insurance benefits should be paid. In addition, the Plaintiff seeks an order (1) wholly and completely discharging and absolving the Plaintiff,

Page 100

Cablevision Systems Corporation (" Cablevision" ) and the Cablevision Life Insurance Plan (" the Plan" ) from any further liability with respect to the life insurance benefits at issue; (2) releasing and discharging the Plaintiff, Cablevision, the Plan, their agents, fiduciaries, employees, representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns against any and all liability arising from the life insurance benefits at issue; (3) permanently restraining and enjoining the Defendants from instituting and/or prosecuting any other lawsuit against the Plaintiff, Cablevision or the Plan in connection with the life insurance benefits at issue; and (4) dismissing the Plaintiff from the action with prejudice and without any further liability related to the life insurance benefits at issue. Lastly, the Plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees and costs.

For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Plaintiff's motion in part and denies the Plaintiff's motion in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The Decedent is a former employee of Cablevision and participated in the Plan. The Plan was an ERISA-regulated employee welfare benefit plan sponsored by Cablevision and funded by a group policy of insurance that was issued by the Plaintiff (" Group Life Insurance" ). Under the Plan, the Decedent, as a Plan participant, had the right to name his beneficiary. In this regard, a Plan participant may designate a beneficiary in his application or enrollment form. However, a Plan participant also has the right to change his beneficiary at any time by sending a signed and dated written request to the Plaintiff. This written request must be sent within 30 days of the date that the beneficiary signs it.

The last beneficiary designation form for the Decedent on file with the Plan is dated March 2, 2004. The form names the Defendant Mitchell as the sole primary beneficiary of the Group Life Insurance benefits. Thereafter, the Group Life Insurance was scheduled to be canceled, and so the Decedent requested to convert $100,000 of his Group Life Insurance benefits to a personal life insurance policy. On March 10, 2011, as part of his application to convert, the Decedent completed an Application for Life Insurance form, in which he named the Defendant Cooper as the sole primary beneficiary of the personal life insurance benefits. Mitchell was designated as the contingent beneficiary.

In addition, the Decedent's Last Will and Testament stated as follows:

I William L. Mitchell being of sound mind would not want my 401K, IRA/Retirement and life insurance beneficiary contested. Be it known that Charmaine E. Cooper has been and currently is 100% vested to receive all moneys vested to her. My son William L. Mitchell Jr. is a second beneficiary to life insurance only, if Charmaine E. Cooper is deceased. (My wish for her to live long and prosper). William L. Mitchell Jr. is to receive my electronics and jewelry. . . .
I don't have many assets to divide among relatives or siblings, just my love and heart. Know that I love you all and that I know some will say that why would I leave my monetary wealth to Charmaine? My answer is because of my heart for her that has spoken the first time I have fell in love with her and I will leave this ...

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