The opinion of the court was delivered by: MADDEN
This is an action instituted by the plaintiff, Goldie LaBove, also known as Gussie LaBove, to recover the proceeds of a group life insurance policy issued under the provisions of the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act,
5 U.S.C.A. § 2091 et seq., by the defendant, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, upon her son, Harry LaBove, an employee of the Federal Security Administration, Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Defendant, Metropolitan, answered and counterclaimed for interpleader making as an additional defendant, Francine Kasser, the natural born daughter of Harry LaBove. The interpleader having been allowed, the proceeds were deposited with the Court. Accordingly, Francine, a minor, appeared through her guardian, Bucks County Bank & Trust Company, and asserted her claim to said proceeds.
Harry LaBove, a member of the bar of New Jersey, married Edith LaBove in April, 1943; the only child born of this marriage is the defendant, Francine, who was born on July 13, 1944. On July 17, 1948, Harry LaBove and Edith LaBove were divorced. Edith LaBove then married Sidney Kasser on June 7, 1949, and the defendant, Francine, took the residence of her mother and stepfather. On January 20, 1950, the Camden County Court (State of New Jersey) entered a decree of adoption upon the petition of Sidney and Edith Kasser to adopt Francine LaBove and change her name to Francine Kasser. This was accomplished with the written consent of the father, Harry LaBove.
The insured, Harry LaBove, executed a last will and testament, dated March 4, 1950, wherein he named the plaintiff, his mother, sole beneficiary of his estate, expressly noting, however, that he was mindful that he had a child, Francine, now adopted by Sidney and Edith Kasser.
In August, 1954, Congress passed the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act, supra, and in November, 1954, a policy was issued by the defendant, Metropolitan, covering Harry LaBove, effective as of August 29, 1954. Harry LaBove died February 4, 1957, not having specifically designated a beneficiary of such policy under the provisions of the Act (Section 2093). And, on February 20, 1957, his will was probated and filed in the Office of the Surrogate of Camden County.
The plaintiff in this action claims that she is entitled to the proceeds of the policy on the basis of either one of two theories: First, that the will in effect constitutes a specific designation of her as the beneficiary of the policy; and, alternately, if the will does not constitute a designation of a beneficiary that Francine lost all legal rights flowing from her natural father, Harry LaBove, by reason of her adoption by Sidney and Edith Kasser, and there being no widow, and no child of said insured, she, as mother of said insured, is next in the order of precedence entitled to the proceeds under Section 2093, hereinafter set forth:
' § 2093. Death claims; order of payment
'Any amount of group life insurance and group accidental death insurance in force on any employee at the date of his death shall be paid, upon the establishment of a valid claim therefor, to the person or persons surviving at the date of his death, in the following order of precedence:
'First, to the beneficiary or beneficiaries as the employee may have designated by a writing received in the employing office prior to death;
'Second, if there be no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower of such employee;
'Third, if none of the above, to the child or children of such employee and descendants of deceased children by representation;
'Fourth, if none of the above, to the parents of such employee or the survivor of them.'
The claim of the plaintiff is resisted in the claim of Francine who maintains that the will cannot constitute the specific designation of a beneficiary and that under the provisions of Section 2093, no designation having been made, and there being no widow, she, as the only child of ...