United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co
("MetLife"), owes either Karen Sarto or Gabriela
Ramirez life insurance benefits payable as a result of the
death of John J. Teixeira. Sarto is Teixeira's daughter
and co-guardian of Teixeira's spouse, Janet
Teixeira. Ramirez was Teixeira's girlfriend.
Each has submitted a claim for the benefits-Sarto on behalf
of Janet, and Ramirez on her own behalf. MetLife says it
can't determine which should receive them; stuck in the
middle, MetLife has sought interpleader relief.
requests an order (1) restraining Sarto and Ramirez from
suing MetLife in any other action for recovery of the Plan
benefits plus interest; (2) permitting MetLife to deposit
$39, 250 less $4, 572.40 in attorneys' fees and costs
with the court with the Clerk of Court; (3) forcing Sarto and
Ramirez to litigate or settle their claims to the benefits;
and (4) dismissing MetLife from this action "with
prejudice and without further liability in connection with
the Plan." I will grant (1), (2), and (3), but not (4).
Because Sarto or Teixeira may have counterclaims against
MetLife, I will not dismiss MetLife from this case. The
motion will be granted in all other respects.
had an ERISA-regulated life insurance coverage policy (the
"Plan"), which was sponsored by his former
employer, Public Service Enterprise Group ("PSEG")
and issued by MetLife. The Plan provided that, upon
Teixera's death, his beneficiaries would be entitled to
$39, 250.00 (the "Benefits"). (Knepper Cert.
¶¶ 2, 6-7)
Plan provided that Teixeira could choose anyone he wanted as
his beneficiary-so long as the decision was in writing:
The "Beneficiary" is the person or persons you
choose to receive any benefits payable because of your death.
You must make your choice in writing on a form approved by
us. This form must be filed with the records for This Plan.
You may change the Beneficiary at any time by filing a new
form with the Employer. You do not need the consent of the
Beneficiary to make a change. When the Employer receives a
form changing the Beneficiary, the change will take effect as
of the date you signed it. The change of Beneficiary will
take effect even if you are not alive when it is received.
A change of Beneficiary will not apply to any payment made by
us prior to the date the form was received by the Employer.
Your choice of a Beneficiary for a personal policy issued
under Right to Obtain a Personal Policy of Life Insurance on
Your Life will be effective for This Plan.
(Id. ¶¶ 15, Ex. A pp. 33-34)
Teixeira designated Janet Teixeira, his spouse, as the sole
beneficiary of the Plan. MetLife's records state that he
did this, not in writing, but by telephone on March 21, 2003.
(Knepper Cert. ¶ 9 & Ex. D)
later, on July 22, 2015, Teixeira named Ramirez as the sole
beneficiary. Again, MetLife's records state that he did
this by telephone. (Knepper Cert. ¶ 8 8s Ex. C)
nine months later, on April 1, 2016, Teixeira died.
[Id. ¶ 8, Ex. C) Sarto as guardian claimed the
Benefits on Janet's behalf. On May 13, 2016, Sarto
submitted to MetLife a copy of a Certificate of Death for
Teixera, as well as a copy of a Judgment of Legal Incapacity,
dated January ...