Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Prudential Insurance Company of America v. Wisneski

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 13, 2019

THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ASHLEY M. WISNESKI, CAITLIN BABCOCK, THOMAS KANE, PAUL KANE, BRIAN S. KANE, and DIANE H. POLIFRONIO, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Hon. Leda Dunn Wettre United States Magistrate Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon a motion by plaintiff Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential") for Default Judgment against Diane H. Polifronio and for Interpleader Relief to be discharged from any liability by all claimants. ECF No. 32. No. opposition has been filed. The Honorable Madeline Cox Arleo, U.S.D.J., referred the motion to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that plaintiffs motion be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this interpleader action on October 24, 2018 to determine the rights of beneficiaries to a death benefit policy (the "Death Benefit") issued by Prudential to Doreen Kane (the "Insured"). ECF No. 1. Throughout the time the Insured was covered under the plan, she made several beneficiary designations. ECF No. 1113. Each of the defendants was at one time named as a beneficiary. All defendants except for defendant Polifronio filed an Answer to the Complaint. ECF Nos. 13, 24. Upon Prudential's request, the Court entered default as to Diane Polifronio on January 10, 2019. Defendant Polifronio has not appeared personally or by a representative in this action.

         In April 2019, the Court held a settlement conference, during which the appearing defendants agreed in principle to a settlement. The Court thereafter entered an Order administratively terminating the action. ECF No. 29. Prudential deposited the Death Benefit funds in the Court's Registry on April 16, 2019. It now moves for default judgment against Diane Polifronio and for Interpleader Relief as to all defendants, essentially seeking solely, equitable relief of being discharged from any and all liability with regard to the insurance policy.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Prudential moves for default judgment against Diane Polifronio and for Interpleader Relief. The Court first finds issuance of a default judgment appropriate under the applicable factors. Next, the Court assesses Prudential's motion for Interpleader Relief as to all claimants and finds such relief appropriate based on the standards for granting such relief.

         A. Default Judgment

         Before entering default judgment the court must: (1) determine it has jurisdiction both over the subject matter and parties; (2) determine whether defendants have been properly served; (3) analyze the Complaint to determine whether it sufficiently pleads a cause of action; and (4) determine whether the plaintiff has proved damages. See Chanel, Inc. v. Gordashevsky, 558 F.Supp.2d 532, 535-36 (D.N.J. 2008). In addition, prior to granting default judgment, the Court must make factual findings as to: (1) whether the party subject to the default has a meritorious defense; (2) the prejudice suffered by the party seeking default judgment; and (3) the culpability of the party subject to default. Doug Brady, Inc. v. N.J. Bldg. Laborers Statewide Funds, 250 F.R.D. 171, 177 (D.N. J. 2008).

         Applying the first set of legal factors which focus on the procedural prerequisites to entering a default judgment, the Court finds each factor has been met. First, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to the federal interpleader statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1335, as there is minimal diversity between the claimants and the amount in controversy is more than $500. Second, personal jurisdiction appears to exist over defendant Polifronio, as she is allegedly domiciled in Garfield, New Jersey. See ECF No. 5. Third, plaintiff has provided the Court with proof that defendant Polifronio was personally served on November 14, 2018. Id. Finally, the Complaint sufficiently pleads a cause of action, as it alleges that defendant Polifronio may have had an interest in the funds at issue, as she was named as a beneficiary on the Death Benefit at various times between 1994 and 2018, and that Prudential would be subject to conflicting claims if it were not able to interplead the disputed funds. See Phoenix Ins. Co. v. Small, 307 F.R.D. 426, 434 (E.D. Pa. 2015).

         As to the next set of factors which focus on the factual bases for entering default judgment, the Court finds each is met. The Court concludes that by not filing a responsive pleading, defendant Polifronio chose not to assert a claim to the funds at issue. Further, plaintiff Prudential is prejudiced in its ability to interplead the funds and be absolved from liability if any potential claimant to the fund, such as Polifronio, remains able to make a claim despite her non-participation. The Court also finds defendant Polifronio culpable, in the sense that it is satisfied that she has personally been served and has chosen not to appear in this case. The Court further notes that Polifronio is a retired attorney who would know how to participate in this action if she desired to do so. Accordingly, the Court recommends plaintiffs motion for default judgment against defendant Polifronio be granted.

         B. Interpleader Relief

         The Court next addresses Prudential's motion for Interpleader Relief to be discharged of all liability by any claimant with respect to the Death Benefit. Interpleader is an equitable remedy through which a stakeholder can "join in a single suit two or more persons asserting claims to that property." Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Price, 501 F.3d 271, 275 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting NYLife Distrib., Inc. v. Adherence Grp., Inc., 12VM31l, 372 n.l (3dCir. 1985)). To avoid the possibility of multiple liability, interpleader permits a stakeholder "to file suit, deposit the property with the court, and withdraw from the proceedings." Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Hovis, 553 F.3d 258, 262 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Price, 501 F.3d at 275). As a result, u[t]he competing claimants are left to litigate between themselves" and the stakeholder is discharged from any further liability. Id. (quoting Price, 501 F.3d at 275).

         Plaintiff brings this claim pursuant to the interpleader statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1335. Here, the Death Benefit is $305, 002.92, satisfying the minimum requirement of $500 or more, the claimants are minimally diverse, and Prudential has deposited the Death Benefit into the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.