United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ESTATE OF COLLEEN J. BROWNELL, Plaintiff,
MARK W. LYCZAK, et al., Defendants.
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court by way of motion for summary
judgment filed by Plaintiff Estate of Colleen J. Brownell
(hereinafter, “Plaintiff”). (See Motion
for Summary Judgment [Docket Item 10].) The present motion is
not opposed by Defendant PHH Corporation. (See
Notice of Non-Opposition [Docket Item 11].) Defendant Mark W.
Lyczak has not filed any papers with regards to the present
Court has considered the submissions and for the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
[Docket Item 10] will be granted. The Court finds as
December 30, 2017, Ms. Colleen Brownell was killed and on
February 1, 2019 Defendant Lyczak pleaded guilty to murdering
her. (See Judgment of Conviction and Order for
Confinement [Docket Item 10-3].) Prior to her passing, Ms.
Brownell was a participant in a 401(k) Employee Savings Plan
(hereinafter, “the Plan”) administered by her
former employer: Defendant PHH. Pursuant to the Plan, Ms.
Brownell designated Defendant Lyczak as the primary
beneficiary of the monies in her Plan account, in the event
of her passing. The Plan indicates that it “shall be
construed, administered and applied in a manner consistent
with the laws of the State of Maryland, except to the extent
Federal law applies.” (See Plan [Docket Item
10-5], 38.) Plaintiff and Defendant PHH stipulated to a
Consent Order, in effect since January 8, 2019, that
Defendant PHH will not disburse the funds from Ms.
Brownell's Plan account until further order of the Court.
(See Consent Order [Docket Item 9].)
Standard of Review.
summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden
of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly
supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court
is required to examine the evidence in light most favorable
to the non-moving party and resolve all reasonable inferences
in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 378 (2007); Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273,
287 (3d Cir. 2014).
factual dispute is material when it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and
genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party
“need not match, item for item, each piece of evidence
proffered by the movant, ” but must present more than a
“mere scintilla” of evidence on which a jury
could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Boyle v.
Cnty. of Allegheny, Pa., 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir.
1998) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
moves for summary judgment on the basis that Defendant Lyczak
has pleaded guilty to the murder of Ms. Brownell and that the
governing law forbids an individual who does so from being a
beneficiary of such decedent's 401(k) account assets.
(See Pl.'s Br. [Docket Item 10-1], 3-6.)
Maryland law disqualifies Defendant Lyczak.
undisputed that Maryland law governs the administration of
the Plan. Section 11-112 of the Maryland Code Annotated,
Estates & Trusts provides in relevant part:
Disqualified person defined
(a) In this section, “disqualified person” means
a person who feloniously and intentionally kills, conspires
to kill, or ...