FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This matter came on regularly for hearing on plaintiff's motion for appointment of guardian ad litem and status conference on August 13, 2008. After a break in the hearing, the parties advised the court the matter had settled. A further hearing was held before the undersigned regarding the settlement on August 20, 2008, after which the parties presented a signed copy of a proposed Consent Order of Judgment and Dismissal and Discharge for filing. The minor defendants were present at the August 20 hearing, and were informed of the terms of the settlement and afforded an opportunity to be heard thereon. Under Rule 54 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and upon the Complaint, the stipulation of the Parties herein, and the Parties' joint request for approval of the Consent Order of Judgment and Dismissal and Discharge, and good cause appearing, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:
STIPULATED FINDINGS OF FACT
1. This is an interpleader action, pursuant to Rule 22(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and equitable relief pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. ("ERISA").
2. Plaintiff Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston ("Liberty Life") filed this action to determine the proper recipient for life insurance proceeds in the amount of $25,000.00 ("Proceeds") payable by reason of the death of Jacquelyn Beecham-Thomas ("Decedent"), who was insured under a group life insurance policy ("Policy") issued by Liberty Life to The McClatchy Company ("McClatchy") for purposes of providing certain death benefits to employees of McClatchy and associated companies, including the Decedent's direct employer, The Sacramento Bee (hereafter, "Employer").
3. The Policy was issued pursuant to the McClatchy life insurance plan ("McClatchy Plan"), which provides life insurance benefits for its employees. As such, the Policy formed part of the McClatchy Plan.
4. The Decedent had $25,000.00 in basic group life insurance coverage under the Policy. Thus, the total death benefit under the Policy payable by reason of Decedent's death is $25,000.00 ("Proceeds").
5. B.J.T. and B.L.T., the natural children of Decedent, are minors in the care and legal custody of their father, Defendant Howard Thomas ("Thomas"), who appears and acts herein on behalf of B.J.T. and B.L.T (collectively, the "Minors"). Thomas was married to Decedent at the time of her death.
6. Defendant Emma Beecham ("Beecham") is the mother of the Decedent.
7. Plaintiff filed this action for interpleader because Defendants Thomas and Beecham asserted conflicting claims to the Proceeds.
8. Defendants each hereby stipulate to, or otherwise waive any objections to, the Court's personal jurisdiction over each Defendant.
9. Pursuant to the terms of the Policy, Liberty Life has sole discretion for the determination of claims under the Policy and to interpret its terms.
10. Decedent died on November 24, 2007.
11. On December 11, 2007, Decedent's Employer provided Liberty Life with a copy of Decedent's death certificate and a copy of a beneficiary designation form signed by Decedent on September 28, 1987. This beneficiary designation form designated Defendant Thomas as the sole primary beneficiary of the Proceeds and designated Defendant Beecham as the sole contingent beneficiary. On the same date, the Employer also provided Liberty Life with a copy a Proof of Death Form prepared and signed on December 11, 2007 by the Health and Welfare Manager of Decedent's Employer. This document states that Defendant Thomas is the sole designated beneficiary for the Proceeds, and was signed by Defendant Thomas on November 26, 2007.
12. On December 13, 2007, Decedent's Employer provided Liberty Life with a Change of Beneficiary form which indicates it was signed by Decedent on August 18, 2005 ("2005 Beneficiary Change Form"). This form indicates the Proceeds are to be paid solely to Defendant ...