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Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Leonis

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 12, 2014

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
THEODORE J. LEONIS, et al., Defendants

For Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Plaintiff: Mark J. Hancock, LEAD ATTORNEY, Erin A. Cornell, Rebecca A. Hull, Sedgwick LLP, San Francisco, CA.

For Theodore J. Leonis, Defendant: Peter W. Clerides, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, San Francisco, CA.

Virginia L Leonis, Defendant, Pro se, Concord, CA.

AMENDED ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DEPOSIT FUNDS WITH COURT AND DISCHARGE AND DENYING MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES Re: ECF No. 21[1]

JON S. TIGAR, United States District Judge.

In this interpleader action, Plaintiff Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (" MetLife") moves the Court for an order permitting deposit of $21, 000.00, plus statutory interest, in life insurance proceeds, and for discharge from any further liability and dismissal with prejudice. ECF No. 21 at 1. Plaintiff also moves for attorneys' fees in the amount of $2, 394. Id. The Court will GRANT the motion to deposit funds and for discharge from any further liability and dismissal with prejudice from the action. The Court will DENY the motion for attorneys' fees.

I. BACKGROUND

According to MetLife's complaint, James T. Leonis (" the decedent") was covered under the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Policy (the " FEGLI Policy") issued by MetLife to the Office of Personnel Management pursuant to the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act, 5 U.S.C. § § 8701, et seq. ECF No. 1 ¶ ¶ 5, 7. His life insurance benefits, in the total amount of $21, 000, became payable upon his death on October 7, 2011. Id. ¶ 12-13. Under federal law, these benefits must be paid, on the establishment of a valid claim, to the person or persons surviving at the date of his death, in the following order of precedence:

First, to the beneficiary or beneficiaries designated by the employee in a signed and witnessed writing received before death in the employing office . . . .
Second, if there is no designated beneficiary, to the widow or widower of the employee.
Third, if none of the above, to the child or children of the employee and descendants of deceased children by representation. . . .

5 U.S.C. § 8705(a); ECF No. 1 ¶ 10.

Defendant Theodore J. Leonis is a surviving son of the decedent, Defendant Virginia L. Leonis is a surviving daughter of the decedent, and Jodi A. Zugnoni is a surviving granddaughter of the decedent. ECF No. 1 ¶ ¶ 2-4. The most recent beneficiary designation form on file, dated March 29, 2005, names Jodi A. Zugnoni and Virginia L. Leonis as co-equal beneficiaries of the FEGLI benefits. Id. ¶ 11, Ex. A. However, Theodore J. Leonis provided to Plaintiff documentation in support of his claims that, prior to his death, the decedent was physically and financially abused by Virginia L. Leonis and Jodi A. Zugnoni and that the decedent's decision-making capacity was compromised at the time he signed the 2005 beneficiary designation form. Id. ¶ ¶ 14-16. Theodore J. Leonis's Claims for Death Benefits identify Theodore J. Leonis and Virginia L. Leonis as the decedent's only children and state that the decedent did not leave a surviving spouse. Id. ¶ 17, Exs. D, E.

Because MetLife could not determine whether a court would conclude that Virginia L. Leonis or Jodi A. Zugnoni should be disqualified from receiving some or all of the FEGLI benefits, it brought this interpleader action to permit this Court to determine the proper disposition of the benefits, naming as Defendants Theodore J. Leonis, Virginia L. Leonis, and Jodi A. Zugnoni. ECF No. 1; see Fed.R.Civ.P. 22.

MetLife sought a stipulation providing for the contested funds to be deposited with the Court and for MetLife to be discharged from the action. ECF No. 21-1 ¶ 2. Defendants Theodore J. Leonis and Virginia L. Leonis have signed the stipulation but, notwithstanding repeated requests, Jodi A. Zugnoni did not sign the stipulation. Id. ¶ ¶ 2-6, Ex. A, B. As a result, MetLife filed this motion on September 23, 2014. ECF No. 21. MetLife's ...


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