United States District Court, C.D. California
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-in-Interpleader,
BAMBI GICANA; and ARACELI MALONEY, Defendants-in-Interpleader. AND RELATED CROSS AND COUNTER CLAIMS
ORDER RE: GICANA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON
THE INTERPLED FUNDS AND/OR RETIREMENT BENEFITS 
HONORABLE RONALD S.W. LEW SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”)
filed the instant Action due to Defendants-in-Interpleader
Bambi Gicana (“Gicana”) and Araceli Maloney's
(“Maloney”) competing claims to funds from the
AT&T Group Life Insurance Program (the
“Plan”). See Compl., ECF No. 1. The Plan
is an employee welfare benefit plan governed by the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”),
sponsored by AT&T, and funded by a group life insurance
policy issued by MetLife. Id. ¶ 6. Currently
before the Court is Gicana's Motion for Summary Judgment
as to Interpled Funds and/or Retirement Benefits
(“Motion”) . Having reviewed all papers
submitted pertaining to this Motion, the Court NOW
FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS: the Court GRANTS
in part and DENIES in part
Factual Background 
AT&T hired Efren Molina Martinez (“Decedent”)
on October 31, 1998, Decedent enrolled in the Plan for basic
life insurance coverage. Gicana's Statement of Undisputed
Facts (“SUF”) ¶¶ 1-3, ECF No. 49-1. He
also acquired a 401(k) retirement plan with AT&T, which
is governed by ERISA. Id. ¶¶ 78-79. On
March 3, 2005-before their marriage on March 25,
2005-Decedent and Gicana executed a prenuptial agreement, a
copy of which Decedent provided to his sister, Maloney, since
she was going to be the executor of his estate and trustee of
his trust. Id. ¶¶ 11-14. The prenuptial
agreement states that “[a]ny contributions made by any
employer to any retirement plans . . . shall remain the
separate property of the party for whose benefit such
contributions were made, ” but “[t]his Agreement
shall not preclude one spouse from bequeathing or devising
property to the other by will executed after the date of this
Agreement, nor shall it constitute a Waiver of such a bequest
or devise.” Gicana's Ex. Volume 1
(“Gicana's Vol. 1”), Ex. 5
(“Prenup.”) at ¶¶ 4, 8, ECF No. 51.
April 24, 2013, Decedent executed the following: his
pour-over will, naming Maloney as executor of his estate; his
original trust, naming Gicana as first successor trustee and
Maloney as second successor trustee; and his durable general
power of attorney, naming Maloney as attorney-in-fact. SUF
¶¶ 15-16, 18, 20-21. Maloney received copies of
these documents. Id. ¶¶ 17, 19, 22.
October 16, 2014, Decedent was diagnosed with cancer of the
spine. Id. ¶ 5. He started radiation on October
28, 2014 and chemotherapy on November 28, 2014. Id.
amended his trust on February 17, 2015. Id. ¶
29. Through this amendment, Decedent named Maloney as first
successor trustee. Gicana's Vol. 1, Ex. 12
(“2/17/15 Tr. Am.”) at ¶ 2C. He also
required that, upon his death, the trustee would collect the
life insurance policy proceeds payable to the trust, as well
as the required minimum distribution amounts from retirement
accounts, including 401(k) benefits. Id.
¶¶ 3M-3N. Those proceeds were to fund the gifts of
$240, 000 each to Decedent's son and Gicana. Id.
February 23, 2015, Maloney designated herself as beneficiary
of Decedent's life insurance. SUF ¶ 65; Compl., Ex. B.
Decedent's 401(k) beneficiary designation lists
Decedent's name but Maloney's address. SUF ¶ 82;
see Maloney Dep. 87:14-88:11. Maloney made both of
these designations through Decedent's netbenefits.com
account. See SUF ¶¶ 55-56, 62-65, 81.
Gicana and Maloney dispute whether the designations should
have been in Maloney's personal or trustee capacity. It
is undisputed that without a designation, all Plan proceeds
would have passed entirely to Gicana under AT&T's
default rules concerning spouses. Gicana's Ex. Volume 2
(“Gicana's Vol. 2”), Ex. 18 at 22, ECF No.
revoked the $240, 000 gift to his son and disinherited him
entirely by a trust amendment dated November 11, 2015.
Maloney's Ex. Volume 1 (“Maloney's Vol.
1”), Ex. 3, ECF No. 60-1. He then revoked the $240, 000
gift to Gicana by a January 30, 2016 trust amendment.
Id., Ex. 4. On February 3, 2016, Decedent bequeathed
a piece of real property to his son by another trust
amendment. Id., Ex. 5.
part, to metastatic adenocarcinoma of the spine, Decedent
passed away on March 15, 2016. SUF ¶ 7. The following
day, Maloney submitted a life insurance claim form statement
to MetLife, seeking Decedent's life insurance proceeds of
$79, 000. Id. ¶ 8; Gicana's Request for
Judicial Notice (“RJN”), Ex. 42, ECF No. 48. On
May 26, 2016, Gicana submitted a rival claim to MetLife for
said proceeds. SUF ¶ 9; RJN, Ex. 43. With respect to the
401(k) benefits, Maloney has been receiving the minimum
required distributions since Decedent's death but has not
been using those distributions for trust purposes or
expenses. SUF ¶¶ 83-84; Maloney Dep. 60:6-15.
November 8, 2016, MetLife filed its Complaint-in-Interpleader
. Gicana and Maloney subsequently answered and asserted
causes of action. The Court dismissed MetLife from the Action
on April 28, 2017.
Gicana's Crossclaim  against Maloney, Gicana alleges
Maloney is liable for fraud in the inception, conversion,
undue influence, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud.
However, in Gicana's Motion, she only argues that Maloney
breached her fiduciary duty when she designated herself as
beneficiary under the Plan.See Gicana's Mot. for
Summ. J. (“Mot.”) 24:15-25:5, ECF No. 46.
Maloney's Counterclaim  is for a declaration that
Maloney is the legal owner of the interpled funds.
filed the instant Motion  on January 31, 2018. Maloney
timely opposed ,  and Gicana timely replied .
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) states that a “court
shall grant summary judgment” when “the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” A fact is “material” for purposes of
summary judgment if it might affect the outcome of the suit,
and a “genuine” issue exists if the evidence is
such that a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for
the nonmovant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The
evidence, and any inferences based on underlying facts, must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. v. MCA, Inc., 715
F.2d 1327, 1328-29 (9th Cir. 1983). In ruling on a motion for
summary judgment, the court's function is not to weigh
the evidence, but only to determine if a genuine issue of
material fact exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
Gicana's Request for Judicial Notice Gicana
requests the Court take judicial notice of the Complaint and
the following exhibits to the Complaint: (1) Decedent's
death certificate; (2) Maloney's life insurance claim
statement; (3) Gicana's rival claim statement; (4) the
summary description of the Plan; and (5) the spousal consent
form. Since the Complaint and its exhibits are part of this
Court's record, the Court GRANTS
Gicana's request ...