United States District Court, C.D. California
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
S. Fischer United States District Judge.
action was tried before the Court on March 12 and 13, 2019.
Having heard and reviewed the evidence and having considered
the parties' post-trial briefs, the Court makes the
findings of fact and conclusions of law set forth
Plaintiff Sherri Pegues seeks benefits under an employee
welfare benefit plan (the Plan) governed by the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et
Plan is a group life insurance plan sponsored by Defendant
Raytheon Company. Trial Exhibit (Tr. Ex.) 200, Bates Pru
Plan was fully funded by group life insurance contract no.
G-52020-MA (the Group Contract) issued by The Prudential
Insurance Company of America to Raytheon on January 1, 2016.
Id. at Bates Pru 0002-0003; Trial Transcript (TT) at
Pursuant to the Group Contract, Prudential administered and
paid from its own assets all life insurance claims under the
Group Contract. Tr. Ex. 200, Bates Pru 0002, 0049; TT at
Prudential was the claims administrator and payor of all life
insurance benefits under the Plan. Id.; Tr. Ex. 201,
Bates RAYTHEON 0590.
Raytheon contracted with Prudential to fully fund and
administer all claims for life insurance benefits under the
Plan. TT at 428:5-13.
Group Contract's “BENEFICIARY RULES” section
states, in part: “‘Beneficiary' means a
person chosen, on a form approved by Prudential, to receive
the insurance benefits. . . . You may change the Beneficiary
at any time without the consent of the present Beneficiary.
The Beneficiary change form must be filed through [Raytheon].
The change will take effect on the date the form is
signed.” Tr. Ex. 200, Bates Pru 0049.
Under the controlling terms of the Plan, a beneficiary must
be designated “on a form” approved by Prudential,
and a change of beneficiary must be “filed”
through Raytheon on a “form [that] is signed.”
Raytheon is a global company with more than 100, 000 active
and former employees who participate in numerous, varied
types of employee benefit plans offered by Raytheon,
including the Plan. TT at 336:1-3.
Raytheon contracted with a benefits administration company, a
unit of Xerox (now known as Conduent), which operates as
“Raytheon Benefit Center” (RBC), to render
certain benefits administration functions. TT at 335:16-21;
Those functions include operating and maintaining the RBC
website and call center that employees are instructed to
contact if they have questions about benefits. TT at
189:23-190:5; 335:22-25; 385:8-20.
was Conduent's responsibility to communicate with
Raytheon employees about their benefits under the Plan and to
answer employees' questions about beneficiary
designations and about using the RBC website. TT at
Conduent handles approximately 170, 000 calls and about 600,
000 transactions on the RBC website per year. TT at 336:1-13.
Raytheon and Conduent are separate, unrelated entities. TT at
Marvin's Participation in the Plan
Marvin Pegues, Sr. participated in the Plan beginning in 1978
by virtue of his employment with Raytheon. Tr. Ex. 57, Bates
Pru 0093, 94.
that time, he was unmarried, and he designated his mother,
Evelyn Johnson (a.k.a. Evelyn Pegues), as his life insurance
beneficiary by filing a written, hard-copy form. Id.
at Bates Pru 0094-0097.
Marvin worked for Raytheon for the next 30 years, during
which time his circumstances changed; he married Sherri in
1982 and had two children with her. Tr. Ex. 202.
Marvin had the ability to change his life insurance
beneficiary at any time for any reason. Tr. Ex. 200, Bates
Pru 0049; TT at 438:16-23. He also had the ability to log on
to the RBC website at any time to determine who was then
designated as his beneficiary. Tr. Ex. 201, Bates RAYTHEON
Raytheon provided a Benefits Handbook to its employees,
including Marvin, which informed them in part:
Having up-to-date beneficiaries for your life insurance is
important, especially if you've had a life event
change-such as marriage, birth, or divorce. With Desktop
Benefits, you can elect and make changes to your
beneficiary(ies) any time by visiting
https://raytheon.benefit center.com. If your initial
beneficiary election was made manually-and you want to know
who your current beneficiaries are before making your online
designation- just call the Raytheon Benefit Center at
800-358-1231, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Time (ET). Once you've named your beneficiary online, you
can view and change your designation online at any time.
There were only two ways for a Raytheon employee to change
his life insurance beneficiary under the Plan: by going to
the RBC website and completing the online steps necessary to
change the beneficiary, or by completing, signing and
submitting to the RBC a hard copy change of beneficiary form.
Id.; TT at 342:13-21.
July 21, 2011,  Marvin called the RBC and spoke with
“Art, ” an employee of Conduent (then Xerox). Tr.
Ex. 8; TT at 373:17-19.
During the call, Art informed Marvin that Evelyn was the
beneficiary under the Plan. Tr. Ex. 8, Bates RAYTHEON 0101.
Marvin stated, “OK, I need that changed to my
wife.” Marvin told Art that he did not know Evelyn was
his beneficiary, they joked about it, and Art explained that
it happens often. Id. at Bates RAYTHEON 0101-02.
Marvin had significant difficulty navigating the RBC website
during this call. See Tr. Ex. 8.
offered to send Marvin a beneficiary change form for him to
complete and return, but Marvin declined that offer and chose
to attempt to make the change using the RBC website instead.
Id. at Bates RAYTHEON 0101.
another point in the conversation while trying to change his
life insurance beneficiary, Marvin asked Art if Art could
send him the form electronically. Art replied: “No,
they have to send it in the mail. We can't update it on
the web. You either have to do it or we have to send you the
form.” Id. at Bates RAYTHEON 0104-05.
During the call, Art attempted to walk Marvin through the
online steps necessary to change his life insurance
beneficiary from Evelyn to Sherri. Id. at Bates
When Marvin told Art that it appeared from the screen Marvin
was viewing that the change had been made, Art informed
Marvin that the beneficiary change was not reflected on the
screen that Art was viewing, even though (as Art told Marvin)
it should appear in “real time” on Art's
screen if the change had been made. Id. at Bates
then instructed Marvin to print out what Marvin saw on his
computer screen and to turn it in. Id.
Marvin never turned in the print-out of the screen reflecting
his attempt to change his life beneficiary as Art instructed
him to do. TT at 358:4-6; 365:24-369:8.
no time, including during Marvin's call with Art, did
Marvin complete a change of beneficiary under the Plan from
Evelyn to Sherri. Tr. Ex. 8; Tr. Ex. 502; TT at 255:1-263:9.
Marvin passed away on April 15, 2016. Tr. Ex. 205.
the time Marvin passed away, the life beneficiary designation
on file on a form approved by Prudential named Evelyn as his