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Sun Life Assurance Co. v. Wasko

United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Central Division

March 12, 2013

SUN LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF CANADA, Plaintiff/Stakeholder,
v.
BONNIE S. WASKO, SHANA N. WASKO, JOSHUA A. WASKO, Individually and JOSHUA A. WASKO, as the Executor of the ESTATE OF DANIEL L. WASKO, Defendants/Claimants. BONNIE S. WASKO, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
DR. PEPPER SNAPPLE GROUP, INC., Third-Party Defendant

For Bonnie S Wasko, Defendant: Craig R Foss, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lucas Carter Helling, FOSS KUIKEN & COCHRAN PC, Fairfield, IA.

For Shana N Wasko, Joshua A Wasko, as the Executor of the Estate of Daniel L Wasko, Joshua A Wasko, Individually, Defendants: Bryan J. Goldsmith, GAUMER EMANUEL CARPENTER & GOLDSMITH PC, OTTUMWA, IA.

For Joshua A Wasko, Individually, Joshua A Wasko, as the Executor of the Estate of Daniel L Wasko, Shana N Wasko, Cross Claimants: Bryan J. Goldsmith, GAUMER EMANUEL CARPENTER & GOLDSMITH PC, OTTUMWA, IA.

For Bonnie S Wasko, Cross Defendant: Craig R Foss, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lucas Carter Helling, FOSS KUIKEN & COCHRAN PC, Fairfield, IA.

For Joshua A Wasko, Individually, Joshua A Wasko, as the Executor of the Estate of Daniel L Wasko, Shana N Wasko, Counter Claimants: Bryan J. Goldsmith, GAUMER EMANUEL CARPENTER & GOLDSMITH PC, OTTUMWA, IA.

For Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Counter Defendant: William P Rector, LEAD ATTORNEY, BOZEMAN NEIGHBOR PATTON & NOE, MOLINE, IL.

For Bonnie S Wasko, Third Party Plaintiff: Lucas Carter Helling, FOSS KUIKEN & COCHRAN PC, Fairfield, IA.

For Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., Third Party Defendant: Steven T Durick, LEAD ATTORNEY, PEDDICORD, WHARTON, SPENCER, HOOK, BARRON & WEGMAN, LLP, WEST DES MOINES, IA; Scott J Beattie, PEDDICORD WHARTON SPENCER HOOK, BARRON & WEGMAN LLP, DES MOINES, IA.

For Bonnie S Wasko, Cross Claimant: Craig R Foss, LEAD ATTORNEY, FOSS KUIKEN & COCHRAN PC, Fairfield, IA.

For Joshua A Wasko, Individually, Shana N Wasko, Cross Defendants: Bryan J. Goldsmith, GAUMER EMANUEL CARPENTER & GOLDSMITH PC, OTTUMWA, IA.

For Bonnie S Wasko, Counter Claimant: Craig R Foss, LEAD ATTORNEY, FOSS KUIKEN & COCHRAN PC, Fairfield, IA.

OPINION

Page 945

ROSS A. WALTERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

RULING ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on the motions for summary judgment [64] filed by the claimants to life insurance proceeds deposited in this Court by the original plaintiff/stakeholder Sun Life Assurance Company (" Sun Life" ). In a Petition

Page 946

for Interpleader Relief and Request for Declaratory Judgment (" Petition" )[1] filed August 21, 2009, Sun Life sought to deposit into court the death benefit proceeds of a group life insurance policy which insured the life of decedent Daniel L. Wasko. Sun Life was faced with conflicting claims to the proceeds. (Petition [1] at 4-5). Sun Life named as defendants/claimants Bonnie S. Wasko, the wife of Mr. Wasko, Shana N. Wasko and Joshua A. Wasko, his children, and the Estate of Daniel L. Wasko (Joshua A. Wasko, Executor).

Shana Wasko and Joshua Wasko (" the children" ) filed a cross-claim against Bonnie Wasko and a counterclaim against Sun Life, seeking a declaratory judgment they were the sole and equal beneficiaries of the life insurance proceeds. Bonnie Wasko filed a cross-claim against the children and a counterclaim against Sun Life, seeking, effectively, a judgment that all policy proceeds belonged to her. She also brought a third-party complaint against Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (" DPSG" ), Mr. Wasko's former employer, for negligent administration of the employee welfare benefit plan which included the group life insurance policy. That claim is not involved in the present cross-motions.

Sun Life filed a motion for leave to deposit funds and for entry of final decree of interpleader, which upon deposit sought discharge and dismissal [9]. Ultimately this was unresisted and by order entered April 8, 2010, Sun Life was directed to deposit the contested proceeds with the Court and was dismissed as a party. (Text Order [29]). Court records indicate a total of $183,376.58 has been received from Sun Life.

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction of the claims as the policy under which benefits are payable is part of an employee welfare benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (" ERISA" ). 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1335.[1] The case was referred to the undersigned for all further proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Hearing on the summary judgment motions was held on November 19, 2012. The motions are fully submitted.

I.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A party is entitled to summary judgment only if, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party and affording that party all reasonable inferences, see Heartland Community Church v. Waddle, 595 F.3d 798, 805 (8th Cir. 2010); EEOC v. Liberal R-II Sch. Dist., 314 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 2002), the depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, affidavits, or other materials presented to the court, show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Preston v. City of Pleasant Hill, 642 F.3d 646, 651 (8th Cir. 2011); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A). Bonnie Wasko and the children agree that there are no disputed issues of material fact and that the cross-motions may be decided as a matter of law on the motion papers.

II.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Daniel Wasko was an employee of DPSG. DPSG had an employee benefits plan which included a Sun Life group life insurance policy, Policy No. 28938-001,

Page 947

with basic and optional life insurance benefits.[2] (App. [64-3] at 1051). The death benefit under the basic life component of the policy was $40,000; under an election made by Mr. Wasko, the optional life death benefit was $138,000, a total of $178,000. (Complaint [1] at ¶ 12). On November 12, 2007 Mr. Wasko, then single, completed a written group insurance beneficiary designation form which named the children as primary beneficiaries and Zoie M. Sindt (a granddaughter) as secondary beneficiary of his basic life, optional life (referred to as " Supplemental Life" on the form), and accidental death and dismemberment insurance. (Supp. App. [66-2] at 100).

In August 2008 Mr. Wasko married Bonnie Wasko. (App. [64-3] at 69).

DPSG's annual enrollment period for changes in employee benefits ran from November 10, 2008 and ended November 21, 2008. (App. [64-3] at 52). Enrollment changes could be made through DPSG's on-line website. ( Id. at 53, 59). On November 19, 2008, Mr. Wasko attempted to log on to make changes. Unable to do so, the same date he contacted Hewitt Associates,[3] the third-party benefits plan administrator for DPSG, ( id. at 106), by telephone. ( Id. at 61). His first contact was with Hewitt benefits representative " Troy." Mr. Wasko had been locked out of the on-line system and needed a new password. ( Id. at 61-67). He was unable to complete the enrollment over the telephone at that time because he did not have the necessary information in hand. Mr. Wasko called back later that day and spoke to another Hewitt representative, " Destiny," to complete enrollment. ( Id. at 68). Mr. Wasko told Destiny he wanted to continue enrollment in a United Health Care Plan and add Bonnie who he had married in August. ( Id. at 69). He also added Bonnie to his dental and vision plans. ( Id. at 71).

Destiny and Mr. Wasko then had the following conversation concerning his life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage:

DESTINY: . . . [Y]ou are covered under the employee basic life insurance for 40,000 dollars' worth of coverage; that's provided to you at no cost.
MR. WASKO: Okay.
DESTINY: And you're also currently in the employee optional life plan at six times your salary for $138,000 in coverage . . . and did you want to remain in that one?
MR. WASKO: Yes.
DESTINY: Okay. And did you want to designate Bonnie as the primary ...

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