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American General Life Insurance Co. v. One Vision

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

November 19, 2019

AMERICAN GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ONE VISION F/K/A OPPORTUNITY VILLAGE; MICHAEL W. MARR; CHARLES MARR; and ELIZABETH WILKINSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          C.J. WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND ............................................................. 1

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY ............................................................... 4

         III. MOTION TO RECONSIDER ............................................................ 5

         A. Applicable Law ...................................................................... 5

         B. Analysis ............................................................................... 6

         1. Rule 60(b)(1) ................................................................ 6

         2. Rule 60(b)(6) ................................................................ 8

         IV. MOTION FOR INTERPLEADER RELIEF ........................................... 10

         A. Applicable Law ..................................................................... 10

         B. Analysis .............................................................................. 12

         1. Jurisdiction .................................................................. 12

         a. Competing Claims ................................................. 12

         b. Minimal Diversity ................................................. 13

         c. Deposit .............................................................. 13

         2. Interpleader ................................................................. 14

         3. Relief ......................................................................... 14

         a. Discharge from Liability and Injunction ....................... 15

         b. Dismissal ............................................................ 16

         c. Attorneys' Fees .................................................... 17

         V. CONCLUSION ............................................................................. 24

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Charles Marr's (“Charles”) motion to reconsider (Doc. 17) and plaintiff American General Life Insurance Company's motion for interpleader relief (Doc. 24). Plaintiff filed a timely resistance to Charles' motion to reconsider. (Doc. 23). None of the defendants filed a resistance to plaintiff's motion for interpleader relief. For the reasons below, Charles' motion to reconsider is denied and plaintiff's motion for interpleader relief is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not in dispute unless otherwise noted. Additional facts will be discussed below as they become relevant. Plaintiff is the issuer of an annuity (the “Annuity”) under which Katherine Marr (“Katherine”) was the annuitant and measuring life. (Docs. 1, at 1; 1-2, at 8-9). Charles, Michael W. Marr (“Michael”), and Elizabeth Wilkinson (“Elizabeth”) (collectively, the “Marr defendants”) are Katherine's siblings. (Docs. 1-2; 1-3). Katherine and the Marr defendants' parents died in an accident which led to a settlement between Katherine, other members of her family, the personal injury defendants, and their insurers. (Docs. 1, at 2-3; 17, at 3). Plaintiff asserts that Katherine entered the settlement agreement through Michael who was acting as her trustee. (Doc. 1, at 2-3). The Annuity was purchased to fund the personal injury defendants and their insurers' obligations under the settlement agreement. (Id.). The Annuity guarantees payments of $611.42 per month from July 1, 2002, until June 1, 2022 (the “Annuity Payments”), and provides that the Annuity Payments would continue for the remainder of Katherine's life if Katherine survived past June 1, 2022. (Docs. 1, at 3; 1-2, at 3). Katherine passed away in September 2018. (Doc. 5, at 10).

         The application for the Annuity lists Michael, as Trustee of the Katherine M. Marr Trust, as the payee of the Annuity Payments. (Docs. 1, at 3; 1-2, at 9). The portion of the application designating Michael as payee identifies “Michael W. Marr, Trustee” in typeface, but the words “of the Katherine M[.] Marr Trust” and an address are handwritten below. (Doc. 1-2, at 9). The Marr defendants assert that the Katherine M. Marr Trust does not exist. (Doc. 5, at 9). Attorney Ron Arispe (“Mr. Arispe”), who represented the Marr defendants in litigation related to their parent's death, informed plaintiff that the Katherine M. Marr Trust was not a trust, but rather was a designation used for business purposes. (Doc. 24-3, at 23). Mr. Arispe asserted that Michael had authority to act on Katherine's behalf because Michael was the trustee of their parents' trust as well as the executor of their parents' estates. (Id.).

         The application for the Annuity lists Opportunity Village as the beneficiary of the Annuity and the Marr defendants as the contingent beneficiaries. (Id.). Plaintiff asserts, and One Vision admits, that Opportunity Village is an Iowa nonprofit corporation and is now known as One Vision. (Docs. 1, at 1; 11, at 1). The Marr defendants claim that One Vision is not the same as Opportunity Village. (Docs. 5, at 9; 17, at 3). The Marr defendants' contention that One Vision is not the same as Opportunity Village is primarily based on the Marr defendants' belief that One Vision significantly changed Opportunity Village's operations. (Id.).

         On or about July 29, 2018, Michael executed a change of beneficiary form naming himself as the primary beneficiary and Elizabeth as the contingent beneficiary of the Annuity. (Doc. 1-3). Michael signed the form on the line designated “Signature of Annuitant or Legal Representative.” (Id.). On or about August 1, 2018, plaintiff received a copy of the change of beneficiary form. (Doc. 1, at 3). Plaintiff alleges that it requested that Michael and Mr. Arispe provide plaintiff with documentation showing that Michael was the Trustee of the Katherine M. Marr Trust or any other documentation showing that Michael had authority to change the beneficiary of the Annuity. (Docs. 1, at 3-4; 24-3, at 17, 20). On September 17, 2018, plaintiff became aware of Katherine's death. (Docs. 1, at 3; 24-3, at 16). Plaintiff communicated with Michael and Mr. Arispe on several occasions by email between August 6, 2018, and January 4, 2019. (Doc. 24- 3, at 16-28). On January 10, 2019, Mr. Arispe informed plaintiff that he did not have any additional information on this matter. (Docs. 1, at 4; 24-3, at 29).

         Plaintiff took the position that the documents Mr. Arispe provided, apparently about Katherine and the Marr defendants' parents' trust, did not substantiate Michael's ability to change the beneficiary of the Annuity because the Annuity listed Michael, as Trustee of the Katherine M. Marr Trust, as the payee. (See Doc. 23-4, at 23, 29). Beginning with the payment due on October 1, 2018, plaintiff withheld the Annuity Payments until it could determine the proper beneficiary in light of the change of beneficiary form and the questions about Michael's authority to change the beneficiary of the Annuity. (Id., at 4).

         The Marr defendants assert that based on the change of beneficiary form there is no doubt that Michael and Elizabeth are the beneficiaries of the Annuity following Katherine's death. (Doc. 5, at 10). The Marr defendants contend that the Katherine M. Marr Trust never existed. (Doc. 5, at 9-10). The Marr defendants also argue that Michael had the authority to set up the Annuity on Katherine's behalf and change the beneficiary because Michael was the administrator of Katherine and the Marr defendants' parents' estates. (Docs. 5, at 9-11; 17 at 2; see also Doc. 24-3, at 23). Thus, the Marr defendants assert that their inability to produce documentation of the Katherine M. Marr Trust does not permit plaintiff to disregard the change of beneficiary form. (Id.). The Marr defendants likewise challenge the propriety of plaintiff's request for documentation related to Michael's authority to change the beneficiary of the Annuity when no such documentation was required when the Annuity initially named Michael as Trustee as the payee. (Doc. 5, at 9-11). The Marr defendants repeatedly object to plaintiff collecting attorneys' fees and costs out of the Annuity Payments. (Id., at 9-12).

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 23, 2019, plaintiff filed this interpleader action. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff sought to deposit the withheld Annuity Payments and all future Annuity Payments as they become due into the Court Registry Investment System (“CRIS”). (Id., at 6). The complaint also requested that the Court discharge plaintiff from any further liability related to the Annuity or the Annuity Payments, restrain the defendants from instituting or maintain any action regarding the Annuity or the Annuity Payments, and award plaintiff its attorneys' fees and costs associated with this action. (Id.). On April 24, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion to deposit the withheld Annuity Payments and future Annuity Payments into CRIS. (Doc. 4). On May 30, 2019, the Marr defendants filed a pro se answer to plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 5). Construing the pro se answer broadly, it also challenged the propriety of plaintiff depositing the withheld and future Annuity Payments ...


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