United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
HARWELL G. DAVIS, III, Magistrate Judge.
The above-entitled civil action is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge based on the consent of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). This action started as an interpleader action filed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and Rule 22, Fed.R.Civ.P. (Doc. 1, Complaint). The complaint named as defendants K.H., J.K., A.K., A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B. MetLife alleges that A.T.K., I.P. and M.B. are surviving daughters of the deceased insured, Joseph Kight, and C.W. is the surviving son of Kight. ( Id. at ¶¶ 2-5). It is also alleged that J.H. and A.K. may be surviving daughters of Kight, and J.K. may be a surviving son of Kight. ( Id. at ¶¶ 6-8). Kight was an employee of Southern Company Services, Inc., and was a participant in the Basic Group Life Benefits, an ERISA-regulated employee welfare benefit plan sponsored by Southern Company Services and funded by a group life insurance policy issued by MetLife. ( Id. at ¶ 11). Kight had no beneficiary designation forms on file when he died on January 4, 2008. ( Id. at ¶¶ 15-16). Life insurance benefits of $12, 500 are payable to the proper beneficiary(s) under the policy. ( Id. at ¶ 17).
Kight's mother, Almatenia Kight, completed a Claimant's Affidavit to MetLife on August 27, 2008, stating that A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B. are Joseph Kight's children and that there is no proof that K.H., J.K. and A.K. are his children. ( Id. at ¶ 18). On September 30, 2008, Glenda Bailey (grandmother of M.B.) completed a claim for benefits on behalf of M.B. to MetLife. ( Id. at ¶ 19). On October 5, 2008, Andrea Thornton made a claim to MetLife on behalf of A.T.K. ( Id. at ¶ 20). On November 5, 2008, Phaedra Parker submitted a claim to MetLife on behalf of I.P. ( Id. at ¶ 21). On January 27, 2009, Chermere Hobson submitted a claim to MetLife on behalf of K.H. ( Id. at ¶ 22). On May 8, 2009, Jacqueline Hughes submitted a claim to MetLife on behalf of C.W. ( Id. at ¶ 23). On August 6, 2009, Shondreika Sims submitted claims to MetLife on behalf of J.K. and A.K. ( Id. at ¶¶ 24-25).
MetLife averred that A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B. are entitled to at least a 1/7 share of the proceeds; therefore, on February 22, 2010, MetLife paid into Total Control Accounts $1785.71 for each of those children, for a total of $7142.84. ( Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). The interpleader complaint alleged that proceeds of $5357.13 remain, payable to the proper beneficiaries. ( Id. at ¶ 27). MetLife stated it cannot determine whether K.H., J.K. and/or A.K. are Kight's children; therefore, it asked the Court to allow the remainder of the proceeds to be paid into Court and the Court to determine if K.H., J.K. and/or A.K. are actually Kight's children and entitled to any life insurance proceeds, failing which the remainder of the money should be apportioned among his established children (A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B.).
As the relief sought, MetLife asked that the Court require appointment of a guardian or conservator for the minor children, enjoin the children from instituting any action or proceeding against MetLife with regard to the remaining plan benefits, require defendants to settle or litigate their claims to the remaining plan benefits or that the Court will do so, permit MetLife to pay the remaining plan benefits, plus any accrued interest, into the registry of the Court, discharge MetLife and dismiss it with prejudice from this action, and award MetLife its costs and attorney fees. ( Id. at ¶¶ 32, 35).
The docket sheet reflects that a copy of the summons and complaint were served on C.W. (Doc. 10), A.T.K. (Doc. 11), M.B. (Doc. 12), J.K. (Doc. 13), A.K. (Doc. 14), I.P. (Doc. 24), and K.H. (Doc. 25). Shondreika Sims filed a pro se answer on behalf of A.K. and J.K. (Doc. 19). The answer avers that Ms. Sims and Mr. Kight were engaged and that Joseph Kight is the father of A.K. and J.K. ( Id. ). However, the answer is not notarized or signed under penalty of perjury, and no supporting documentation is provided with the answer to show that A.K. and J.K. are children of Joseph Kight.
A report and recommendation (Doc. 16) was entered that the Court order:
(1) that MetLife be ordered to submit to the Court a check payable to Clerk, United States District Court, for the remainder of the life insurance proceeds at issue herein ($5357.13, according to the complaint), plus any interest that had accrued;
(2) that the Clerk of this Court be directed to deposit the check from MetLife into the registry of the Court until such time as the Court enters further orders regarding these funds;
(3) that MetLife, upon fulfillment of its requirements as set out in this order, be discharged and dismissed with prejudice as a party from this action;
(4) that MetLife be fully and forever released from all, any and/or further liability or duty with respect to the funds at issue;
(5) that defendants and all persons or parties claiming through them, and all claimants, be enjoined from bringing or prosecuting any claim against MetLife arising out of and relating to the funds at issue;
(6) that MetLife be awarded $350.00 in costs it incurred in filing this action, and the Clerk of Court be directed to pay, as soon as practicable, this sum to Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, as attorney for MetLife, from the interpled funds to be paid into this Court; and
(7) that the Court decline to award MetLife its attorney fees in bringing this action, because it would deplete the funds, the determination of who may recover benefits falls within the routine business of an insurance company, and awarding attorney fees to ...