United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
JEFFREY U. BEAVERSTOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff, The Prudential
Insurance Company of America's
(“Prudential”), Motions for Default Judgment
against Defendant Madison R. Brown, (Doc. 53), to Deposit
Funds Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 67 (Doc. 54), and for
Interpleader Relief. (Doc. 55). After due consideration, the
Court finds that Prudential is entitled to the relief
requested in each Motion as set forth herein.
instituted this action via Interpleader Complaint on December
11, 2018. (Doc. 1). In its Complaint, Prudential acknowledges
the several claims to the insurance policy proceeds,
notes that it has no stake in the outcome of the proceedings,
and requests various forms of relief from this Court. In
response to Prudential's filing, Dianna Brown (Doc. 12)
and the Brown Children (Doc. 24) filed Answers, with the
Brown Children cross-claiming against Dianna Brown. In their
cross-claim, the Brown children allege that Dianna Brown
either coerced Richard Brown via duress, or as a consequence
of undue influence, or her own forgery, to designate her as
the beneficiary to “another $250, 000 insurance
policy.” (Doc. 24, p. 3). After the Brown Children
filed their cross-claim, Dianna Brown answered and filed her
own cross-claim against the Brown Children. (Doc. 31).
Thereafter, the Brown Children filed Motions to Dismiss (Doc.
37) and for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 38), each of which
they sought to withdraw shortly thereafter, and the Court
obliged their requests. Following the Brown Children's
most recent filings, Prudential filed the Motions now before
the Court. (Docs. 53 - 55).
December 4, 2001, Richard E. Brown (“Brown” or
“the Insured”) divorced his first wife (and the
biological mother of the Brown children), Cynthia Brown.
(Doc. 38-2, p. 92). Among the various provisions of the
divorce decree, the Mobile County Circuit Court ordered the
following regarding the Insured's life insurance policy:
That the Defendant shall name the minor children irrevocable
beneficiaries of all life insurance policies presently in
existence on his life. The Defendant shall furnish the
Plaintiff proof of the existence of said life insurance, the
death benefit, and this irrevocable beneficiary designation
within thirty (30) days from the date of the signing of the
divorce decree and at least once each year during the month
of January upon Plaintiff's written request.
(Doc. 38-2, p. 91) (emphasis removed). At the time of his
divorce from Cynthia Brown, the Insured was retired from the
United States Army and was working full time with the
Veterans Administration. (Id.). As a consequence of
his military service, Brown was insured by the Prudential
Insurance Company of America through a Veteran's Group
Life Insurance Policy (“VGLI Policy”).
Brown's coverage under this policy began on June 1, 1995;
the death benefit under this policy was $100, 000. (Doc.
38-2, pp. 95 - 97). Accordingly, the policy referred to in
the Mobile County Circuit Court's divorce decree was in
effect at the time of the divorce and subsequent to it. (Doc.
1, p. 3).
fully set out in Prudential's and the Brown
Children's filings, the Insured executed Beneficiary
Designations naming the Brown Children as his primary
beneficiaries on the above-referenced policy in 2013.
(See Doc. 1-2, pp. 1 - 32; Doc. 38, p. 2). On March
31, 2016, Brown married Dianna Brown. (Doc. 38-2, p. 3).
Approximately one year after his marriage, Brown again named
the Brown children as the primary beneficiaries on his
Prudential life insurance policy, providing each individual
child with a twenty (20) percent interest in the policy's
proceeds. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 1 - 12). On May 31, 2018, Brown
purportedly altered his beneficiary designation on the
Prudential life insurance policy, indicating that he wished
the proceeds of the policy to be distributed “by
law.” (Doc. 1-2, p. 15). Brown passed away on August
17, 2018 (Doc. 38-2, p. 1).
Default judgment must be entered against Madison
first Motion before the Court, Prudential asks the Court to
enter default judgment against Defendant Madison Brown
(“Madison”). In support of its Motion, Prudential
argues the following: (1) Madison was served the Complaint on
January 18, 2019 (Doc. 22); (2) Madison failed to answer in
the time required by Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure; (3) that the Clerk entered Default against Madison
on March 2, 2019 (Doc. 36); (4) Madison is not a member of
the military and is not an incompetent person, thus making
the entry of default against her proper; and (5) Rule 55 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the Court to
provide the relief Prudential seeks. (Doc. 53, pp. 4 - 6).
threshold issue, the Court notes that Prudential is correct
to assert that Madison was served on the date identified and
that she has failed to answer or otherwise appear in this
action. (See Doc. 22). Likewise, the Clerk entered
default against Madison on March 7, 2019. (Doc. 29). Further,
there is no evidence to suggest that Madison is an infant ...