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The Prudential Insurance Co. of America v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 22, 2019

THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON R. BROWN, AMBER R. BROWN, JUSTIN R. BROWN, MYNA J. BROWN, TRACE M. BROWN, and DIANNA BROWN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JEFFREY U. BEAVERSTOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This 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.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Prudential 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, [1] 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).

         FACTS

         On 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).

         As more 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).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Default judgment must be entered against Madison Brown.

         In its 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).

         As a 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 ...


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