United States District Court, W.D. Washington
Donna Marie Whitaker, Defendant, Pro se, Carmichael, CA.
Thomas A. Henderson, Defendant, Pro se, Pelham, NH.
Martin Lee Henderson Oroshiba, Defendant, Pro se, PUYALLUP, WA.
Calvin John Henderson, Defendant, Pro se, RENO, NV.
DEFAULT JUDGMENT AND ORDER OF DISBURSEMENT
John C. Coughenour, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This matter comes before the Court on the motions for default judgment of Defendants Donna Marie Whitaker, Thomas Henderson, Martin Lee Henderson Oroshiba, and Calvin John Henderson. (Dkt. No. 32, 34, 35.) Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby GRANTS the motions for the reasons explained herein.
This is an interpleader action involving a dispute over the proceeds of a life insurance policy administered by plaintiff-in-interpleader Standard Insurance Company (" Standard" ). Standard issued a Group Life Insurance Policy to the Washington State Counsel of LEOFF II Personnel Insurance Trust as policyowner, bearing Policy No. 606308-I, with an effective date of January 1, 1999. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A.) Joseph Henderson had coverage in the amount of $20,000 under this life insurance policy. He originally named as the policy's beneficiary Ms. Paula Asuncion, his wife at the time. In 2008, Mr. Henderson and Ms. Asuncion divorced, but Mr. Henderson never changed the beneficiary designation for the life insurance policy. Mr. Henderson died in 2013. Following his death, Ms. Asuncion and Mr. Henderson's surviving siblings disputed their respective entitlements to the proceeds. Ms. Asuncion asserted that the life insurance policy was an ERISA-governed policy and that under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, 532 U.S. 141, 121 S.Ct. 1322, 149 L.Ed.2d 264 (2001), she is entitled to the policy since she is the listed beneficiary. Defendants Donna Marie Whitaker, Thomas Henderson, Martin Lee Henderson Oroshiba, and Calvin John Henderson are Mr. Henderson's surviving siblings. They claim that the policy is not an ERISA-governed policy, and thus, that Wash. Rev. Code § 11.07.010 automatically revoked the designation in favor of Ms. Asuncion when she and Mr. Henderson divorced. Accordingly, they argue, the Plan documents provide that they are entitled to the funds in absence of any listed beneficiary.
Standard filed this action after receiving the competing claims on the policy from
defendants-in-interpleader. In its June 18, 2014 Order, this Court dismissed Standard from this action and discharged it from further liability. ( See Dkt. No. 21.) In that same Order, the Court found Defendant Paula Asuncion to be in default, and directed the non-appearing sibling-defendants to appear, file any claims to the insurance proceeds, and file motions for default judgment. (Dkt. No. 27.) Defendants Donna Marie Whitaker, Thomas Henderson, Martin Lee Henderson Oroshiba, and Calvin John Henderson have each appeared and asserted their entitlement to the insurance proceeds in equal portions. Each of the sibling-defendants asks the Court to enter default judgment against Defendant Paula Asuncion and award them one-quarter of the remaining insurance funds. (Dkt. Nos. 32, 34, 35.)
" A named interpleader defendant who fails to answer the interpleader complaint and assert a claim to the res forfeits any claim of entitlement that might have been asserted" if service was properly effected upon them. Sun Life Assur. Co. of Canada, (U.S.) v. Conroy, 431 F.Supp.2d 220, 226 (D.R.I. 2006). The Court may accordingly, in its discretion, grant default judgment against the non-appearing interpleader defendants where the only remaining claimants demonstrate their entitlement to the funds and do not dispute the respective distributions. See Cripps v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 980 F.2d 1261, 1267 (9th Cir. 1992) (appearing claimants must demonstrate entitlement to benefits); Nationwide Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. Eason, 736 F.2d 130, 133 n. 6 (4th Cir.1984) (" Clearly, if all but one named interpleader defendant defaulted, the remaining defendant would be entitled to the fund." ). In exercising this discretion, the Court considers a range of factors, including " (1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits of plaintiff's substantive claim, (3) the sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the sum of money at stake in the action, (5) the ...