United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, District Judge.
This matter was tried to the Court on December 8, 2014. The claims presented for adjudication were as follows:
(1) Who is the rightful recipient of proceeds from an annuity purchased by Ignacia Nicholas, the late-aunt of Defendant Yoling Ortiz?
(2) Once the rightful owner of the funds is determined, is an award of pre-judgment interest appropriate?
(3) What amount of attorneys' fees is reasonable to award to interpleader Plaintiffs?
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
Defendant Yoling Ortiz, the ex-wife of Defendant Ciprian Ortiz, Jr., established an annuity account in 2002 as joint owner with her aunt, Ignacia Nicolas. Ms. Nicolas died in 2005. It is undisputed that Plaintiffs owe $148, 361.00 under the annuity.
The annuity contract lists Ciprian Ortiz, Jr. as the primary beneficiary. Ciprian Ortiz, Jr. and Yoling Ortiz have two children, Ciprian E. Ortiz, III and C.O., a minor. The children are listed on the annuity as contingent beneficiaries. In 2009, Yoling Ortiz filed her own annuity application - included as an exhibit before the Court - listing Ciprian E. Ortiz, III and C.O. as sole beneficiaries.
The designation of Ciprian Ortiz, Jr. as the primary beneficiary on the annuity contract was in error. Mr. Ortiz, Jr. himself stated that the annuity proceeds were meant to be an inheritance for Yoling Ortiz. Ciprian Ortiz, Jr. was unaware of the annuity's existence when the contract was formed. Yoling Ortiz has, mysteriously, not entered an appearance in this case despite Plaintiffs' varied attempts to contact her.
Ciprian Ortiz, Jr. objects to distributing the annuity proceeds between his two children.
II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Jurisdiction is vested in this Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1335. The amount in controversy is $148, 361.00, and complete diversity exists between the parties.
A. Ciprian Ortiz, Jr.'s Designation as Primary Beneficiary was a Mutual Mistake Warranting Contract Reformation
Under Washington law, "a mutual mistake occurs when the parties, although sharing an identical intent when they formed a written document, did not express that intent in the document." Caliber One Indem. Co. v. Wade Cook Fin. Corp., 491 F.3d 1079, 1082 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Seattle Prof'l Eng'g Employees Ass'n v. Boeing Co., 139 Wash.2d 824 (Wash. 2000)). A finding of mutual mistake requires clear, cogent, and ...