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Premera Blue Cross v. Winz

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 18, 2017

PREMERA BLUE CROSS, a Washington non-profit corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY WINZ, TRACIE LESAN, JOYCE ARLENE NELSON f/n/a JOYCE ARLENE LESAN, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR INTERPLEADER, INJUNCTION, AND DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFF PREMERA BLUE CROSS

          BRIAN A TSUCHIDA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY CONCLUSION

         Plaintiff Premera Blue Cross (“Premera”) filed this interpleader action against Defendants Mary Winz, Tracie Lesan, and Joyce Arlene Nelson (formerly known as Joyce Arlene Lesan). Dkt. 1. On July 26, 2017, Mary Winz and Tracie Lesan filed their answer to the Complaint. Dkt. 18. Joyce Nelson has not answered the Complaint.

         Presently before the Court is Premera's motion for interpleader, injunction, and dismissal pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 22. Dkt. 19. Premera asks the Court to hold that (1) interpleader is proper in this case, (2) Premera is dismissed from this action subject only to its agreement to make payment to the proper payee(s) as directed by the Court in its final judgment, and (3) defendant-claimants are enjoined from prosecuting any other claims against Premera relating to Gerald Lesan's benefits under the Premera 401(k) Savings Plan and the Premera Pension Equity Plan. Id. Defendants did not file a response to Premera's motion.

         The Court concludes the requirements for interpleader under Rule 22 are satisfied. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action as it presents a federal question, Premera has a good faith belief that there are competing claims to the stake, and Premera is a disinterested stakeholder.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Interpleader Complaint

         Premera filed the complaint herein on May 3, 2017. Dkt. 1. Premera alleged that it is in possession of potentially disputed funds owed to the beneficiaries of Gerald Lesan (“Gerald”), a participant in two plans offered by Premera to its employees and governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”). The first is the Premera 401(k) Savings Plan (the “401(k) Plan”), and the second is the Premera Pension Equity Plan (the “PEP, ” and together with the 401(k) Plan, the “Plans”). Id. ¶¶ 1, 12. Premera joined Mary Winz (“Mary”), Tracie Lesan (“Tracie”), and Joyce Nelson (“Joyce”) as potential beneficiaries under the Plans. Id. ¶ 25.

         Premera's Complaint alleged that Gerald initially designated Joyce, his spouse, as the primary beneficiary of his benefits under both Plans, and Mary as the secondary beneficiary of his benefits under both Plans. Id. ¶ 13. Premera alleged that Gerald and Joyce divorced effective December 12, 2016, and Gerald's designation of Joyce as the beneficiary of his benefits under both Plans was automatically revoked under the terms of the Plans as a result of the divorce. Id. However, a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”) was entered that entitled Joyce to 50% of Gerald's benefits under the 401(k) Plan, which has been distributed to Joyce. Premera alleged that on December 16, 2016, Gerald designated his sister Tracie as the primary beneficiary of his PEP benefits. Id. ¶ 17.

         Gerald died on December 31, 2016. As a result of Gerald's death, his PEP and 401(k) Plan benefits became payable. Premera sought approval from all beneficiaries of the following distribution of Gerald's remaining benefits under the Plans:

(1) Premera proposed that the portion of Gerald's 401(k) Plan benefits not subject to the QDRO be paid to Mary, because she is listed as the secondary beneficiary on Gerald's 401(k) Plan beneficiary designation form dated March 13, 2003, and became the primary beneficiary under the terms and provisions of the 401(k) Plan when Gerald and Joyce's marriage was dissolved on December 12, 2016. Id. ¶ 22(a).
(2) Premera proposed that 100% of Gerald's PEP benefits be distributed to Tracie, because she is listed as the primary beneficiary on Gerald's PEP beneficiary designation form dated December 16, 2016. Id. ¶ 22(b).

         Premera alleges that fewer than all defendants consented to Premera's proposal with respect to the distribution of Gerald's PEP and 401(k) Plan benefits. Id. ¶ 23. This proceeding followed.

         B. Dispute as to Proper ...


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