United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT ROBERSON'S MOTION FOR
Honorable Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge.
Honorable Richard A. Jones This matter comes before the Court
on Defendant Wendy Roberson's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Dkt. #27). For the reasons stated below, the Court
GRANTS the Motion.
Minnesota Life Insurance Company (“Minnesota
Life” or “Plaintiff”) is a life insurance
company based in Minnesota. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 1. John Marcel
Miller (“Mr. Miller”) was covered for
supplemental life insurance under a group universal life
insurance policy (the “Policy”), issued by
Minnesota Life to Mr. Miller's employer, Honeywell
International, Inc.. Id. at ¶ 6; Dkt. #16 at
¶ 30. In addition to his coverage under the Policy, Mr.
Miller also received other benefits including basic life
insurance and retirement benefits (“the
Benefits”). Dkt. #16 at ¶ 32.
December 30, 2010 Mr. Miller designated his daughter, A.R., a
minor, (“A.R.” or “Defendant A. R.”)
and his “domestic partner, ” Wendy Roberson
(“Defendant Roberson” or “Ms.
Roberson”), as 50% beneficiaries under the Policy. Dkt.
#16 at ¶ 38; Dkt. #28 at ¶ 2. On January 6, 2011,
Mr. Miller also updated his Benefits designations, listing
Defendant A.R. and Defendant Roberson as 50% beneficiaries.
Dkt. #16 at ¶ 37. Mr. Miller and Ms. Roberson's
romantic relationship terminated at some point in 2011. Dkt.
#16 at ¶ 39; Dkt. #28 at ¶ 4. On May 20, 2012, Mr.
Miller updated his Benefits beneficiary
designations, removing Ms. Roberson as a beneficiary and
designating Defendant A.R. as the sole, 100% beneficiary.
Dkt. #16 at ¶ 40; Dkt. #27 at 6. Mr. Miller did not make
any changes to his beneficiary designations under the
Policy. Dkt. #27 at 6.
April 4, 2016, Mr. Miller died. Dkt. #15 at ¶ 7; Dkt.
#27 at ¶ 5. At the time of his death, the total life
insurance benefits due under the Policy was $135, 149.69.
Id. Ms. Roberson and A.R. were both named as 50%
beneficiaries under the Policy. Dkt. #16 at ¶ 38; Dkt.
#28 at ¶ 2. Following Mr. Miller's death, A.R.,
through her guardian, Christine Riggenberg, submitted a claim
for her portion of the coverage and received her 50%
distribution (totaling approximately $69, 205.05) under the
Policy. Dkt. #1 at ¶¶ 8-9. On October 30, 2017, Ms.
Roberson also submitted a claim for the remaining 50% under
the Policy. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 11. Shortly after Ms. Roberson
submitted her claim, Plaintiff was notified by counsel for
A.R. and her guardian, that they were disputing Ms.
Roberson's status as a beneficiary under the Policy. Dkt.
#1 at ¶ 11. According to Plaintiff, counsel for A.R.
argued that Mr. Miller had failed to remove Ms. Roberson as a
beneficiary under the Policy due to “mistake or
oversight” and that under Washington statute RCW
11.07.010(2), which provides for the revocation of prior
beneficiary designations upon termination of a marriage or
state registered domestic partnership, Ms. Roberson was not
entitled to recover under the Policy. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 11.
18, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint for
interpleader. Dkt. #1. Defendant A.R. subsequently filed her
answer and crossclaim for declaratory judgment under 28
U.S.C. § 2201. Dkt. #16. On March 11, 2019, this Court
issued an order granting Plaintiff's motion for judgment
in interpleader and discharging Plaintiff from this action.
Dkt. # 22. Ms. Roberson filed this motion for summary
judgment against Defendant A.R. on June 4, 2019. Dkt. #27.
Defendant A.R. has not submitted an opposition to Ms.
judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving
party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving
party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must
affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact
could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v.
Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir.
2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely
by pointing out to the district court that there is an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's
case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving
party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of
fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000).
the court need not, and will not, “scour the record in
search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan
v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see
also White v. McDonnell-Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458
(8th Cir. 1990) (the court need not “speculate on which
portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it
obliged to wade through and search the entire record for some
specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's
claim”). The opposing party must present significant
and probative evidence to support its claim or defense.
Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co.,
952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991).
reasons not apparent from the record, Defendant A. R. does
not oppose Ms. Roberson's motion for summary judgment.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) authorizes a court considering an
unopposed summary judgment motion to treat an assertion of
fact from the moving party as undisputed. Under Local Rule CR
7(b)(2) the court may treat a party's failure to oppose a
motion “as an admission that the motion has
merit.” A court cannot, however, grant a summary
judgment motion merely because it is unopposed, even where
its local rules might permit it. Henry v. Gill Indus.,
Inc., 983 F.2d 943, 949- 50 (9th Cir. 1993). The Court
may only grant summary judgment if “the motion and
supporting materials ... show that the movant is entitled to
it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
motion for summary judgment, Ms. Roberson argues that
Defendant A.R. has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of
material fact. Dkt. #27 at 7. Ms. Roberson first contends
that the Washington statute, RCW 11.07.010(2), referenced in
Minnesota Life's complaint for interpleader, does not
extend beyond formal marriages or state registered domestic
partnerships. Dkt. #27 at 4-5. Ms. Roberson also argues that
she is entitled to summary judgment on Defendant A.R.'s
crossclaim because Defendant A.R. has provided no admissible
evidence to support her allegation that Mr. Miller intended
to disinherit Ms. Roberson. Dkt. #27 at 5-7.
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