Kubek v. Teachers Retirement, et al
OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 9/21/11. (djy, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
RISOLETA M. KUBEK,
NORA KUBEK JONES,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
Plaintiff Risoleta M. Kubek brought this lawsuit
against a number of defendants, alleging that each played
a role in depriving her of benefits she was entitled to
receive under the retirement and life-insurance policies
of her deceased ex-husband. This court has jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (federal question) and 1367
This lawsuit is now before the court on defendants
John Hancock Life Insurance Company’s and Verbie Curtis’s
motions for summary judgment against Kubek.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party,” but “only
if there is a ‘genuine’ dispute as to those facts.
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
For the reasons
that follow, the motions shall be granted.
amended Kubek’s ex-husband’s beneficiary designations by
falsely obtaining a “Limited Power of Attorney” and a
“Notice of Survivor Benefits Cancellation.”
At the time of Kubek’s ex-husband’s death, John
Pursuant to the change-of-beneficiary form, John Hancock
indemnification on a state-law theory that John Hancock
had a duty to investigate the authenticity of the changeof-beneficiary form.
Curtis, at the time a personnel specialist at Troy
Kubek claims that Curtis is liable
under federal due-process law for her “unskillful acts”
in handling those forms.
Second Amended Complaint (Doc.
No. 36), ¶ 71.
As to the merits, John Hancock argues that Alabama
Alabama law provides that, once an
payment is made, the insurer has received at its home
office written notice by, or on behalf of, some other
person that such other person claims to be entitled to
such payment or some interest in the policy or contract.”
1975 Ala. Code § 27-14-24.
In Fortis Benefits Ins. Co. v. Pinkley, 926 So.2d 981
(Ala. 2005), the Alabama Supreme Court addressed whether
an insurer was liable to an individual claiming benefits
on the basis of a forged change-of-beneficiary request
The answer was an emphatic no.
Supreme Court ruled that, when a life insurer “receives
a change-of-beneficiary request form, regular on its face
and executed by a person purporting to be the owner of
insurance company is not liable for disbursing benefits
on the basis of a forgery, provided that it acts in good
Relying on an agency theory of liability, Kubek
beneficiary form was a forgery.
Kubek contends that
Kubek asserts that the listing of dementia
on the death certificate should have alerted John Hancock
to the possibility of fraud in the change-of-beneficiary
Pinkley controls this case. Even with the assumption
that Curtis was acting as John Hancock’s agent, the
change-of-beneficiary form was “regular on its face” and
John Hancock therefore had no affirmative duty under
state law to investigate whether it was a forgery.
has raised no genuine issue of material fact regarding
whether John Hancock acted in bad faith in disbursing
insurance benefits, Kubek’s only recourse is against
Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of John
Hancock is proper.
Kubek sues Curtis in her individual capacity for her
“unskillful acts” in handling the change-of-beneficiary
Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 36)c, ¶ 71.
Curtis argues that she is entitled to qualified immunity.
Specifically, Curtis submits that she was under no duty
to investigate whether the change-of-beneficiary forms
Kubek responds by citing federal due-
process notice jurisprudence and by questioning Curtis’s
reasons already discussed by this court.
With regard to
the other state defendants already dismissed from this
suit, this court held that, because Kubek “ha[d] not
individual defendants violated a constitutional right, it
follows that the right she asserts was violated was not
Kubek v. Teachers’ Retirement
System of Alabama, 2008 WL 696870 *3 (M.D. Ala. March 13,
2008); see also id. (“Under United States Supreme Court
determining whether an official is entitled to qualified
First, did the public official violate a
federal statutory or constitutional right?
if so, was that right clearly established at the time the
official derogated the plaintiff's right?”) (citations
The facts alleged against Curtis are even more
sparse, with one allegation ending mid-sentence.
Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 36), ¶ 75.
summary judgment in favor of Curtis is proper.
An appropriate summary judgment in favor of John
Hancock and Curtis and against Kubek will be entered.
DONE, this the 21st day of September, 2011.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?