Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. A.T.K. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge Harwell G Davis, III on 03/09/15. (SPT )
2015 Mar-09 PM 03:48
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
K.H., et al.,
A.T.K, et al.,
Case No. 2:10-cv-03167-HGD
The above-entitled civil action is before the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge based on the consent of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
This action started as an interpleader action filed by Metropolitan Life Insurance
Company (MetLife), pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA) and Rule 22, Fed.R.Civ.P. (Doc. 1, Complaint). The complaint named as
defendants K.H., J.K., A.K., A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B. MetLife alleges that
A.T.K., I.P. and M.B. are surviving daughters of the deceased insured, Joseph Kight,
and C.W. is the surviving son of Kight. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-5). It is also alleged that J.H. and
A.K. may be surviving daughters of Kight, and J.K. may be a surviving son of Kight.
(Id. at ¶¶ 6-8). Kight was an employee of Southern Company Services, Inc., and was
a participant in the Basic Group Life Benefits, an ERISA-regulated employee welfare
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benefit plan sponsored by Southern Company Services and funded by a group life
insurance policy issued by MetLife. (Id. at ¶ 11). Kight had no beneficiary
designation forms on file when he died on January 4, 2008. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16). Life
insurance benefits of $12,500 are payable to the proper beneficiary(s) under the
policy. (Id. at ¶ 17).
Kight’s mother, Almatenia Kight, completed a Claimant’s Affidavit to MetLife
on August 27, 2008, stating that A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B. are Joseph Kight’s
children and that there is no proof that K.H., J.K. and A.K. are his children. (Id. at
¶ 18). On September 30, 2008, Glenda Bailey (grandmother of M.B.) completed a
claim for benefits on behalf of M.B. to MetLife. (Id. at ¶ 19). On October 5, 2008,
Andrea Thornton made a claim to MetLife on behalf of A.T.K. (Id. at ¶ 20). On
November 5, 2008, Phaedra Parker submitted a claim to MetLife on behalf of I.P.
(Id. at ¶ 21). On January 27, 2009, Chermere Hobson submitted a claim to MetLife
on behalf of K.H. (Id. at ¶ 22). On May 8, 2009, Jacqueline Hughes submitted a
claim to MetLife on behalf of C.W. (Id. at ¶ 23). On August 6, 2009, Shondreika
Sims1 submitted claims to MetLife on behalf of J.K. and A.K. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25).
MetLife averred that A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B. are entitled to at least a 1/7
share of the proceeds; therefore, on February 22, 2010, MetLife paid into Total
Control Accounts $1785.71 for each of those children, for a total of $7142.84. (Id.
at ¶¶ 26-27). The interpleader complaint alleged that proceeds of $5357.13 remain,
The complaint provides the name as “Shondrella [sic] Sims.” However, the record
establishes that her correct name is Shondreika Sims.
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payable to the proper beneficiaries.2 (Id. at ¶ 27). MetLife stated it cannot determine
whether K.H., J.K. and/or A.K. are Kight’s children; therefore, it asked the Court to
allow the remainder of the proceeds to be paid into Court and the Court to determine
if K.H., J.K. and/or A.K. are actually Kight’s children and entitled to any life
insurance proceeds, failing which the remainder of the money should be apportioned
among his established children (A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B.).
As the relief sought, MetLife asked that the Court require appointment of a
guardian or conservator for the minor children, enjoin the children from instituting
any action or proceeding against MetLife with regard to the remaining plan benefits,
require defendants to settle or litigate their claims to the remaining plan benefits or
that the Court will do so, permit MetLife to pay the remaining plan benefits, plus any
accrued interest, into the registry of the Court, discharge MetLife and dismiss it with
prejudice from this action, and award MetLife its costs and attorney fees. (Id. at
¶¶ 32, 35).
The docket sheet reflects that a copy of the summons and complaint were
served on C.W. (Doc. 10), A.T.K. (Doc. 11), M.B. (Doc. 12), J.K. (Doc. 13), A.K.
(Doc. 14), I.P. (Doc. 24), and K.H. (Doc. 25).3 Shondreika Sims filed a pro se answer
on behalf of A.K. and J.K. (Doc. 19). The answer avers that Ms. Sims and Mr. Kight
were engaged and that Joseph Kight is the father of A.K. and J.K. (Id.). However,
The court notes that $12,500.00 minus $7142.84 is actually $5357.16, not $5357.13.
Each of the children were served in care of the person who submitted a claim to MetLife
on behalf of that child.
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the answer is not notarized or signed under penalty of perjury, and no supporting
documentation is provided with the answer to show that A.K. and J.K. are children
of Joseph Kight.
A report and recommendation (Doc. 16) was entered that the Court order:
(1) that MetLife be ordered to submit to the Court a check payable to Clerk,
United States District Court, for the remainder of the life insurance proceeds at issue
herein ($5357.13, according to the complaint), plus any interest that had accrued;
(2) that the Clerk of this Court be directed to deposit the check from MetLife
into the registry of the Court until such time as the Court enters further orders
regarding these funds;
(3) that MetLife, upon fulfillment of its requirements as set out in this order,
be discharged and dismissed with prejudice as a party from this action;
(4) that MetLife be fully and forever released from all, any and/or further
liability or duty with respect to the funds at issue;
(5) that defendants and all persons or parties claiming through them, and all
claimants, be enjoined from bringing or prosecuting any claim against MetLife
arising out of and relating to the funds at issue;
(6) that MetLife be awarded $350.00 in costs it incurred in filing this action,
and the Clerk of Court be directed to pay, as soon as practicable, this sum to Bradley
Arant Boult Cummings LLP, as attorney for MetLife, from the interpled funds to be
paid into this Court; and
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(7) that the Court decline to award MetLife its attorney fees in bringing this
action, because it would deplete the funds, the determination of who may recover
benefits falls within the routine business of an insurance company, and awarding
attorney fees to MetLife shifts some of its ordinary business expenses to the
The report and recommendation was adopted and accepted by the District
Court, without objection. (Doc. 18).
MetLife subsequently paid the $5357.13 into the Court registry. The Clerk of
Court then entered an order noting the deposit in an interest-bearing account and
directing the Clerk to deduct from the income earned on the investment a fee, not
exceeding that authorized by the Judicial Conference of the United States and set by
the Director of Administrative Office equal to 10% earned on the investment,
whenever such income becomes available for deduction in the investment held and
without further order of the Court. (Doc. 20).
The parties were then realigned with the putative children (K.H., J.K. and A.K.)
as plaintiffs and the established children (A.T.K., I.P., C.W. and M.B.) as defendants.
(Doc. 23). Further, an order was entered providing that (1) MetLife, Southern
Company Services, Inc., and the Plan are fully and forever released from all, any
and/or further liability or duty with respect to the insurance funds at issue in the
above-styled action, and (2) A.T.K., I.P., C.W., M.B., K.H., J.K., and A.K. and all
persons or parties claiming through them, and all claimants, are forever enjoined from
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bringing or prosecuting any claim against MetLife, Southern Company Services, Inc.
and the Plan arising out of and relating to the funds at issue. (Doc. 27).
Thereafter, the court appointed guardians ad litem (GAL) for the children.
Kenneth Gomany was appointed as GAL for K.H.; Donald Colee was appointed as
GAL for J.K. and A.K.; Scott Brower was appointed as GAL for A.T.K.; Katherine
Luker was appointed as GAL for I.P.; Joanne Jannik was appointed as GAL for C.W.,
and Jason Neff was appointed as GAL for M.B. (Doc. 30). Claims to the proceeds
were filed in court by the GALs on behalf of J.K. (Doc. 41), A.K. (Doc. 42), A.T.K.
(Doc. 36), I.P. (Doc. 34), C.W. (Doc. 32) and M.B. (Doc. 37).
A hearing was held on March 3, 2015, at which all GALs were present. Mr.
Gomany advised the court at the hearing that his attempts to contact the mother of
K.H., Chermere Hobson, were unsuccessful. He wrote a letter to Ms. Hobson,
directed to her last known address, explaining that he had been appointed GAL for
K.H. and the circumstances of this action. The letter was not returned to him, nor did
Ms. Hobson contact him in any way. Mr. Gomany also went to the residence of Ms.
Hobson (her last known address) and knocked on the door. Despite the fact that there
were vehicles in the driveway and Mr. Gomany waited for a while, no one came to
Mr. Colee was able to discuss the matter with Shondreika Sims Mayo, the
mother of A.K. and J.K. Ms. Mayo advised Mr. Colee that she was engaged to
Joseph Kight at the time of his death. She stated that J.K. was Joseph Kight’s son and
bore his name and that she was pregnant with A.K. when Joseph Kight died. Ms.
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Mayo told Mr. Colee that she would provide him with birth certificates and other
documentation to establish that Joseph Kight was the father of J.K. an A.K., as well
as names of witnesses to whom Joseph Kight allegedy admitted he was the father of
J.K. and A.K. After the initial meeting with Ms. Mayo, Mr. Colee was unable to talk
to Ms. Mayo again (apart from one phone call in which she again stated she would
get the necessary information to Mr. Colee), despite repeated phone calls and letters
advising her of the hearing and the necessity of providing him with the
documentation and witness names as proof of her claim that J.K. and A.K. are
children of Joseph Kight.
Mr. Brower advised the court that he was able to contact Almatenia Kight
(Joseph Kight’s mother) about this action and the claim of A.T.K. Ms. Kight told him
that she was aware of the case, but that “they already got the money, and they don’t
need any more and that they don’t want to talk to” Mr. Brower. Mr. Brower sent
letters to Andrea Thornton, the mother of A.T.K, at two possible addresses for her.
The letters were not returned to him; however, he received no response from Ms.
Ms. Luker has provided the court with paternity test results and a certified copy
of a birth certificate which show that Joseph Kight is the father of I.P. Joseph Kight
also was paying child support for I.P., pursuant to a court order. Ms. Jannik provided
the court with a certified copy of a paternity order in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court
Case No. CS-07-5373 which establishes that Joseph Kight is the father of C.W.
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Mr. Neff advised the court that while he was able to talk to Kimberly Bailey,
the mother of M.B., he was not able to obtain any documentation to prove that Joseph
Kight was the father of M.B. However, charges were being brought against Joseph
Kight before he died for the statutory rape of Kimberly Bailey, which resulted in the
birth of M.B.
The court finds that the paternity of Joseph Kight as to the minor children
A.T.K, I.P., C.W. and M.B. has been established, either because MetLife has accepted
as established that Joseph Kight is the father of these children or based on evidence
provided to the court by the GALs of these children. Therefore, A.T.K, I.P., C.W.
and M.B. are entitled to a share of the life insurance proceeds at issue.
With respect to the putative child of Joseph Kight, J.H., the court finds that,
despite the diligent and reasonable efforts of Mr. Gomany to obtain proof of J.H.’s
entitlement to proceeds, no such proof has been submitted to the court. Therefore,
the Court concludes that J.H. has not been established as the biological child of
Joseph Kight and is not entitled to any portion of the life insurance proceeds at issue.
With respect to the putative children of Joseph Kight, J.K. and A.K., the court
finds that despite the diligent and reasonable efforts of Mr. Colee to obtain proof of
J.K. and A.K.’s entitlement to proceeds, no such proof has been submitted to the
court. The unsworn answer of Shondreika Sims is insufficient to establish that J.K.
and A.K. are the children of Joseph Kight. Therefore, the Court concludes that J.K.
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and A.K. have not been established as the biological children of Joseph Kight and are
not entitled to any portion of the life insurance proceeds at issue.
The court further finds that the GALs appointed by the court to represent the
interests of the minor children in this action are entitled to a small payment to defray
their expenses incurred while acting as GALs. A payment of $100.00 to each GAL
out of the insurance proceeds is reasonable and warranted, for a total of $600.00.
The original amount of life insurance proceeds was $12,500.00. The amount
paid into the court registry by MetLife was $5357.13.4 Counsel for MetLife already
has been paid for the cost of filing this action ($350.00), reducing principal amount
in the court registry to $5007.13. After deducting the payments to the GALs
($600.00), the remaining proceeds in the court registry (not including interest) total
$4407.13, for disbursement to the established children. With each of the four
established children of Joseph Kight entitled to a 1/4 share of the proceeds, that
equates to $1101.78 for each child, plus any accrued interest and less the
administrative fee described in Doc. 20.
Accordingly, the court finds that:
(1) the Clerk of Court shall be directed to pay, from the money deposited into
the Court’s registry, $100.00 to Kenneth Gomany for his services as guardian ad litem
for K.H., $100.00 to Donald Colee for his services as guardian ad litem for J.K. and
A.K., $100.00 to Scott Brower for his services as guardian ad litem for A.T.K.,
As of the date of entry of this Memorandum Opinion, the amount in the court registry (with
accrued interest in the amount of $82.07) is $5089.20.
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$100.00 to Katherine Luker for her services as guardian ad litem for I.P., $100.00 to
Joanne Jannik for her services as guardian ad litem for C.W., and $100.00 to Jason
Neff for his services as guardian ad litem for M.B.
(2) K.H., J.K. and A.K. have not been established as biological children of
Joseph Kight and are not entitled to a share of the life insurance proceeds at issue in
(3) A.T.K., I.P, C.W and M.B. are established as biological children of Joseph
Kight and are each entitled to a 1/4 share of the net amount of life insurance proceeds
at issue in this action (after payments to Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and the
guardians ad litem), plus accrued interest and less the administrative fee described in
(4) the Clerk of Court shall be directed to pay, from the money deposited into
the Court’s registry, 1/4 of the net amount of the proceeds, to Scott Brower, as
guardian ad litem for A.T.K, to be remitted to Almatenia Kight, as the grandmother
of A.T.K., for the use and benefit of A.T.K.;
(5) the Clerk of Court shall be directed to pay, from the money deposited into
the Court’s registry, 1/4 of the net amount of the proceeds, to Katherine Luker, as
guardian ad litem for I.P., to be remitted to Phaedra Parker, as the mother of I.P., for
the use and benefit of I.P.;
(6) the Clerk of Court shall be directed to pay, from the money deposited into
the Court’s registry, 1/4 of the net amount of the proceeds, to Joanne Jannik, as
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guardian ad litem for C.W., to be remitted to Jacqueline Hughes, as the mother of
C.W., for the use and benefit of C.W.; and
(7) the Clerk of Court shall be directed to pay, from the money deposited into
the Court’s registry, 1/4 of the net amount of the proceeds, to Jason Neff, as guardian
ad litem for M.B., to be remitted to Glenda Bailey, as the grandmother of M.B., for
the use and benefit of M.B.
A Final Judgment in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion will be
entered contemporaneously herewith.
DONE this 9th day of March, 2015.
HARWELL G. DAVIS, III
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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