Aetna Life Insurance Company v. Ritter et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER as set forth re 20 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Carolyn Ritter. Signed by Honorable Robert T. Dawson on December 23, 2014. (rw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
HOT SPRINGS DIVISION
AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY
Case No. 14-6087
CAROLYN RITTER, as Administratrix
of the Estate of Judy D. Ritter, as
Administratrix of the Estate of
David W. Ritter, and individually;
DEBBIE COOLEY; DIEDRA LEE; and
GEORGE DONNIE LEE RITTER
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court for consideration is Separate
reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the Motion should
Aetna Life Insurance Company (“Aetna”) filed a Complaint
participant in a life insurance plan (the “Plan”) sponsored by
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listing his wife, Judy Denise Ritter (“Judy”) as the primary
beneficiary1 of the Plan’s benefits and his mother, Carolyn, as
the sole contingent beneficiary.
Jonathan Ritter at the request of a family member who had not
bodies of David, Judy, and Jonathan.
David died due to gunshot
wounds to the head, Judy died due to multiple gunshot wounds,
(Docs. 21-1, 21-2, 21-3).
The estimated date and time
reports as April 5, 2014 at an unknown time.
(Docs. 21-5, 21-6,
pronounced dead on April 8, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
(Docs. 21-1, 21-
Administratrix of Judy’s Estate.
Aetna also received notice
that Judy’s two surviving sisters, Defendants Debbie Cooley and
Diedra Lee, as well as David’s father, Defendant George Donnie
David W. Ritter’s son, Jonathan Ritter, was also listed as a primary
However, Judy was designated to receive 100% of the Plan
benefits. (Doc. 1-3).
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Lee Ritter, could have claims for at least a portion of the
If Judy survived David, Judy would be the
proper beneficiary and the benefits would pass to her estate.
capacity, would be the proper beneficiary.
beneficiary, it filed the instant interpleader action. Pursuant
insurance benefits payable under the Plan with the Clerk of
The Court dismissed Aetna from this action on October 6,
2014, and ordered Defendants to litigate their claims to the
Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Civ. P. 56(a).
“The movant bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
must identify those portions of the record which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir.
2011) (en banc) (internal quotation omitted).
Once the movant
demonstrates that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute
on a material fact, the opposing party may not rest upon the
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mere allegations or denials in the pleadings, but must provide a
response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in Rule 56,
that sets forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.
Ghane v. West, 148 F.3d 979, 981 (8th Cir.
favorable to the non-moving party “only if there is a genuine
(quoting Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009)).
In her Motion, Carolyn asserts that all other defendants
are in default (Doc. 20, p. 2).
Separate defendants Cooley,
service form (see Docs. 12–14), which advised that a response
Defendants Cooley, Lee, and George Donnie Lee Ritter failed to
Accordingly, the Court finds that Cooley, Lee, and
George Donnie Lee Ritter are in default and have forfeited any
claim of entitlement to the Plan’s benefits.
See Viking Ins.
Co. of Wisconsin v. Kemp, 2013 WL 6780571, at *2 (E.D. Ark. Dec.
answer the interpleader complaint and assert a claim to the res
can be viewed as forfeiting any claim of entitlement that might
have been asserted.”) (internal quotation omitted).
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The affidavits and other evidence on the record reflect
that David, Judy, and Jonathan Ritter were alive on April 5,
The estimated date of death for each person is April 5,
Under Arkansas law, if two people die within 120 hours of each
other, they are considered to have died simultaneously and the
effect is that each is considered to have predeceased the other.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 28-10-202.
(“[A]n individual who is not
established by clear and convincing evidence to have survived
the other individual by 120 hours is deemed to have predeceased
the other individual.”)
Here, even though the exact time and date of Judy’s death
are unknown, it would not be possible for her to have survived
David by 120 hours as both Judy and David were alive on April 5
and found dead on April 8.
Because Judy could not have survived
David by 120 hours, the contingent beneficiary is entitled to
receive the Plan benefits.
Accordingly, the Court finds that
Separate Defendant Carolyn Ritter, individually, is the proper
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant Carolyn Ritter’s
ORDERED that Carolyn Ritter, individually, is the owner, and
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entitled to possession, of the benefits of David W. Ritter’s
life insurance plan.
The bench trial set to begin Monday, April 20, 2015 at 9:00
accordance with this order.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 23rd day of December, 2014.
/s/ Robert T. Dawson
Honorable Robert T. Dawson
United States District Judge
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