White v. Cigna Group Insurance et al
MEMORANDUM RULING 44 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge re 1 Complaint and 20 Amended Complaint filed by Esther Hill White. Signed by Judge Robert G James on 4/26/2017. (crt,Crawford, A)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
ESTHER HILL WHITE
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-2181
JUDGE ROBERT G. JAMES
CIGNA GROUP INSURANCE, ET AL.
MAG. JUDGE KAREN L. HAYES
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Esther Hill White’s (“White”) petition for benefits under
two life insurance policies governed by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.
On March 24, 2017, Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes issued a Report and Recommendation
[Doc. No. 44], recommending that the Court dismiss with prejudice White’s claim for benefits. On
April 5, 2017, White filed an objection to Magistrate Judge Hayes’ Report and Recommendation.
[Doc. No. 45]. On April 19, 2017, Defendant Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”)
filed a response in opposition to White’s objection [Doc. No. 48], and on April 24, 2017, White filed
a reply to LINA’s response. [Doc. No. 51].
The Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge Hayes having been considered,
together with the written objections thereto filed with this Court, and, after a de novo review of the
record, the Court hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Hayes. The
Court issues this Ruling to address one of White’s objections to Magistrate Judge Hayes’ Report and
White argues “the report and recommendation erred by misapplying Arkansas law by not
requiring that circumstantial evidence of intoxication must exclude every other reasonable hypothesis
other than intoxication, or alternatively, erred in finding that the facts of record herein excluded
every other reasonable hypothesis.” [Doc. No. 45, p. 3]. Magistrate Judge Hayes’ Report and
Recommendation states that
. . . it is well-settled under Arkansas law that circumstantial evidence may constitute
substantial evidence to support a jury’s verdict of guilty in a Driving While
Intoxicated case. Wetherington v. State, 889 S.W.2d 34 (Ark. 1994); see Lockhart v.
State, 2017 Ark. 13, 2017 WL 374725, at *-3-*4 (discussing circumstantial evidence
bearing on the issue of intoxication).
[Doc. No. 44, p. 8].
In White’s objection she cites Wetherington for the proposition that circumstantial evidence
is sufficient for substantial evidence of intoxication only “if circumstantial evidence rules out every
other reasonable hypothesis [or theory] but the guilt of the accused.” [Doc. No. 45-1, p. 19];
Wetherington, 889 S.W.2d at 39. White argues that Magistrate Judge Hayes fails to incorporate this
burden in her analysis. Id. However, Magistrate Judge Hayes cited Wetherington for the general
proposition that circumstantial evidence can be used to prove intoxication under Arkansas law. The
Court agrees. Wetherington involved the criminal prosecution for driving while intoxicated requiring
a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, in the civil context, LINA was not required to
overcome the higher criminal burden of proof to prove intoxication in interpreting the plan. The
Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Hayes that circumstantial evidence may be used to prove
intoxication under Arkansas law. [Doc. No. 44, p. 8]; see Wetherington, 889 S.W.2d at 39.
For the reasons stated in Magistrate Judge Hayes’ Report and Recommendation and for these
additional reasons, White’s petition for benefits is DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
MONROE, LOUISIANA, this 26th day of April, 2017.
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