Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company v. Hayes et al
MEMORANDUM re First MOTION in Limine 35 filed by Diane Hayes (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo on 12/04/14. (ma)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT :
KENNETH HAYES and
CIVIL NO. 1:13-CV-2240
Before the court is Defendant Diane Hayes’ motion in limine to
preclude decedent Bernice Hayes’ last will and testament from being introduced as
evidence at trial. The motion has been fully briefed by both defendants and is ripe
for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.
This case arises out of competing claims for proceeds of a life insurance
policy on the life of Bernice Hayes, decedent. On January 16, 2007, the decedent
executed a “Designation of Beneficiary” form designating her son, Vidal E. Hayes,
and his wife, Diane Hayes, as beneficiaries of the insurance policy, each to receive
50 percent of the benefit amount of $25,000.00. At some point in time, before July
2009, Diane and Vidal separated. On July 1, 2009, the decedent signed a will
naming her sons, Vidal and Kenneth, as equal beneficiaries. Paragraph X of the will
states: “It is my expressed intention for Diane Smerechniak-Hayes, not to receive
any distribution of my Will, nor benefit from my demise, in any way.” It is this
document that Diane Hays seeks to preclude as evidence at trial.
In its memorandum addressing Defendant Diane Hayes’ motion for
summary judgment (Doc. 33), this court discussed some of the disputed issues in this
case, such as whether a change of beneficiary form was signed, whether it was
mailed, whether it was received by the appropriate entity, etc. Because these are
factual questions that must be decided by a jury, the motion for summary judgment
filed by Diane Hayes was denied.
In the motion in limine, Diane Hayes alleges that
[a]ny reference to the Last Will and Testament of Bernice
M. Hayes is wholly irrelevant because a Last Will and
Testament executed on July 1, 2009, does not clarify any
intent by the insured to change her beneficiary on
September 4, 2012, nor does it demonstrate, per strict
policy requirements, that the insured did all that she
reasonably could under the circumstances to comply with
the terms of the life insurance policy.
(Doc. 35, ¶ 5.)
Pennsylvania courts apply the doctrine of substantial compliance to give
effect to the participant insured’s intent. Teachers Insurance & Annuity Assoc. of
America v. Bernarde, 683 F. Supp. 2d 344, 354 (E.D. Pa. 2010), citing Cipriani v.
Sun Life Ins. Co. of America, 757 F.2d 78 (3d Cir. 1985). In Phoenix Mutual Life
Ins. Co. v. Adams, 30 F.3d 554 (11th Cir. 1994), the court held:
Pursuant to federal common law, an insured substantially
complies with the change of beneficiary provisions of an
ERISA life insurance policy when the insured: (1)
evidences his or her intent to make the change and (2)
attempts to effectuate the change by undertaking positive
action which is for all practical purposes similar to the
action required by the change of beneficiary provisions of
Id. at 564. Thus, based on the Phoenix case, one of the issues to be decided at trial is
whether there is evidence of an intent to make a beneficiary change. The
introduction of this will goes to the element of intent.
The motion in limine will be denied. An appropriate order will be
s/Sylvia H. Rambo
United States District Judge
Dated: December 4, 2014.
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