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Standard Insurance Co. v. Dillon

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 7, 2018

STANDARD INSURANCE CO.
v.
CHRISTOPHER DILLON, ET AL.

         SECTION: “J”

          ORDER

          CARL J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 20) filed by defendant, Jonathan Dillon, an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 24) filed by defendant, Christopher Dillon, and a reply (Rec. Doc. 33) filed by Jonathan Dillon. Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This litigation derives from the death of Robin Dillon, the mother of defendants, Jonathan Dillon and Christopher Dillon. Jonathan Dillon and Christopher Dillon are named as equal beneficiaries of Robin Dillon's life insurance policy issued by Standard Insurance Company (“Standard”). Under the terms of the policy, a life insurance benefit of $30, 000 and an accidental death and dismemberment benefit of $30, 000, plus interest, became due and payable to the two brothers as a result of Robin Dillon's unfortunate death. Standard paid Jonathan Dillon his portion of the benefits on June 27, 2014; however, on May 2, 2017, after being notified that Christopher Dillon had been criminally charged with the murder of Robin Dillon, and in an effort to escape any liability for the improper payment of the benefits, Standard commenced the instant statutory interpleader action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335. Standard was subsequently dismissed from the case on September 27, 2017.

         Jonathan Dillon filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 20) arguing that his brother is disqualified from receiving any of the proceeds from their mother's life insurance policy. The record reflects that Christopher Dillon was criminally charged with the murder of Robin Dillon, but was found incompetent to stand trial by the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court, St. Tammany Parish. Due to his alleged involvement in their mother's death, Jonathan Dillon contends that his brother is prohibited from taking as her beneficiary under Louisiana law. Christopher Dillon opposes the motion and argues that the motion should be denied because it is not supported by competent summary judgment evidence. The motion is now before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991) (internal citations omitted). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or “showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id. at 1265.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         DISCUSSION

         Louisiana law forbids a beneficiary from receiving insurance benefits when, inter alia, the beneficiary's intentional acts caused the benefits to accrue. Specifically, LSA-R.S. § 22:901(D) provides:

(1) No beneficiary, assignee, or other payee under any personal insurance contract shall receive from the insurer any benefits under the contract accruing upon the death, disablement, or injury of the individual insured when the beneficiary, assignee, or other payee is either:
(a) Held by a final judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction to be criminally responsible for the death, disablement, or ...

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