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Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. v. Cox

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 11, 2018

SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY Plaintiff-Respondent
v.
RUBY S. COX, ET AL. Defendants-Respondents

          On Application for Writs from the Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of Claiborne, Louisiana Trial Court No. 40, 174 Honorable Jenifer Ward Clason, Judge

          E. MICHAEL MAHAFFEY Counsel for Applicant TRACY W. HOUCK Connie Gonzales Cox Shaffer

          WOODARD & CLEMENT Counsel for Respondents By: Russell Alan Woodard Ruby Sanders Cox and Monique Babin Clement Debra Cox Diffey

          COTTON, BOLTON, HOYCHICK, ET AL Counsel for Respondent By: John Hoychick, Jr. Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company

          Before BROWN, MOORE, PITMAN, GARRETT, and COX, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Connie Gonzalez Cox Shaffer seeks supervisory review of a judgment that denied her motion for summary judgment seeking to obtain the life insurance proceeds of a policy covering her ex-husband, Hillie Patrick Cox Jr. For the reasons expressed, we grant the writ, make it peremptory, and render summary judgment in favor of Connie Shaffer.

         FACTS

         Hillie Patrick Cox took out a whole-life insurance policy with Southern Farm Bureau, for the face amount of $12, 000, in 1989. His insurance application, dated March 27, 1989, listed the primary beneficiary as "Ruby G. Cox (Mother)." On August 21, 1992, he executed a change of beneficiary form to list the beneficiary as "Connie Gonzales Cox (wife)."[1]Hillie and Connie obtained a judgment of divorce on August 23, 1999, in the Third JDC; however, according to Southern Farm Bureau, Hillie never executed another change of beneficiary form. Hillie died on September 22, 2013.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Southern Farm Bureau filed this petition for concursus, in the Second JDC, in April 2014. In addition to the facts outlined above, it alleged that a judgment of possession in the Second JDC had awarded Ruby Cox, Hillie's mother, usufruct over the entire estate and recognized his sister, Debra Cox Diffey, as the sole surviving heir. As a result of this judgment, Ruby and Debra had presented claims for the insurance proceeds, while Connie, the named beneficiary, had made "demands" for the proceeds.

         Ruby and Debra answered admitting all the basic allegations but asserting that after Hillie and Connie's divorce, in 1999, their "relations were openly hostile." In fact, it was "obvious to any and all who knew" the couple that Hillie did not intend for Connie to remain on the policy as beneficiary; in fact, they alleged, he "thought" that Connie was not the beneficiary. They demanded that the proceeds go to Hillie's estate.

         Connie, who has moved to Texas, initially filed a pro se answer asserting that she was the beneficiary and thus entitled to the proceeds.

         After hiring counsel, Connie filed a motion for summary judgment, in May 2017, asserting that as the named beneficiary, she was entitled to the proceeds, under La. R.S. 22:912 A(1). She disagreed with the assertion in Southern Farm Bureau's petition that the judgment of possession gave Ruby usufruct over the policy: life insurance proceeds are nonprobate, and not part of the decedent's estate, as recognized in American Health & Life Ins. Co. v. Binford, 511 So.2d 1250 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1987). ...


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