United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
A. DOUGHTY JUDGE.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. HAYES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the undersigned magistrate judge, on reference from the
District Court, is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted [doc. # 25] filed by
defendant-in-crossclaim, Joy R. Jackson. The motion is
unopposed. For reasons set forth below, it is recommended
that the motion to dismiss be DENIED.
April 26, 2019, The Prudential Insurance Company of America
(“Prudential”) filed the instant interpleader
complaint under Rule 22 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Compl.). Prudential invoked the court's
federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (a)(2) and (e) of the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”) because the underlying group life
insurance policy was an employee welfare benefit plan
governed by ERISA. Id.
to the complaint, on or about October 1, 1992, Prudential
issued Group employee basic life insurance policy number
“G-33624” to the State of Louisiana (Madison
Parish School) (“the Plan”). As an eligible
employee of the State of Louisiana (Madison Parish School),
Mary D. Jackson (the “Insured”) received life
insurance coverage under the Plan. By “State Employee
Group Benefits Plan Enrollment Document” dated
September 11, 1992, the Insured designated Joy Rachelle
Jackson, daughter; Walter Jackson, Jr., son; and Polly
Jackson, daughter; as beneficiaries to the Plan proceeds in
equal shares. Subsequently, by “Enrollment form - State
of Louisiana” dated February 5, 2013, the Insured
designated Joy R. Jackson, daughter, as sole primary and sole
contingent beneficiary to the Plan proceeds. However, by
“Enrollment Form - State of Louisiana” dated
November 2, 2018, the Insured designated Walter Jackson, Jr.,
son, and Polly J. Wright, daughter, as primary beneficiaries
to the Plan proceeds in equal shares and designated Mary J.
King, daughter, and Brenda J. Patterson, daughter, as
contingent beneficiaries to the Plan proceeds in equal
Insured died on November 13, 2018, and Plan proceeds in the
amount of $22, 000 became payable to a beneficiary or
beneficiaries (the “Death Benefit”).
facsimile dated November 16, 2018, Joy R. Jackson challenged
the November 2, 2018, change of beneficiary, alleging that
the signature on the form was not the signature of the
Insured, who was in hospice care at the time it was executed.
about November 23, 2018, Walter Jackson, Jr., Polly Wright,
Mary King and Brenda Patterson executed an “Irrevocable
Assignment and Power of Attorney” naming Express
Funeral Funding L.L.C., through assignment from Beckwith
Golden Gate Funeral Home, as assignee of $16, 804.84,
“plus statutory interest from the Insured's date of
death, ” of the Death Benefit for services provided in
connection with the funeral of the Insured.
complaint, Prudential named four parties-claimant: Walter
Jackson, Jr.; Polly Wright; Joy R. Jackson; and Express
Funeral Funding L.L.C., as assignee of Beckwith Golden Gate
Funeral Home. Prudential seeks an order, inter alia,
requiring defendants and/or the Court to determine to whom
the death benefit should be paid. Prudential also seeks an
order discharging it from liability, plus an award of
attorney's fees and costs.
18, 2019, Defendants Walter Jackson, Jr., Polly Wright, and
Express Funding, L.L.C. filed their answer to the suit,
together with a crossclaim against Joy R. Jackson for
declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. Cross-claimants
seek disbursement of the Plan proceeds in their favor,
together with an award of attorney's fees under ERISA.
They also seek an order voiding the February 5, 2013,
Enrollment form, and rescission of the designation of
beneficiary form for the Plan.
30, 2019, Joy R. Jackson filed the instant motion to dismiss
the crossclaim for failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Movant contends that the cross-claimants are
not employees covered under the ERISA statute, and therefore,
do not have standing to assert a claim for relief.
Plaintiffs-in-crossclaim did not file a response to the
motion to dismiss, and the time to do so has lapsed.
See Notice of Motion Setting. [doc. # 27]. Thus, the
motion is considered unopposed. Id. The matter is
issue presented by the instant motion is whether the
cross-claimants may be characterized as one of the enumerated
parties authorized to file suit under the terms of
ERISA's civil enforcement statute. Under § 502(a),
only participants,  beneficiaries,  fiduciaries,  and the Secretary
of Labor are empowered to bring civil actions. See
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a); Tango Transport v. Healthcare
Financial Services LLC, 322 F.3d 888, 891
(5th Cir. 2003); Coleman v. Champion Int'l
Corp./Champion Forest Products,992 F.2d 530, 533 (5th
Cir.1993). Whilst it is manifest that the cross-claimants are
neither participants, nor ...