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Minn. Life Ins. Co. v. Jones

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

November 5, 2014

MINNESOTA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
QUINCY JONES, Defendant-Appellee,
v.
ANGELA ASHFORD, Intervening Defendant-Appellant

Argued September 23, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 13 C 1470 -- Amy J. St. Eve, Judge.

For MINNESOTA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff: Catherine A. T. Nelson, Attorney, COZEN O'CONNOR, Chicago, IL.

For QUINCY JONES, Defendant - Appellee: George F. LaForte, Jr., Attorney, Timothy Allen Hickey, Attorney, BISHOP & LAFORTE, LTD, Oakbrook Terrace, IL.

For ANGELA ASHFORD, Interveningj Defendant, Defendant - Appellant: Rafael Larue Taylor, Attorney, BARCLAY LAW GROUP, P.C., Chicago, IL.

Before POSNER, ROVNER, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 388

Posner, Circuit Judge.

In 2011 a man named Lenord Jones, a hospital orderly, was murdered in Harvey, Illinois. The murder has not been solved, and the police say that they are continuing to investigate.

Jones, who left no will, owned a life insurance policy that his employer had obtained for him from Minnesota Life Insurance Company. He did not designate a beneficiary, but the policy provided that the proceeds, which at his death amounted to nearly $307,000, would go first to a surviving spouse (there was none--Lenord had never married), second to any surviving child or children, third to any surviving parents, and fourth to Lenord's estate.

An Illinois resident named Quincy Jones, claiming to be Lenord Jones's son (for the sake of brevity we'll call Lenord Jones " Lenord" and Quincy Jones " Quincy" ) submitted a claim to the insurance company--as did another Illinois resident, Annie Moore, claiming to be Lenord's daughter. The insurance company, being a nonresident of Illinois, was able to and did file an interpleader action in the federal court in Chicago. Fed.R.Civ.P. 22. After paying $24,000 for funeral expenses and $137,000 to Quincy, the insurance company deposited the remaining proceeds of the policy in the court, and having done so was dismissed from the case. Apparently--though not discussed by the parties or the district court--the $137,000 was an initial payment to the person whom the insurer assumed to be entitled to the entire proceeds minus funeral expenses.

Angela Ashford, Lenord's biological sister, also claimed entitlement to the proceeds of the insurance policy, as she was Lenord's only known blood relative if Quincy and Annie were (as Angela claimed) not Lenord's children. For in that event, since Lenord had left no will, Angela would be the sole beneficiaries of his estate. And so she was allowed to intervene in the district court action, where she contended that Lenord had been homosexual, had never had children but had pretended to in order to conceal his homosexuality, and had actually told her that neither Quincy nor Annie was his biological child. (Neither claims to have been an adopted child of his.) Angela claimed that she therefore is entitled to the life insurance proceeds, and maybe more, as we don't know what other assets are in Lenord's estate.

As an additional basis for her claim Angela attached an affidavit from a man who professed to have known Lenord and known him to be homosexual--indeed to have seen him engage in homosexual acts. Angela submitted copies of Lenord's income tax returns showing that he had claimed various children as his dependents, sometimes omitting Quincy. On appeal she added that Quincy had placed in evidence neither his birth certificate nor any affidavit or other evidence from his mother concerning his paternal parentage. ...


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