United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
JEREMY J. ZARTMAN, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY S. TAME and METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Metropolitan Life
Insurance Company's (“MetLife”) Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 34) and Defendant Jeffrey S.
Tame's (“Tame”) Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 37). Zartman has failed to file a response. The
deadline for Zartman to file a response having passed, this
matter is now ripe for determination.
Widley (“Widley”) was a long-time employee of
General Motors. As part of her employment, Widley was part of
an ERISA plan sponsored by GM, which included a basic life
benefit of $60, 000 (the “Benefit”). On May 19,
2004, Widley completed a Beneficiary Designation form naming
Tame, her then-husband, as the primary beneficiary of the
Benefit. (ECF No. 34-2 at 525).
and Tame divorced on or about February 9, 2011. On March 4,
2011, Widley completed another Beneficiary Designation form.
(Id. at 503). For the Primary Beneficiary
Designation, Widley input the following information:
At the bottom of the form, Widley specifically noted the date
of her divorce from Tame. (Id.). On the same day,
Widley submitted a hand-written note providing GM with her
divorce decree and asking that Tame be taken off her health
insurance. (Id. at 502).
any reasonable person would view Widley's writing of
“Jeremy” in the first box
above as a crossed-out error, the result of Widley failing to
follow the “Last, First, Middle Initial” format
called for by the form, MetLife apparently believed that
Jeremy was a separate person. On
Match 9, 2011, MetLife sent Widley a letter stating that it
was “unable to process” the Beneficiary
Designation form because it “contains incomplete or
missing information.” (Id. at 530).
Specifically, MetLife informed Widley that she needed to
“[p]rovide the date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy) for all
primary and contingent beneficiaries.” (Id.).
MetLife provided Widley instructions on how to correct the
error, and informed Widley that “a letter of
confirmation will be mailed to your address of record”
once the beneficiary change was effective. (Id.).
summary judgment brief, MetLife elaborates on Widley's
error, stating that she:
incorrectly filled out a Beneficiary Designation form by
partially completing one name, striking through the name, and
failing to include the relationship, date of birth, address,
and share percentage of the benefits on the first line for
the primary beneficiary.
No. 35 at 3). Stated another way, MetLife now claims that it
needed Jeremy's date of birth,
address, and share percentage before it could process the
change of beneficiary.
unexplained reasons, Widley never submitted another
Beneficiary Designation form. Widley died on March 9, 2017.
Zartman, Widley's son, filed a Life Insurance Claim Form
(Id. at 498-501) on April 26, 2017. MetLife sent
Zartman a letter (Id. at 539-40) on June 1, 2017,
advising that his claim was denied because the May 19, 2004,
designation naming Tame as the primary beneficiary
controlled. The letter noted that MetLife had rejected the
March 9, 2011, designation, and that Widley had failed to
file any subsequent designation. Zartman followed the
administrative appeal procedures set forth in the letter, and
a final determination affirming the initial denial was made
on September 27, 2017. (Id. at 548-49).
the denial of Zartman's claim, Tame filed a Life
Insurance Claim form on October 11, 2017. (Id. at
551-53). Tame's claim was approved, and 100% of the
Benefit was paid to Tame. (ECF No. 16 at 4).
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The non-moving party must marshal and
present the Court with evidence on which a reasonable jury
could rely to find in their favor. Goodman v. Nat'l
Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A
court must deny a motion for summary judgment when the
nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a
genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't
of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary
judgment “is not to sift through the evidence,
pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to
believe. The court ...