Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Brock v. Prudential Insurance Company of America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 27, 2017

PAUL R. BROCK, Plaintiff,
v.
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are defendant Prudential Insurance Company of America, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment and Brief in Support (Doc. 11), and plaintiff Paul R. Brock's Motion for Summary Judgment and Brief in Support Thereof (Doc. 13).[1] Both motions are opposed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that defendant's Motion should be granted and plaintiff's Motion should be denied.

         I. Background

         The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Paul Brock is the brother of Carl Brock, who was a United States Army Sergeant at the time of his death on December 17, 2012. (Doc. 11 at 3, ¶¶ 1, 3). Sergeant Brock was enrolled in the Service Member's Group Life Insurance program (“SGLI”). (Id., ¶ 2).

         On November 10, 2011, plaintiff was designated the beneficiary of Sergeant Brock's SGLI life insurance policy, which was issued by defendant Prudential Insurance Company of America, Inc. (“Prudential”) and had a total death benefit in the amount of $400, 000. (Id., ¶ 3). The insurance contract makes clear that Prudential shall pay the amount of insurance purchased by Sergeant Brock to Sergeant Brock's beneficiary upon Prudential's receipt of proof in writing. The terms of the contract further state that any change in Sergeant Brock's beneficiary is effective “only by filing written notice thereof, over his signature, prior to his death with his uniformed service or with the Office as required by the further provisions of this Section.” (Doc. 12 at 4, ¶ 1). On June 13, 2012, a change of designated beneficiary naming Irene Eridiano Brock as the principal beneficiary was electronically was submitted to SGLI. On January 2, 2013, an Army representative advised defendant that the beneficiary change was never certified by Sergeant Brock's digital or physical signature, per the requirements. (Doc. 11 at 3, ¶ 4; Doc. 12 at 5, ¶ 3).

         Plaintiff made a claim for death benefits under the SGLI policy on January 15, 2013. (Id., ¶ 5). On February 25, 2013, the Army Criminal Investigation Department (“CID”) informed Prudential that it had initiated an investigation regarding Irene Eridiano Brock's involvement in Sergeant Brock's death and change in Sergeant Brock's beneficiary designation. (Id., ¶ 6). CID informed Prudential that it could be a “long” investigation. (Id., ¶ 6). On February 27, 2013, Prudential referred plaintiff's claim to have the funds interpled. (Doc. 11, Exh. 7). On March 28, 2013, Prudential determined that the claim was not ripe for interpleader based on the pending CID investigation and the fact that Irene Eridiano Brock could still submit a claim under the policy. (Doc. 11, Exh. 8).[2]

         Prudential maintained communication with plaintiff's counsel regarding the status of plaintiff's claim given the existence of an “unclear beneficiary” designation and the pending CID investigation. (Id., ¶ 9). Correspondence dated June 12, 2013 states that Prudential was “await[ing] the result of [the CID] investigation in order to proceed with [plaintiff's] claim.” (Doc. 11, Exh. 9, at 3). The CID investigation was completed on or about October 9, 2013. Defendant did not receive a copy of the CID report until January 9, 2014. (Id., ¶ 10).[3]

         Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on January 13, 2014, seeking “full payment of $400, 000 in life insurance benefits” under the SGLI life insurance policy as a third-party beneficiary of the contract, in addition to interest, costs, and attorney's fees. (Doc. 2 at 2, ¶¶ 7-8). The parties commenced settlement negotiations and could not agree on the interest rate applicable to the proceeds of the SGLI policy. Prudential claimed it was only required to pay the usual amount of interest paid on death proceeds, citing the terms of the policy, which provide that interest is set “at a rate to be determined by the Insurance Company.” Plaintiff claimed that Prudential should pay either the prejudgment interest rate, or the amount defendant earned on the proceeds during the time they were held. Plaintiff claimed interest at a rate of 2.15 percent as of February 6, 2014. (Doc. 11 at 5, ¶¶ 13-15).

         On February 11, 2014, Prudential paid plaintiff $400, 000 representing the total proceeds of the policy, plus interest in the amount of $2, 333.62, calculated with the interest rate normally paid by Prudential for death proceeds. The check was negotiated by plaintiff and his law firm on February 13, 2014. (Id., ¶¶ 16-17). Plaintiff now argues that an interest rate of 15 percent is proper pursuant to Okla Stat. tit. 36, § 3629(b). (Id., ¶ 18).

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “A fact is ‘material' only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. There is no genuine issue of material fact “unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Id. at 249. The district court thus must determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement [about that material fact] to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. The non-movant's evidence should be taken as true, and all justifiable and reasonable inferences are to be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Id. at 255.

         “Credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment. . . .” Id. “[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249.

         III. Discussion

         Prudential argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because there is no genuine dispute of material fact regarding Prudential's performance of its obligations under the contract. Specifically, Prudential argues that: (1) its payment of the life insurance policy proceeds to plaintiff bars plaintiff's breach of contract suit, and (2) it has satisfied its obligation to pay interest to plaintiff. Plaintiff's argument in response, which is also the main argument in its own Motion for Summary Judgment, is that there ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.