United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant
KEISHA JONES-ATCHISON, Defendant DAVID ATCHISON, SR., and FANNIE ATCHISON, Defendants/Cross-Claim Defendants and ANITRA HAAG, as Parent, Legal Guardian, and Next Friend of L.M.H., a Minor; AMBER SMITH, as Parent, Legal Guardian, and Next Friend of I.E.S., a Minor; and KRISTIE HALL, as Parent, Legal Guardian, and Next Friend of J.H., a Minor, Defendant-Intervenors/Cross-Complainants/Counter-Complainants.
TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Keisha Jones'
(“Jones”) Motion to Enter Scheduling Order and
Consolidation of Discovery [Doc. No. 76], seeking
consolidation with the related case of Farmers New World
Life Company v. Keshia Jones, et. al., No.
CIV-17-1254-D. Jones filed a motion seeking the same relief
in Farmers. Motion to Enter Scheduling Order and
Consolidation of Discovery [Doc. No. 58], Farmers,
No. CIV-17-1254-D. This Order will address the Motions filed
in both actions. Defendants and Cross-Claim Defendants David
Atchison, Sr. and Fannie Atchison (“the
Atchisons”) have responded [Doc. No. 77]. Plaintiff and
Counterclaim Defendant Hartford Life and Accident Insurance
Company (“Hartford”) has responded [Doc. No. 78].
The matter is fully briefed and at issue.
is the carrier of a group policy (the “Policy”)
with basic life insurance benefits (and other coverages not
relevant to this action) for its policy holder-Siemans
Corporation (“Siemens”). David Lamare Atchison II
(“Mr. Atchison”) was employed by Siemens and was
a participant in the Policy. Mr. Atchison died after being
shot by an unknown assailant on January 8, 2017. His wife,
Keisha Jones-Atchison (“Jones”), submitted a
claim for benefits payable on Mr. Atchison's death.
However, Mr. Atchison's father, David Lamare Atchison,
Sr., submitted a Preference Beneficiary Affidavit
(“PBA”). In the PBA, Mr. Atchison, Sr., claimed
entitlement to some or all of the Policy's benefits, by
way of the Policy's succession provision.
date, there have been no arrests in connection with the death
of Mr. Atchison. However, court filings in this case state
that Jones has not been ruled out as a suspect, and the
circumstances surrounding Mr. Atchison's death remain
unclear. Citing the existence of competing claims to the
Policy proceeds, Hartford filed this interpleader action on
June 13, 2017. Complaint [Doc. No. 1]. The Court eventually
granted Hartford permission to deposit the proceeds into the
Clerk's registry and be discharged from these
proceedings. Order [Doc. No. 22]. On January 30, 2018, Jones
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 32] seeking an
award of the Policy benefits.
to Hartford's discharge, Anita Haag, Amber Smith, and
Kristie Hall, as parents and next friends of minor children
L.M.H., I.E.S., and J.H. (“the Children”),
respectively, were granted leave to intervene in the case,
and Defendant Keisha Jones' Motion for Summary Judgment
was stricken without prejudice to refiling. Order [Doc. No.
46]. On June 7, 2018, the Children filed their Answer and
Counterclaim [Doc. No. 47] stating a claim against Hartford
and cross-claim against the Atchisons. The Children filed an
Amended Answer, Counterclaim, and Cross Claim [Doc. No. 68]
on December 17, 2018.
Children allege: (1) Hartford improperly distributed $225,
000 in supplemental life benefits the Atchisons; (2) the
Atchisons acquired the life insurance benefits by making
fraudulent misrepresentations by affidavit; (3) as a matter
of law and equity, they are entitled to recover from the life
insurance benefits from the Atchisons; and, (4) the Atchisons
tortiously interfered with their contractual relationship
with Hartford. Hartford thereafter filed a Motion to Dismiss
[Doc. No. 72] the Children's counterclaim. The Court
granted Hartford's Motion to Dismiss on August 23, 2019
and dismissed all claims against Hartford. Order [Doc. No.
November 21, 2017, Farmers New World Life Insurance Company
(“Farmers”) filed a separate interpleader case,
CV-17-1254-D, relating to two life insurance policies issued
to Jones. Farmers alleged that Jones is, according to the
Oklahoma City Police Department, the primary suspect in Mr.
Atchison's murder, and that it appears that Okla. Stat.
tit. 84, § 231 (commonly known as the “slayer
statute”) may prevent Jones from taking the proceeds of
the Policies. Due to “the potential applicability of
the slayer statue and potential conflicting claims of the
Defendants, ” Farmers alleged it was unable to
distribute the insurance benefits. Complaint [Doc. No. 1],
Farmers, No. CV-17-01254-D, at 4. Farmers named the
Atchisons as defendants in the case. Farmers alleged that if
the slayer statute is found to apply to prevent Jones from
taking the proceeds, the Atchisons would be entitled to the
later amended their Complaint to add the Children as
Defendants. In the Amended Complaint, Farmers again stated
that it had not been able to distribute the insurance
proceeds due to “the potential applicability of the
slayer statue and potential conflicting claims of the
Defendants.” Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 16],
Farmers, No. CV-17-01254-D, at 4.
and the Children filed answers to Farmers' Amended
Complaint separately claiming they are entitled to the
proceeds of the Farmers policies. On April 17, 2018,
the Court granted Farmers leave to deposit the proceeds into
the Clerk's registry and discharged Farmers from the
case. Order [Doc. No. 31], No. CV-17-1254-D. The Atchisons
have not answered or otherwise entered appearances in case
moves the Court to set a date for a Joint Status and
Scheduling Conference and to consolidate this case with
Farmers New World Life Company v. Keshia Jones, et.
al., No. CIV-17-1254-D, for discovery purposes. Motion
at 1. Jones has filed a motion mirroring this request in
Farmers. Jones asserts consolidation is appropriate
because: (1) “issues of the case and discovery are
interrelated and the claims in both cases, defenses and
cross-claims arise out of the same operative set of
facts”; and, (2) consolidation for discovery purposes
would prevent unnecessary delay and duplication. Motion at 1,
Atchisons respond that: (1) Jones fails to identify any
specific questions of fact or law that are common to the
cases or what benefits consolidation of discovery would
serve; and, (2) consolidation would cause undue prejudice.
Hartford also responded but was dismissed from this case
prior to the Court issuing the instant order. Order [Doc. No.
79]. Therefore, the Court finds Hartford's objections to
consolidation are moot.
actions before the court involve a common question of law or
fact, ” it is within the sound discretion of the Court
to consolidate those actions for the purposes of discovery.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a); Shump v. Balka, 574 F.2d 1341,
1344 (10th Cir. 1978); see also Dorrough v. GEO Grp.,
Inc., CIV-14-1389-D, 2017 WL 31412, at *1 (W.D. Okla.
Jan. 3, 2017). “The objective of Rule 42(a) is
‘to give the court broad discretion to decide how cases
on its docket are to be tried so that the business of the
court may be dispatched with expedition and economy while
providing justice to the ...