ORLANDO -- A disputed estate has caused Metropolitan Life Insurance to file an interpleader complaint and bow out of the fray, leaving the court to decide which sister gets the insurance money.The sisters, however, took it upon themselves recently to settle their dispute.
On Nov. 23, 2016, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. filed its complaint for interpleader in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Barbara M. Avery of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and S. Avery Smith of Seminole County. The two women are sisters.
Their father passed away Oct. 13, 2015, leaving a life insurance policy naming his widow Irene as the sole beneficiary. However, she died before he did.
Each of the sisters maintained that she was entitled to the $22,000 life insurance money. The company asked that the court intervene and rule which sister should get the money.
Grayson McCouch, professor of Law at University of Florida Levin College of Law, notes that this type of intervention by an insurance company is standard.
“There are all sorts of situations where you can have rival claimants," he said. "This is the procedural gimmick that the life insurance can use when it’s not denying liability but it’s uncertain as to which of the two people is actually entitled to the proceeds.”
McCouch told the Florida Record: “What the life insurance company is saying is that there is no question about the validity of the policy. It’s admitting that it owes the proceeds to a beneficiary, there there are two competing beneficiaries. So to take itself out of the process, Met Life is willing to pay what it knows it owes, and let the court figure out who is actually entitled.”
He further explained why the interpleader makes sense for Met Life.
“What you have are two individuals trying to sue the insurance company and make it pay the proceeds to each of them," he said. "The company doesn’t want to be doubly liable. From their point of view, they really don’t care which sister eventually wins. They are willing to pay the money into the court and in that way they will not end up owing more legal fees and being entangled in this litigation. The company doesn’t have a stake in it, once they pay what they owe under the policy.”
Based on court records, it appears the action filed by Met Life apparently has resulted in the sisters settling the case between themselves.
According to court records, a notice of settlement and request for case to remain open was filed Jan 20 by S. Avery Smith. An order staying the case until March 24, and signed by Judge Gregory A. Presnell was filed Jan. 23.
According to the notice of settlement, “The parties have reached a global settlement and are in the process of preparing the appropriate settlement documents. Once those documents are prepared and executed, the plan benefits will be dispersed by the plaintiff to the defendants in accordance with the parties’ settlement terms. The parties, therefore, respectfully request that this case remain open until such time as the conditions to settlement are finalized.”