United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. #36) filed on December 14, 2017.
Plaintiff filed an Unopposed Motion for Order of Interpleader
(Doc. #38) on December 28, 2017, in response. Defendant Mark
D. Sievers is in default.
judgment is appropriate only when the Court is satisfied 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). “An issue of fact is
‘genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead
a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party.” Baby Buddies, Inc. v. Toys “R”
Us, Inc., 611 F.3d 1308, 1314 (11th Cir. 2010). A fact
is “material” if it may affect the outcome of the
suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A court must
decide ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is
so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.'” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co.,
Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (citation
previously stated, in the Court's October 30, 2017,
Opinion and Order (Doc. #35):
The undisputed facts in the Complaint establish that Mark D.
Sievers (husband of Teresa A. Sievers) is the primary and
only beneficiary of the attached traditional IRA annuity
contract. (Doc. #1-1.) No contingent beneficiary is
designated in the annuity contract unless no beneficiary
survives, in which case the proceeds would revert to Teresa
A. Sievers' estate. (Doc. #1, 8; Doc. #1-1, pp. 10, 17.)
. . .
On or about June 29, 2015, Teresa A. Sievers was found dead
in her home of blunt force trauma, and the cause of death was
ruled a homicide. (Doc. #1, ¶ 10.) Upon notification
that Mark D. Sievers was a person of interest, and upon
request of the Lee County Sheriff's Office to hold any
payment of proceeds, plaintiff held disbursement of proceeds
in abeyance. (Id., ¶ 11.) Since then, Mark D.
Sievers has been arrested and charged with his wife's
murder, and is awaiting trial. (Id., ¶ 12.)
Plaintiff alleges that Mark D. Sievers has a valid claim to
the benefits as the named beneficiary and it has not yet been
determined if he killed his wife. (Id., ¶ 15.)
Plaintiff also alleges that defendant Patrick J. Tottenham
has a valid claim if Mark D. Sievers is
prohibited from receiving the proceeds under Fla. Stat.
§ 732.802(3). (Id., ¶ 16.) No
final judgment of conviction has been entered, and no other
determination has been made as to whether the killing was
unlawful and intentional.
(Doc. #35, pp. 1-3) (emphasis added). It is Patrick J.
Tottenham, as representative of the Estate of Teresa A.
Sievers (the Estate), who seeks summary judgment in its
favor. The Estate argues that Sievers no longer has a valid
claim because Sievers is in default, although there has been
no formal disclaimer or renouncement of his rights. Plaintiff
filed a motion stating its non-opposition to the motion, but
asking that it be provided with the protections against
liability of an interpleader action. Both Jackson and the
Estate invoke the “slayer statute” as a basis for
the Estate's entitlement to proceeds but have provided no
factual support for their position.
Florida law, “[a] named beneficiary of a bond, life
insurance policy, or other contractual arrangement who
unlawfully and intentionally kills the principal obligee or
the person upon whose life the policy is issued is not
entitled to any benefit under the bond, policy, or other
contractual arrangement; and it becomes payable as though the
killer had predeceased the decedent.” Fla. Stat. §
732.802(3). “A final judgment of conviction of murder
in any degree is conclusive for purposes of this section. In
the absence of a conviction of murder in any degree, the
court may determine by the greater weight of the evidence
whether the killing was unlawful and intentional for purposes
of this section.” Fla. Stat. § 732.802(5).
“A party invoking the slayer statute, also called the
Murder Probate Statute, to prevent an unconvicted
killer's acquisition of property has the burden of
proving that the killing was both intentional and
unlawful.” Congleton v. Sansom, 664 So.2d 276,
280 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). “To prevent a beneficiary from
taking under the Slayer Statute, a party must prove the
decedent was intentionally and unjustifiably killed by the
beneficiary.” Dougherty v. Cole, 401
Ill.App.3d 341, 346, 934 N.E.2d 16, 20 (2010).
criminal charges were filed and the case is pending, there
has been no final conviction. Further, no civil action has
been filed by either Jackson National Life Insurance Company
(Jackson) or the Estate to determine if Sievers, by the
greater weight of the evidence, intentionally and unlawfully
killed his wife. Carter v. Carter, 88 So.2d 153, 158
(Fla. 1956). By defaulting, Sievers may simply be exercising
his Fifth Amendment privilege, which would preclude
simultaneously seeking proceeds in this case. See New
York Life Ins. & Annuity Corp. v. Gerth, No.
8:12-CV-1954-T-30MAP, 2014 WL 12617556, at *2 (M.D. ...