United States District Court, S.D. Florida
NAWAL M. HASSOUN, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
RELIASTAR LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a Minnesota company, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff. RELIASTAR LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a Minnesota company, Third-Party Plaintiff,
LABEEB HASSOUN, individually, KAYRIA T. HASSOUN, individually, and JAMEEL M. HASSOUN, individually, Third-Party Defendant.
OMNIBUS ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, MOTION
FOR DISCHARGE, AND MOTIONS TO STRIKE
BLOOM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court upon several motions filed
by the parties. Plaintiff Nawal M. Hassoun
“Nawal”) filed initially filed her complaint in
state court seeking declaratory judgment. ECF No. [1-2].
Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff, Reliastar Life Insurance
Company (“Reliastar”) timely removed. See
ECF No. .
August 15, 2017, Reliastar filed its operative Second Amended
Counterclaim and Third-Party Complaint in Interpleader,
interpleading Plaintiff; Labeeb Hassoun
(“Labeeb”), now voluntarily dismissed from the
action; and the Third Party Defendants Kayria T. Hassoun and
Jameel M. Hassoun (“Kayria” and “Jameel,
” together, the “Third Party Defendants”).
ECF No.  (“Interpleader Complaint”). In the
Interpleader Complaint, Reliastar seeks an order requiring
Nawal, Labeeb, Kayria, and Jameel to interplead their rights,
discharging Reliastar from all liability, awarding Reliastar
attorneys' fees, and dismissing it from the action.
Id. at 5- 6.
filed her operative Second Amended Complaint on September 13,
2017 against Reliastar and the Third Party Defendants. ECF
No. . Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint asserts a
sole cause of action for declaratory judgment that (1)
insurance policy in question was in full force and effect at
the time of the insured Walid Hassoun's death; (2) that
Walid Hassoun changed the beneficiary under the Policy to the
Plaintiff; and (3) that Plaintiff is the beneficiary under
the Policy. Plaintiff also seeks an award of attorneys'
fees. Id. at 6-7.
motions are currently pending before the Court related to the
operative pleadings as follows:
1. Reliastar's Motion for Discharge from Action and
Permanent Injunction from Future Claims and Incorporated
Memorandum of Law, ECF No. ;
2. Third-Party Defendants' Motion for Final Summary
Judgment, ECF No. ;
3. Reliastar's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum
of Law, ECF No. ;
4. Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No.
5. Third-Party Defendants' Motion to Strike Statement of
Material Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(a), ECF No. ;
6. Reliastar's Motion to Strike Declarations of Dr.
Mustafa Hamed [D.E. 86-11] and Mahiatab Nayef Cheblac [D.E.
86-12] and Affidavit of Nawal Hassoun [D.E. 86-13], ECF No.
parties filed oppositions to each motion, and for all motions
except Reliastar's Motion to Strike, ECF. No. , the
movants each filed replies. All six motions are ripe for
FACTUAL BACKGROUND 
The Life Insurance Policy
January 18, 2016 Walid Hassoun (“Walid” or the
“Insured”) passed away in Tripoli, Lebanon,
leaving behind a $130, 000 employer-sponsored life insurance
policy under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq.
See ECF Nos.  ¶ 2;  ¶ 14; [86-5],
[90-5], and [92-4] (“Death Certificate”); [86-11]
¶ 2;  ¶ 14;  ¶ 14. The parties agree
that the entirety of the insurance policy at issue contains
three separate documents: a two page document entitled
Schedule of Benefits, a booklet also entitled Schedule of
Benefits (“Schedule of Benefits Booklet”), and a
handwritten form which appears to memorialize the general
terms of the group policy held between Walid's employer,
the Law Companies Group, and Reliastar. See ECF Nos.
[9-1], [22-1], [54-1], [86-1], [90-1], [92-1]
(“Policy”). The Schedule of Benefits Booklet
states that the Policyholder and Administrator is the Law
Companies Group. Id. 
the section entitled “Life Insurance, ” the
Policy explains what a beneficiary is, how to change the
beneficiary, and to whom the Policy proceeds are paid. The
relevant contract terms state in full:
Beneficiary The beneficiary
is named to receive the proceeds to be paid at your death.
You may name one or more beneficiaries. You cannot name the
Policyholder as beneficiary.
You may name, add, or change beneficiaries by written request
as described below. You may also choose to name a beneficiary
that you cannot change without his or her consent. This is an
How do you name, add, or change
You can name, add, or change beneficiaries by written request
if all of these are true:
• Your coverage is in force.
• We have written consent of all irrevocable
• You have not assigned the ownership of your insurance.
The rights of an assignee are described under the Assignment
All requests are subject to our approval. A change will take
effect as of the date it is signed but will not affect any
payment we make or action we take before receiving your
To whom do we pay proceeds?
We pay proceeds to the beneficiary. If there is more than one
beneficiary, each receives an equal share, unless you have
requested another method in writing. To receive proceeds, a
beneficiary must be living on the earlier of the following
• The date we receive proof of your death.
• The 10th day after your death.
If there is no eligible beneficiary or if you did not name
one, we pay proceeds to the persons listed below in order.
The person must be living on the tenth day after your death:
1. Your spouse.
2. Your children.
3. Your parents.
4. Your estate.
[54-1] at 11 (emphasis in original). The Definitions section
defines “written, in writing” as “signed
and dated and received at our Home Office in a form we
accept.” Id. at 16. The parties dispute
whether the Policy requires that changes to a beneficiary
require affirmative approval by Reliastar. ECF Nos. 
¶ 5-6;  ¶ 3;  ¶ 2;  ¶ 2; 
¶ 2;  ¶ 4.
enrolled in the policy in the fall of 1995 using a form
entitled “1996 Enrollment Form, ” naming his
wife, Chafnaze Chablak, as the primary beneficiary and his
brother, Labeeb Hassoun, as the contingent beneficiary.
See ECF No. ECF Nos. [9-2], [22-2], [54-2], [86-2],
[90-2], and [92-2] at 1 (“1996 Enrollment Form”);
see also ECF Nos.  ¶ 4;  ¶ 7; 
¶ 7;  ¶ 7;  ¶ 7;  ¶ 7. The
1996 Enrollment Form is dated October 22, 1995 and bears a
signature which reads “Walid Hassoun.” ECF No.
[54-2] at 1. The beneficiary form also bears a stamp which
indicates it was received by Reliastar on July 18, 1996.
The 2006 Beneficiary Form
December 20, 2006, a beneficiary designation form was
received by Reliastar (“2006 Beneficiary Form”).
ECF No. [52-2], [54-3], [86-3], [90-3], and [92-3]; see
also ECF Nos.  ¶ 8;  ¶ 8;  ¶
8;  ¶ 8; [82-1], [83-1], and [86-10], Moerbitz Tr.
at 126-27. The 2006 Beneficiary Form named four
beneficiaries: Third Party Defendants (Walid's mother and
brother) and Amal M. Hassoun and Siam M. Hassoun (two of
Walid's sisters, now deceased). ECF No. [54-3] at 1;
see also ECF Nos.  ¶ 5;  ¶ 8; 
¶ 8;  ¶ 8;  ¶ 6. The form is dated
November 28, 2006 in Plantation, Florida; bears a signature
which is dissimilar to the 1996 Enrollment Form; and is
notarized. ECF Nos. [54-3] at 1;  ¶ 6;  ¶
2;  ¶ 24. The instructions on the form to the
insured state: “Type or print legibly in ink. Sign and
date the form. Return the original and retain a copy for your
records.” ECF No. [54-3] at 1. The directions to the
Plan Administrator state: “Send the completed form to
the insurance company for approval if any of the following
apply: 1) The wording used in the request differs from the
examples given on the reverse side; 2) The policy/certificate
has been assigned; 3) The previous beneficiary is
irrevocable; or 4) The coverage is under an individual
policy. . . . For forms that do not require insurance company
approval, retain a copy of the approved form with the
insured's records.” Id.
2006 Beneficiary Form contains a handwritten notation that
Walid was “on wavier, ” meaning that Reliastar
had determined he was completely disabled and no longer
needed to pay premiums to maintain the Policy. See
Moerbitz Tr. at 48, 67-68;  ¶ 5;  ¶ 5.
Moerbitz testified that it is Reliastar's policy to
maintain all change of beneficiary forms for insureds that
are “on waiver.” See Moerbitz Tr. at
67-68; ECF Nos.  ¶ 6 and  ¶
By way of letter dated January 8, 2007, Reliastar
acknowledged receipt of the 2006 Change of Beneficiary Form.
ECF No. [54-4]; see also Moerbitz Tr. at 130-31; ECF
Nos.  ¶ 4;  ¶ 7;  ¶ 8;  ¶
8, 25;  ¶ 8, 16. Specifically, the letter states:
“We have received and processed your request to change
the beneficiary of your life insurance coverage.” ECF
The 2008 Power of Attorney
November 22, 2008, Walid granted a power of attorney to
Mahitab Nayef Cheblac (also spelled Shablak), his
sister-in-law, “in order for [her] to help him with his
affairs.” See ECF No. [86-12], Declaration of
Mahitab Nayef Cheblac (Nayef Aff.) ¶ 2; id. at
4-8, Nayef Aff. Ex. 1, General Absolute Comprehensive Power
of Attorney (Original and Certified Translation)
(“Power of Attorney”); see also ECF No.
 ¶ 11. Nayef avers that she “used to talk to
him [Walid] daily and  used to see him every month so that
[she] could help him take care of his needs.”
Id. ¶ 2. She states that “[d]ue to his
medical condition, he could not move his hands, so he could
not use his hands to eat or write. He could not sign
documents with a written signature. He told me that his [sic]
used his fingerprint or thumbprint to sign documents.”
Id.; see also ECF No.  ¶ 10. The
original, untranslated version of the Power of Attorney bears
a mark on each page which appears to be a thumbprint.
Id. at 6, 7, 8. Nayef avers that this mark is
Walid's thumbprint, and the certified translation of the
document ends stating “[t]he mandator Walid Mohamad
Hassoun Signs as follows (signature thus).” ECF No.
[86-12] ¶ 2.
to Dr. Mustafa Hamed, Walid's treating physician from
2013 to 2016, Walid was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (“ALS”) in May of 2013. ECF No.
[86-11], Affidavit of Dr. Mustafa Hamed dated November 25,
2017 (“Hamed Aff.”) ¶ 2; id. at
3-4, Hamed Aff. Ex. 1, Neurology Department Report dated May
18, 2016 (“I confirm that my patient Walid Hassoun was
affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).”);
see also ECF No.  ¶ 9;  ¶ 9; 
¶ 9. Based on his role as treating physician to Walid,
Dr. Hamed opines that “[d]ue to his condition, Walid
Hassoun was unable to move his hands and so he could not
write or use his hands to eat.” ECF No. [86-11] ¶
3. Dr. Hamed further avers that Walid told him that because
of his condition, Walid used his fingerprint to sign
documents. Id. at 3-4, [86-11] Hamed Aff. Ex. 1
(“During the course of his disease he was unable to
move his hands (writing, eating), because what [sic] he was
using his fingerprint for legal issues”).
The 2013 Beneficiary Form
2013, Walid lived in Tripoli “in his own house”
with his mother, this brother, two nurses, and a maid. Nayef
Aff., ECF No. [86-12] ¶ 3; Nawal Aff., ECF No. [86-13]
¶ 3; see also ECF No.  ¶ 10. On August
24, 2013 Walid traveled to Nayef's home for a weekend
visit. Nayef Aff., ECF No. [86-12] ¶ 4; see
also ECF No.  ¶ 10. Walid brought a blank
beneficiary designation form to the visit. While Nayef and
Walid were alone in the kitchen and Nayef was helping Walid
eat his lunch, Walid told Nayef he wanted to change the
beneficiaries under his life insurance policy and instructed
Nayef to help him complete the form. ECF No. [86-12] ¶
4; see also ECF No.  ¶ 10. Nayef avers that
Walid told her to list Plaintiff and his niece as the
beneficiaries. ECF No. [86-12] ¶ 4; see also
ECF No.  ¶ 10. Nayef filled out the form
accordingly. ECF No. [86-12] ¶ 4.
to Nayef: “After I filled in the form and listed the
beneficiaries, I saw Walid Hassoun place his fingerprint on
the beneficiary designation form. He placed the fingerprint
on the form in front of me after I filled out the form
pursuant to his instructions.” Id. ¶ 6;
see also ECF No.  ¶ 11. Nayef further
states that Walid used his thumbprint because he could not
move his arms or hands anymore. ECF No. [86-12] ¶ 6;
see also ECF No.  ¶ 10.
Walid placed his thumbprint on the form, Walid instructed
Nayef to send the completed beneficiary form, ECF Nos.
[22-3], [54-5], [86-4], [90-4], and [92-4] (“2013
Beneficiary Form”), to the United States via Aramex to
Walid's uncle in Florida. ECF No. [86-12] ¶ 7;
see also ECF No.  ¶ 12. Walid further
instructed Nayef to tell the uncle, who also had a power of
attorney, to send the forms to Reliastar. ECF No. [86-12]
¶ 4; see also ECF No.  ¶ 12. Nayef
states that she told Walid's uncle to mail the 2013
Beneficiary Form to Reliastar, and later confirmed with the
uncle that he had received the 2013 Beneficiary Form and had
forwarded it to the insurance company. Id.; see
also ECF No.  ¶ 12.
point after August 2013, Nawal traveled to Tripoli, Lebanon.
While visiting with Walid, Walid informed Nawal that
“he had placed [her] as a beneficiary on his life
insurance policy.” Nawal Aff., ECF No. [86-13] ¶
3. Nawal avers that “[g]iven that he signed the 2013
Beneficiary Form in August of 2013, our meeting had to occur
after that date because he told me that he had already made
me the beneficiary. I did not know anything else about his
policy.” Id. She further states that Walid was
“completely disabled due to his medical
condition” and that he “could not move his hands
or write using his hands, ” and that [h]e used his
finger print or thumbprint to sign documents.”
Id. ¶ 4.
October 16, 2013, Reliastar received the 2013 Beneficiary
Form. ECF Nos.  ¶ 13;  ¶ 13;  ¶
13;  ¶ 13;  ¶ 13. As described in the
Nayef and Nawal Affidavits, the 2013 Beneficiary Form names
Plaintiff, Nawal Hassoun, as the beneficiary and Rima
Hassoun, Walid's niece (“Rima”), as the
contingent beneficiary. ECF No. [54-5]. The 2013 Beneficiary
Form also notes that Walid is “on waiver.”
Id. The 2013 Beneficiary Form contains identical
directions to both the insured and plan administrator as the
2006 Beneficiary Form. Id.
2013 Beneficiary Form was never processed by Reliastar. ECF
Nos.  ¶ 10;  ¶ 13;  ¶ 13; 
¶ 13;  ¶ 13. The form was initially received
by the Waiver Department-the wrong department-and was never
forwarded to the Policy Service Department for processing due
to “human error.” Moerbitz Tr. at 41; see
also ECF Nos.  ¶ 10;  ¶ 13; 
¶ 13. Reliastar did not review the form, did not accept
or deny the 2013 Beneficiary Form, and instead misfiled it
electronically within the Waiver Department's folders on
its “WISE” document management and workflow
system. ECF Nos.  ¶ 10;  ¶ 13;  ¶
13;  ¶ 13. No acknowledgment letter was ever sent to
Walid regarding the 2013 Beneficiary Form. ECF Nos. 
¶ 10;  ¶ 13;  ¶ 13;  ¶ 13.
The Claims to the Policy Proceeds
passed away on January 18, 2016. See Death
Certificate, ECF Nos. [85-5], [90-5], [92-5]; see
also ECF Nos.  ¶ 14;  ¶ 14; 
¶ 14. On March 7, 2016, Nawal filed a claim with
Reliastar for the proceeds from the Policy. ECF Nos. [9-4],
[22-4], and [54-6]; see also ECF Nos.  ¶ 15
and  ¶ 15.
searched its records for the operative beneficiary forms, but
was only able to locate the 1996 Enrollment Form. ECF No.
[52-1], Affidavit of Mary Moerbitz ¶ 5. As Moerbitz
testified, “[t]he Reliastar claim adjuster did not
search the WISE [document management] system when reviewing
the claim submission. A November 28, 2006 Beneficiary
Designation Form and an August 24, 2013 Beneficiary Form were
housed on that system and were not located while the
competing claims were considered. Instead, the adjuster only
checked the Oracle IPM system and imaging systems for change
of beneficiary forms, located the 1996 beneficiary
designation form and believed in good faith that she had
exhausted all sources.” Id. Thus, due to
“human error, ” Reliastar located neither the
2006 Beneficiary Form nor the 2013 Beneficiary Form.
Id.; see also Moerbitz Tr. at 41; ECF Nos.
 ¶ 16, 18;  ¶ 16;  ¶ 16. Instead,
Reliastar believed that it received the 2013 Beneficiary Form
for the first time as an attachment to Nawal's claim for
the Policy proceeds after Walid's death. Since as ...