MetLife and Annuity Company of Connecticut v. Uzo Akpele

Case: 16-15677 Date Filed: 03/29/2018 Page: 1 of 24 [PUBLISH] IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT ________________________ No. 16-15677 ________________________ D.C. Docket No. 1:13-cv-03898-TWT METLIFE LIFE AND ANNUITY COMPANY OF CONNECTICUT, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant- Appellee-Cross-Appellee, versus UZO AKPELE, J.E.A., a minor, Defendants-Counter Claimants- Appellees Cross Appellants, ANN HERRERA, in her capacity as Temporary Administrator of The Estate of Ignatius Esehaigbe Akpele, Defendant-Appellant- Cross Appellee, AIE SURGICAL PRACTICE, LLC DEFINED BENEFIT PLAN, a.k.a. Dr. Ignatius Akpele Defined Benefit Plan, Case: 16-15677 Date Filed: 03/29/2018 Page: 2 of 24 Third Party Defendant- Counter Defendant- Appellee-Cross Appellee. ________________________ Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ________________________ (March 29, 2018) Before ROSENBAUM and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges, and BARTLE, * District Judge. BARTLE, District Judge: Plaintiff MetLife Life and Annuity Co. of Connecticut (“MetLife”) initiated this interpleader action under Rule 22 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and sought to pay into the registry of the district court the proceeds of an insurance policy on the life of Dr. Ignatius Akpele, deceased. The defendants named by MetLife were Uzo Akpele (the widow of Dr. Akpele), J.E.A. (a minor child of Dr. Akpele and his widow), and Ann Herrera (the temporary administrator of the estate of Dr. Akpele). Dr. Akpele purchased the policy in issue to fund the AIE Surgical Practice Defined Benefit Plan (“Plan”) he had established as its sole member and trustee pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. * Honorable Harvey Bartle III, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, sitting by designation. 2 Case: 16-15677 Date Filed: 03/29/2018 Page: 3 of 24 As will be discussed in more detail below, the salient issues before this court concern whether the amount deposited into the registry of the district court was correct and which defendant is entitled to the life insurance proceeds. Following resolution of these issues on summary judgment, the Akpeles and Herrera filed notices of appeal from various orders of the district court. I To understand this action, it is necessary to recite in some detail its involved procedural history. In the complaint filed on November 22, 2013, MetLife alleged that it could not determine the proper beneficiary under the insurance policy on Dr. Akpele’s life and sought to obtain a declaration as to which defendant was entitled to receive its benefits. Shortly thereafter, the district court granted MetLife’s motion to deposit into the court registry $635,562.25, which MetLife represented to be the proper amount of death benefits provided under the policy plus interest. Herrera filed an answer to MetLife’s complaint. In that answer, she alleged that Dr. Akpele’s will established a trust for the benefit of his two minor children, one of whom was J.E.A., and that the will had been executed after Dr. Akpele initiated divorce proceedings against Uzo, although the divorce had not been finalized at the time of Dr. Akpele’s death. Herrera admitted that the ...

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