United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION, FINDINGS OF FACT AND
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
J. BEMPORAD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
trial was held in this case on March 28, 2019. The Court
exercises jurisdiction in this case pursuant to the consent
of the parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the Court
enters this Memorandum of Decision, Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law. For the reasons set out below, the Court
finds in favor of Defendant Tressa McKenzie in this matter.
case began as an interpleader action brought by Dearborn
National Life Insurance Company ("Dearborn"),
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1335, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001
et seq. (See Docket Entry 1, at 1.) Dearborn had
issued a term life insurance policy ("the Policy")
to Aaron McKenzie through his employer, Star Shuttle, Inc.
("Star Shuttle"). (Id.) The death benefit
under the policy was $80, 000. (Docket Entry 36, at 3.)
Aaron McKenzie's death, both Plaintiff and Defendant
filed claims seeking life insurance benefits. In light of the
parties' dispute, Dearborn filed this interpleader
action. Both Plaintiff and Defendant filed answers making
claims to the proceeds. (Docket Entries 7, 8.) The Court
approved Dearborn's interpleader request, dismissing it
from the case and ordering that proceeds from the Policy
(less costs and reasonable attorney's fees) be placed in
the registry of the Court. (Docket Entry 12.) Accordingly,
the amount of $77, 100 was placed in the Court's registry
on July 31, 2017. (See Docket Entry 14.)
Plaintiff and Defendant testified at the trial before the
Court. Additionally, three defense exhibits were admitted by
stipulation. (See Docket Entries 53, 54.)
Findings of Fact.
following findings include findings adapted from the
parties' stipulations at trial (see Docket Entry
53) and proposed findings (Docket Entries 56 and 57), as well
as the Court's own findings based on the trial evidence:
1. Antwonique McKenzie is Aaron McKenzie's natural born
daughter from his previous marriage to Latasha Nicole Johnson
(a/k/a Latasha Brown). The marriage ended in divorce at some
time before July 26, 2009.
2. Tressa McKenzie and Aaron McKenzie were married on July
26, 2009, and the marriage was never subject to divorce or
3. Aaron McKenzie began working for Star Shuttle on October
12, 2009, and worked there until November 11, 2016.
4. On or about May 20, 2016, Aaron McKenzie purchased the
Policy from Dearborn through Star Shuttle. A third party, Sun
Life Financial, acted as the enroller for the Policy. The
Policy states that it is an "employee welfare benefit
plan" as defined by ERISA. (Trial Ex. 2; Docket Entry 31
-2, at 46.)
5. Premiums for the insurance were deducted out of Aaron
McKenzie's employment paycheck. As Aaron McKenzie
purchased the Policy during his marriage to Tressa McKenzie,
he used community funds to pay the premiums of the Policy.
6. From approximately April to December 2016, Tressa and
Aaron McKenzie were living apart.
7. With regard to naming a beneficiary for death benefits,
the Policy provides:
Who will receive Your Life Insurance
Your beneficiary designation must be made on a form which
Weprovide or on a form accepted by
Us. If two or more beneficiaries are named, payment
of proceeds will be apportioned equally unless You
had specified otherwise. The Policyholder may not be
named as beneficiary. Unless You provide otherwise,
if a beneficiary dies before You, We will divide
that beneficiary's share equally between any remaining