United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
REBECCA RUTHERFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court in this interpleader action are three motions filed
by Plaintiff Royal Neighbors of America: (1) Motion for
Discharge and Attorneys' Fees (ECF No. 29); (2) Motion to
Dismiss First Amended Counterclaim (ECF No. 41); and (3)
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 57). Each motion
represents a different procedural vehicle by which Plaintiff
seeks dismissal from this lawsuit. For the reasons stated,
the Court should grant Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment and dismiss with prejudice the Robertson
Defendants' claims against Plaintiff. Because this would
dispose of all claims against Plaintiff, the Court should
further grant Plaintiff's Motion for Discharge and
dismiss Plaintiff from this lawsuit. The Court should award
Plaintiff costs and attorney's fees in the amount of $7,
000.00. Finally, the Court should deny Plaintiff's Motion
to Dismiss First Amended Counterclaim as moot.
Chad Robertson, Lori Robertson, Jared Robertson, and Matthew
Robertson (the “Robertson Defendants”) are Dale
Robertson's (“Dale”) surviving children.
First Am. Counterclaim 3 (ECF No. 39). On January 23, 1998,
Dale married Diann Robertson (“Diann”), who is
not the Robertson Defendants' mother. Id. Dale
and Diann, together with Diann's daughter and son-in-law,
organized Kids Kampus Creative Learning Center, LLC
(“KKCLC”) on November 15, 2000. Id. At
about that same time, Dale contracted with Royal Neighbors
for a $200, 000 life-insurance policy and named KKCLC as the
primary beneficiary. Id.; see also
Pl.'s App. 17 (ECF No. 29-4). KKCLC owned and operated
child-care centers in Johnson and Tarrant County, Texas,
until it sold them in 2016. First Am. Counterclaim 3.
Dale's life-insurance policy provides “[t]he
beneficiary is as stated in the application unless changed,
” and permits “[t]he Owner . . . [to] change the
beneficiary without the consent of any such
beneficiary.” Pl.'s App. 30 (ECF No. 29-4). The
policy also states that a proper written request is required
to change the beneficiary and that no change will take place
unless recorded. Id.
September 24, 2004, Dale filled out “an official Royal
Neighbors' ‘Request for Change Form.'”
First Am. Counterclaim 4.; see also Pl.'s App.
56 (ECF No. 29-4). On the signed and witnessed form, Dale
requested the beneficiary under his policy be changed to give
50% to First National Bank of Burleson, the lien-holder for
KKCLC, and 50% to Diann Robertson, Dale's spouse. First
Am. Counterclaim 4; see also Pl.'s App. 56 (ECF
No. 29-4). It is undisputed that Royal Neighbors did not
record the form. Plaintiff contends this was because it
“did not believe that Dale's requested listing of
the bank as a beneficiary was necessary to secure the
bank's interest as lienholder.” First Am.
Counterclaim 4. The Robertson Defendants allege that Dale was
not aware that Royal Neighbors did not record the change of
beneficiary and that, after Dale's submission of the 2004
change-of-beneficiary request, Diann represented that she was
the policy's beneficiary. Id. Plaintiff,
however, contends that it discussed Dale's 2004
change-of-beneficiary request with Diann and informed her
that if it were recorded, First National Bank of Burleson
would receive 50% of the remaining proceeds under the
certificate in addition to the proceeds necessary to satisfy
KKCLC's liabilities. Pl.'s Br. Support 8 (ECF No.
58). Royal Neighbors further contends that it sent two
letters to Dale, one on October 29, 2004, and the other on
December 6, 2004, explaining why his change-of-beneficiary
request was not recorded and confirming that the beneficiary
remained KKCLC. Id. 8-9.
and Diann divorced on May 19, 2017, and on April 28, 2018,
Dale died of cancer. First Am. Counterclaim 4. Chad Robertson
was appointed independent executor of Dale's estate.
Id. The Robertson Defendants informed Royal
Neighbors that “any designation of Diann as beneficiary
under any policy with Royal Neighbors would be void as a
matter of law in Texas.” Id. 5. Royal
Neighbors confirmed that KKCLC was the beneficiary under
Dale's policy. Id. The Robertson Defendants
assert that Diann is KKCLC's registered agent and sole
August 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed its Interpleader Complaint
seeking to deposit the policy proceeds into the Court's
registry so that the Court could determine the proper
beneficiary. Id. After the Court granted
Plaintiff's motion to deposit the policy proceeds into
the Court's registry, Plaintiff sought an agreed
dismissal from the Robertson Defendants, Diann, and KKCLC.
The parties tentatively agreed to the terms of a proposed
stipulation and order of dismissal, but the Robertson
Defendants requested to review a copy of Plaintiff's
claim file before they executed the dismissal documents. In
response, Plaintiff produced only certain “key
documents, ” one of which referenced the 2004 Request
for Change Form, leading the Robertson Defendants to believe
Dale had requested the beneficiary be changed to Diann.
See JSR. 2-3 (ECF No. 26). The Robertson Defendants
explained the purported significance of the possible change
If the September 2004 change of designation form did request
a change in beneficiary designation to Diann Robertson, the
Estate and the Robertson Family Defendants contend it should
have been recorded and effective as of the date of the
request. Pursuant to Texas Family Code Section 9.301, at the
time of Dale Robertson's death, DiAnn Robertson would be
eliminated as a beneficiary as an ex-spouse and the Estate,
or alternatively, the Robertson Family Defendants would be
entitled to all or part of the Certificate proceeds.
Id. 3. Although Plaintiff declined to produce its
entire claim file, it took the position that “Royal
Neighbors never received a request from the Insured to change
the beneficiary from KKCLC.” Id. 1.
status conference on October 24, 2018, counsel for the
Robertson Defendants represented that their clients would
likely agree to dismiss Plaintiff from this lawsuit if the
claim file established that the insurance company never
received a request to change the beneficiary from KKCLC. The
parties, thus, agreed to continue their efforts to negotiate
the terms of an agreed stipulation and order of dismissal and
to file their proposed agreed order by November 19, 2018. The
parties further agreed that Plaintiff would produce the
entire claim file by November 19, 2018. The Court
memorialized the parties' agreement in its Scheduling
Order filed the same day as the status conference. Sched.
Ord. 1 (ECF No. 28). Plaintiff produced the claim file on
November 19, 2018. Upon review of the file, the Robertson
Defendants discovered the 2004 change-of-beneficiary request
form completed by Dale. The Robertson Defendants determined
they may have claims against Royal Neighbors for its refusal
to record the change of beneficiary form and declined to
execute Plaintiff's proposed order of dismissal.
to obtain a dismissal by agreement, Plaintiff filed its
Motion for Discharge on January 9, 2019, asserting it was
entitled to dismissal, in part, because “none of the
Defendants have asserted any affirmative claims against Royal
Neighbors.” Discharge Mot. 2 (ECF No. 29). On January
30, 2019, the Robertson Defendants timely filed a response in
opposition to the motion (ECF No. 34) and also an original
counterclaim (ECF No. 33), asserting affirmative claims
against Royal Neighbors. When Plaintiff moved to dismiss the
original counterclaim, see Mot. (ECF No. 36), the
Robertson Defendants filed their First Amended Counterclaim,
which is the subject of Plaintiff's pending Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 41) filed March 7, 2019.
their First Amended Counterclaim, the Robertson Defendants
seek a declaratory judgment and bring claims for negligence
and breach of contract against Royal Neighbors. First Am.
Counterclaim 6-9. The Robertson Defendants assert that Royal
Neighbors was required to record Dale's 2004
change-of-beneficiary request under the policy and that, as a
result, they are entitled to the proceeds because
“KKCLC and Diann are both ineligible to receive the
Policy proceeds under Texas law and/or under the Agreed Final
Decree of Divorce.” Id. 6-7. Plaintiff argues
the Robertson Defendants' counterclaims should be
dismissed for the following reasons: (1) interpleader was
proper, and discharge is appropriate; (2) the Robertson
Defendants lack standing; (3) the Robertson Defendants'
claims for declaratory relief are duplicative of
Plaintiff's claims; and (4) the Robertson Defendants'
claims are barred by limitations.
the Court could reach Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss,
Plaintiff filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF
No. 57) pursuant to the deadlines established by the
Court's Scheduling Order. Plaintiff moves for summary
judgment on the Robertson Defendants' First Amended
Counterclaim on four grounds: (1) interpleader, (2) the
economic-loss rule, (3) standing, and (4) limitations. All of
Plaintiff's motions are now fully briefed. With respect
to the pending summary-judgment motion, KKCLC does not oppose
the relief Plaintiff requests. KKCLC Resp. (ECF No. 68). Given
these circumstances, the Court finds that disposition of
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment would simplify
the case, and, thus, it considers that motion first.