DIANE WEAVER, formerly known as Diane Hickey, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Appellant
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Counter Claimant-Appellee UNKNOWN PAYEE, Defendant-Appellee METROPOLITAN TOWER LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, formerly known as Metropolitan Insurance and Annuity Company, Counter Claimant-Appellee
JAMES M. PERRY, Counter Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
DAVIS, HIGGINSON, and WILLETT, Circuit Judges.
WILLETT, Circuit Judge:
contract-interpretation case under Texas law concerns Diane
Weaver's then-husband Larry Hickey, who suffered a diving
accident in 1989. The couple received a structured settlement
from the premises owner and its insurers. The couple later
divorced, and Larry passed away in 2014. The issue is whether
the settlement agreements gave Larry the right to replace
Weaver as beneficiary of an annuity.
deciding the merits, we must decide if the district court had
diversity jurisdiction. Weaver initially sued Metropolitan
Life Insurance Company and the "Unknown Payee"
receiving the annuity payments. Met Life removed the case,
then interpleaded James Perry-Larry's brother and the
previously unknown payee. Weaver and Perry are both Texans.
But, under the diversity and removal statues, the parties
were diverse throughout this action. And the district court
thus had jurisdiction.
to the merits, summary judgment was correctly granted based
on the settlement agreements. These documents, read as a
cohesive, contextual, harmonious whole, grant Larry the
unilateral right to change the beneficiary. We decline to
rewrite the agreements under the guise of interpreting them.
AFFIRM the judgment.
1989, Larry suffered a diving accident that left him
quadriplegic. Weaver and Larry sued the premises owner for
negligence. Larry sought damages for pain, disfigurement,
lost income, and medical expenses. Weaver sought damages for
loss of consortium, mental pain, and loss of monetary
contributions. They obtained a settlement and dismissed the
case. Four documents comprise the settlement-the Release, the
Settlement Agreement, the Assignment, and the Annuity. Their
contents overlap somewhat.
Release, Weaver and Larry released their claims in exchange
for $850, 000. Weaver, Larry, and their attorney were to
receive $300, 000 immediately, and Met Life was to receive
$550, 000 from another insurer, Metro Tower, to fund an
Settlement Agreement, Weaver and Larry agreed to dismiss the
case in exchange for those payments. The premises owner's
insurer, Wausau Lloyds Insurance Companies, agreed to give
Larry monthly payments for the longer of either his lifetime
or 30 years. The Settlement Agreement addresses beneficiaries
If Larry Hickey dies before receiving all payments set forth
in this paragraph, such payments shall be made as due to
Diane Hickey [Weaver], his wife, if living, otherwise to the
Estate of Larry Hickey, upon proof of death being furnished
to Wausau Lloyds Insurance Company, or its assignee. Claimant
reserves the right to request to change the beneficiary of
future periodic payments.
Settlement Agreement does not define "Claimant." It
goes on to provide that Wausau Lloyds would assign its duty
to make payments to Metropolitan Insurance and Annuity
Company, later renamed Metropolitan Tower Life Insurance
Company. Metropolitan Tower would fund the periodic payments
by purchasing an annuity contract from Met Life.
Assignment, Wausau Lloyds assigned its duty to make payments
to Metropolitan Tower. The Assignment identifies Larry as the
"Claimant" in its parties list. Its addendum
provides who to pay: "Payee: Larry Hickey, if living,
otherwise to Diane Hickey, his wife. If Diane Hickey is not
living, then payments shall be made to the Estate of Larry
Annuity, Met Life agreed to make payments. The Annuity
provides that the "Measuring Life" is Larry;
"Owner" is Metropolitan Tower; and
"Beneficiary" is "Diane Hickey, wife if
living; otherwise the Estate of Larry Hickey." If the
Measuring Life died before the 30 years expired, Met Life
agreed to make payments to the beneficiary.
1999, Weaver and Larry divorced. Among the divorce
decree's property distributions, Larry received
"[a]ny property not otherwise awarded herein" that
was in his possession or sole control.
2002, unbeknownst to Weaver, Larry requested to change the
annuity's beneficiary from her to his brother Perry. In
2014, Larry died. Weaver, believing she was now entitled to
the annuity payments, demanded payment from Wausau Lloyds and
Met Life. Met Life responded that it could not direct
payments to Weaver because the beneficiary had been changed.
initially sued Met Life and "Unknown Payee" in
Texas state court. She asserted one cause of action: breach
of contract against "Defendant." As used in the
petition, "Defendant" meant Met Life. In a factual
allegation, not a count or claim, she alleged that Unknown
Payee was "believed to be a resident of the State of
Texas who is currently receiving the periodic payments the
subject of this suit." She did not assert a cause of
action against Unknown Payee.
Life removed the case to federal court. It alleged diversity
jurisdiction because Weaver is a citizen of Texas and Met
Life is a citizen of New York. It asserted that Unknown Payee
was a defendant sued under a fictitious name, who must be
disregarded for diversity purposes under 28 U.S.C. §
1441(b)(1). Alternatively, it alleged that diversity
jurisdiction existed because Weaver's petition asserted
no claims against Unknown Payee.
after Met Life removed the case, Met Life and Metropolitan
Tower (the Met Life parties) filed an amended answer and
counterclaim. The counterclaim was an interpleader action
against Weaver and Perry. This pleading was both Metropolitan
Tower's and Perry's first appearance in the case. It
alleged that diversity jurisdiction remained proper because
the Met Life parties, citizens of New York and Delaware, were
diverse from Weaver and Perry, citizens of Texas.
learning Perry's identity from the answer and
counterclaim, Weaver moved to amend her complaint to assert a
claim against Perry for money had and received. She also
moved to remand the case to state court because Perry's
joinder destroyed diversity. The district court granted leave
to amend but denied the motion to remand. It held that
diversity jurisdiction over the interpleader action, combined
with supplemental jurisdiction over the
money-had-and-received claim, made remand unnecessary.
district court later granted summary judgment to the Met Life
parties and Perry. It denied Weaver's motion for summary
judgment. Weaver appealed the order denying remand, the
summary judgment orders, and the final judgment.
district court held it had jurisdiction based on diversity;
Weaver challenges that decision on appeal.
"review the denial of a motion to remand de
novo." Similarly, we
"review de novo an order granting summary
judgment, 'applying the same standard as the district
court.'" Summary judgment
is proper if "there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law."
the district court's jurisdiction in three procedural
stages. Diversity jurisdiction existed at each stage.
jurisdiction was proper when Met Life removed the case. Under
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), defendants may generally remove
"any civil action brought in a State court of which the
district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction." District courts have original
jurisdiction over civil actions between citizens of ...