United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
DECISION AND ENTRY SUSTAINING DEFENDANT DONALD
BROOKS' MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST DEFENDANTS
CYNTHIA AND EBONY JACKSON (DOC. #23); COUNSEL FOR DONALD
BROOKS TO SUBMIT ITEMIZED ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS, AND
ADDRESSES OF BENEFICIARIES WITHIN SEVEN DAYS
H. RICE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is currently before the Court on Defendant Donald
Brooks' Motion for Default Judgment Against Defendants
Cynthia M. Jackson and Ebony M. Jackson. Doc. #23. The Court
held an evidentiary hearing on November 28, 2016, at which
neither Cynthia nor Ebony Jackson appeared. Defendant Donald
Brooks then filed a post-hearing brief. Doc. #35. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court sustains the motion for
Background and Procedural History
D. Jackson died on February 19, 2015. He had a Federal
Employees' Group Life Insurance policy
("FEGLI"), worth $17, 000, issued by Plaintiff
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife"). A
beneficiary designation, dated October 8, 1996, assigned 100%
of the life insurance proceeds to Charles D. Jackson's
wife, Rosemary. Doc. #1-2, PageID#9. Rosemary, however, died
in 2002. Another beneficiary designation, dated January 4,
2008, assigned 50% of the life insurance proceeds to his
daughter, Cynthia Jackson, and 50% to his granddaughter,
Ebony Jackson. Doc.#1-1, PageID#8.
Charles died, MetLife received claim forms from Cynthia and
Ebony. Doc. #1-5, PageID##19-23. It also received a claim
form from Defendant Donald Brooks, who claimed to be Charles
D. Jackson's son. Id. at PageID##16-17. To cover
funeral expenses, Cynthia, Ebony and Donald assigned $6,
610.68 of their interest in the life insurance proceeds to
Newcomer Funeral Home, which then reassigned its interest to
Defendant Forethought Capital Funding, Inc. Doc.#1-4,
then filed this interpleader action. According to the
Complaint, MetLife received several letters from an attorney
representing Donald Brooks. Brooks alleged that the January
4, 2008, beneficiary designation form was void, because, on
that date, Charles D. Jackson lacked the mental capacity to
designate a beneficiary. Brooks further alleged that, at that
time, Charles D. Jackson was being exploited by Cynthia and
Ebony. Doc. #1-6, PageID##24-27.
noted that, if the January 4, 2008, beneficiary form is
valid, Cynthia and Ebony would each receive 50% of the
remaining proceeds of the life insurance policy. However, if
it is void, payment would be determined according to statute,
with proceeds distributed "to the child or children of
the employee and descendants of deceased children by
representation." 5 U.S.C. § 8705(a).
pro se, Cynthia and Ebony filed an Answer to the
Complaint. Doc. #11. They denied exploiting Charles, and
claimed that he was mentally competent on January 4, 2008,
when he signed the beneficiary designation form. They also
alleged that Donald Brooks had no documented proof that he
was Charles D. Jackson's biological son.
Donald Brooks filed his Answer, along with a Cross-Claim.
Doc. #16. Therein, he stated that "Defendants Cynthia
and Ebony Jackson procured the beneficiary designation . . .
through the use of undue influence and/or coercion when the
signer, Charles D. Jackson, was incompetent, was of unsound
mind, and/or lacked the mental and/or legal capacity to make
that designation." He therefore claimed that the
beneficiary designation form was null and void. He stated
that he was Charles D. Jackson's son, and suggested that
the life insurance proceeds be distributed equally among
Cynthia, Ebony and himself. In light of "Cynthia and
Ebony Jackson's attempt to use unlawful means to get more
than their proper share of the proceeds, " Brooks
suggested that his attorney fees should be deducted from
their share of the proceeds. Doc. #16, PageID##66-67. When
Cynthia and Ebony failed to file an Answer to Brooks'
Cross-Claim, the Clerk of Court entered default against them.
Doc. #22. Brooks then filed his Motion for Default Judgment.
Court determined that an evidentiary hearing was needed to
resolve questions concerning Donald Brooks' biological
relationship to Charles D. Jackson, and questions concerning
the validity of the January 4, 2008, beneficiary designation
form. Given that Cynthia and Ebony are in default, the Court
must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the
Cross-Claim, except those relating to damages, as true.
See Ford Motor Co. v. Cross, 441 F.Supp.2d 837, 848
(E.D. Mich. 2006). The same cannot be said, however, about
conclusions of law. Whether the January 4, 2008, beneficiary
designation was void because of undue influence or coercion
is a mixed question of law and fact.
evidentiary hearing was held on November 28, 2016. Donald
Brooks appeared with counsel. Although Cynthia and Ebony
Jackson received notice of the hearing, they did not appear.
Witnesses included Montgomery County Adult Protective
Services ("APS") employees Linda HazeNSandridge and
Dean Robert, attorney David Schmidt, and Donald Brooks.
on the testimony presented at the hearing, the Court has
concluded that Donald Brooks is Charles D. Jackson's
biological son. Although sometimes mistakenly referred to as
"Donald Jackson, " Brooks was listed as "next
of kin" on probate filings made in 2010 and 2011, when
wards were appointed for Charles D. Jackson, Exs. B-1, B-2,
B-5, B-6, and listed as Charles D. Jackson's "adult
son" on estate filings made in 2015, Ex. B-10. Moreover,
Donald testified that Charles was involved in his life from
the time he was a small child, and that they referred to each
other as "dad" and "son." This testimony
was corroborated by Ms. Hazel-Sandridge and Mr. Schmidt, who
testified that Charles acknowledged that Donald was his son.
Donald also testified that, if Charles were not his father,
he would not have quit his job in Idaho to become
Charles' primary caregiver the last several years of his
D. Jackson was found to be incompetent, and was appointed a
guardian in June of 2010. Ex. B-4. Nevertheless, based on the
testimony presented at the hearing, the Court has concluded
that Charles was still mentally competent on January 4, 2008,
when he signed the beneficiary designation form ...