United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
PAVONIA LIFE INS. CO. OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff,
THEODORE RAVER, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY A. JOLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Theodore Raver's
Second Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 40). The time for
responding has since elapsed, and the Estate of Robby E.
Johnson informed the Court during a November 27, 2017 status
conference that the Motion was not opposed. For those
reasons, and as explained below, the Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED.
January 19, 2009, Household Life Insurance Company, the
predecessor in interest to Plaintiff Pavonia Life Insurance
Company of Michigan (“Pavonia Life Insurance”),
issued a life insurance policy to Robby E. Johnson (the
“Policy”). (Docs. 1, 1-1). Mr. Johnson designated
Defendant Theodore E. Raver as his sole beneficiary of the
Policy benefits, with no contingent beneficiary named. (Doc.
1 at 2). On November 18, 2013, Mr. Johnson died of a gunshot
wound to the abdomen. (Id.; see also Doc.
1-3). According to the Complaint, on or about March 14, 2014,
Mr. Raver asserted his claim for the death benefits under the
Pavonia Life Insurance's investigation, however, it was
discovered that the investigating authority ruled Mr.
Johnson's death a homicide, and Mr. Raver was, and
remains, a suspect in his death. (Id. at 3). Pavonia
Life Insurance acknowledged that under Ohio law, an
individual that is responsible criminally for the death of
another is prohibited from benefiting from the death of that
individual. (Id.). Thus, Pavonia Life Insurance was
in a predicament- Mr. Raver was the sole beneficiary to the
Policy, but if he was determined to be responsible for Mr.
Johnson's death, the Estate of Robby E. Johnson
(“the Estate”) was entitled to the Policy
proceeds under Ohio law. (Id.). Accordingly, Pavonia
Life Insurance filed this action on March 29, 2017, and
requested that “Defendants interplead to determine
among themselves who [was] the beneficiary” to the
Policy proceeds. (Id. at 1).
some service issues were resolved, and the Estate filed an
Answer in this case, the Court held a status conference on
August 21, 2017. (Doc. 34). At that time, the Court denied
Mr. Raver's First Motion for Summary Judgment without
prejudice (Doc. 5), and allowed discovery to be conducted
over the next ninety days. (Id.). During that time,
Mr. Raver and the Estate exchanged written discovery requests
and responses to said requests. (Docs. 35-37, 39). No
depositions were conducted. (Doc. 40 at 3). On November 16,
2017, Mr. Raver filed the Motion at issue, his Second Motion
for Summary Judgment, arguing that there are no genuine
issues of material fact. On the same day, the Estate filed a
Notice of Dismissal of Cross-Claim Without Prejudice, stating
it was voluntarily dismissing its cross-claim against
Theodore Raver. (Doc. 41). The Notice failed to include
signatures from counsel for all parties, but that deficiency
was corrected on December 8, 2017 (Doc. 42).
Court held another status conference on November 27, 2017, at
which time counsel for the Estate represented that his client
no longer wanted to proceed in this action and would not
oppose the Motion for Summary Judgment. The time for
opposition has passed, making this matter ripe for
judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial
“responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions”
of the record that demonstrate “the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then
shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986). “Rule 56(e) ‘requires the nonmoving party
to go beyond the [unverified] pleadings' and submit
admissible evidence supporting its position. Prudential
Ins. Co. of Am. v. Blanton, 118 F.Supp.3d 980, 982 (N.D.
Ohio 2015) (citing Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. at 324).
undisputed that Mr. Raver is identified as the sole
beneficiary under the Policy, and has not been indicted,
plead guilty to, or been convicted of any crime in connection
with Mr. Johnson's death. The Court allowed discovery,
but the Estate has failed to set forth any evidence
demonstrating genuine issues of material fact concerning Mr.
Raver's entitlement to the Policy benefits. Accordingly,
as the sole beneficiary to a valid insurance policy, with no
evidence enabling a reasonable jury to find that Mr. Raver
intentionally and feloniously caused Mr. Johnson's death,
Mr. Raver is entitled to the Policy benefits. See
Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Blanton, 118 F.Supp.3d at
984 (holding that although life insurance beneficiary was a
“person of interest” in the decedent's
homicide investigation, because no evidence was presented to
demonstrate beneficiary was criminally responsible for
decedent's death, the beneficiary was entitled to summary
above reasons, Defendant Raver's Second Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 40) is GRANTED.
Pavonia Life Insurance is DIRECTED to issue
the Policy benefits to Mr. Raver, by and through counsel, due
in the amount of seventy-five thousand and 00/100 dollars
($75, 000.000) plus interest and an accounting of ...