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Guinn v. General Motors LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 10, 2018

JAMES E. GUINN, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS LLC, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion (ECF DKT #31) of Plaintiff, James E. Guinn, to Supplement the Administrative Record and for Judgment on the Administrative Record. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is denied.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Julia Tolliver f/k/a Julia Adams was a participant in the General Motors (“GM”) Life and Disability Benefits Program for Hourly Employees (“Plan”), which is an employee welfare benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). The Plan provided Julia with Basic Life Insurance and a Death Benefit of $28, 133.00 through Defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”).

         On March 26, 2002, Julia executed a Beneficiary Designation Form naming her then spouse, Mark J. Tolliver (now known as Rashad A. Saleem), as the beneficiary of her Basic Life Insurance.

         On or about March 28, 2008, a Final Judgment of Divorce was entered dissolving Julia's marriage.

         On October 17, 2012, Julia and her nephew, James E. Guinn (Plaintiff), went to the UAW office across from GM's Metal Fabrication Division where Julia worked before she retired. Julia completed a new Beneficiary Designation Form. She designated Plaintiff as her primary beneficiary and indicated that his allotted share would be 100%. In the lower portion of the form, meant for identifying a Trust, Julia wrote her name as Trustee and her nephew signed his name in the space provided for listing the name of the Trust Agreement. Julia signed and dated the form “10-17-12.” On October 23, 2012, MetLife sent Julia a letter indicating that it was “unable to process [her] request because the form contains incomplete or missing information.” (ECF DKT #29-1 at 9). MetLife provided a blank Beneficiary Designation Form for her to complete, sign and date, but warned: “Please do not use the Trust area unless you are making that designation.” Id. Further: “After the acceptable form has been made part of your permanent file, a letter of confirmation will be mailed to your address of record.” Id.

         On May 27, 2016, Julia died without ever submitting a new Beneficiary Designation Form.

         Plaintiff made a claim for the life insurance benefits; but on August 10, 2016, MetLife denied his claim. MetLife explained that the October 17, 2012 Beneficiary Designation was never accepted and therefore, was invalid. Id. at 14. Despite sending correspondence to the decedent on October 23, 2012, MetLife never received an updated designation. Id. “According to [MetLife's] records, the latest valid beneficiary designation on file that was completed by the decedent on March 26th 2002, does not name you as the beneficiary of the Plan benefits.” Id.

         Plaintiff pursued an appeal; but MetLife affirmed the denial of benefits on December 15, 2016. Id. at 73-75.

         On January 31, 2017, Plaintiff brought this action for recovery of life insurance benefits pursuant to ERISA. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (ECF DKT #14), naming GM, GM Life and Disability Benefits Program for Hourly Employees, MetLife and Rashad A. Saleem, was filed on July 5, 2017. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges in relevant part:

35. James was Julia's intended beneficiary with regard to her Basic Life insurance benefits payable upon her death.
36. In good conscience, the proceeds of Julia's Basic Life insurance benefits belong to James.
37. Rashad A. Saleem would be unjustly enriched if he received Julia's Basic Life insurance benefits that ...

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