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Arcieri v. New York Life Ins. Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 4, 2014

KAREN ARCIERI, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant

Page 160

For Karen Arcieri, Plaintiff: Leo S. Fama, II, LEAD ATTORNEY, Everett, MA; Brent J. Bass, Law Office of Brent J. Bass, P.C., Saugus, MA.

For New York Life Insurance Company, Defendant: Amanda Orcutt Amendola, Holland & Knight (B), Boston, MA; Deborah E. Barnard, Holland & Knight, LLP, Boston, MA.

Page 161

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Karen Arcieri (" Arcieri" ) alleges that defendant New York Life Insurance Company (" New York Life" ) breached the terms of a life insurance policy by 1) improperly amending the designation of the beneficiaries of the policy without her consent or knowledge and 2) distributing the proceeds in accordance with that amendment.

Pending before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be allowed.

I. Background

New York Life issued two policies insuring the life of the plaintiff's late husband, Vincent A. Arcieri, III. Policy No. 44384504, dated November 11, 1991, provided whole life coverage in the amount of $500,000 and $500,000 of term coverage under an increasing premium term rider (" Policy A" ). At the time it issued, plaintiff was the owner and sole beneficiary of Policy A. The New York Life agent assigned to Policy A was Thomas Chevalier (" Chevalier" ), who worked for the company between 1991 and 1993.

In January, 1992, New York Life recorded a change in beneficiary such that the plaintiff's beneficial interest in Policy A was reduced to 50% and her father-in-law, Vincent Arcieri Jr. (" father-in-law" ), was named the other 50% beneficiary. New York Life requires a Change of Beneficiary form signed by the policy owner in order to change a beneficiary on a policy.

Page 162

Chevalier recalled, during his deposition in a prior lawsuit filed by plaintiff in state court against the executors of the father-in-law's estate, that the plaintiff's late husband requested the beneficiary change. He did not remember whether it was the plaintiff or her late husband who signed the required form. Chevalier testified, however, that someone must have signed the form because he would not have processed it otherwise. Plaintiff, on the other hand, asserts that the change of beneficiary was effected without her knowledge or consent. New York Life has been unable to locate the relevant paperwork either to rebut or to confirm her assertion.

In October, 1992, plaintiff submitted an application to convert the $500,000 term rider on Policy A into a separate $500,000 whole life policy. The rider was thus converted into Policy No. 44711438 (" Policy B" ). Under Policy B, the plaintiff's infant daughter was a 50% beneficiary and the plaintiff and her father-in-law were each 25% beneficiaries.

Upon the death of the plaintiff's late husband in December, 1992, plaintiff and her father-in-law apparently entered into an oral agreement with respect to both policies under which the father-in-law promised to hold $375,000 of the life insurance proceeds (his entire beneficial interest under both policies) for the benefit of plaintiff and her daughter until her daughter's 18th birthday. Plaintiff alleges that she requested New York Life to disburse the funds in accordance with her agreement with her father-in-law.

Consistent with the recorded beneficiary designation and plaintiff's alleged request, New York Life paid out the full amount due under Policy A in February, 1993 (which included some interest). Plaintiff and her father-in-law each received $252,539. New York Life also paid out proceeds under Policy B, whereby plaintiff and her father-in-law each received their 25% shares, or $126,590. Although it is unstated, the remainder of the proceeds of Policy B was ...


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