In the Matter of the Petition of J.G. Wentworth Originations, LLC, Petitioner, and
M. Washington, METROPOLITAN TOWER LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY and METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, as interested Parties pursuant to G.O.L. § 5-1701(f).
YANKWITT LLP Attorneys for Petitioner
REPRESENTED INTERESTED PARTIES: Malik Washington Metropolitan
Tower Life Insurance Co. and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co,
F. Quinlan, J.
that after a hearing held on October 22, 2019, and upon the
supplemental submissions of petitioner made thereafter, the
petition is denied, and petitioner's proposed order is
order to show cause, signed by this court on July 8, 2019,
petitioner J.G. Wentworth Originations, LLC
("petitioner") sought an order approving the
transfer of "structured settlement payment rights,"
as defined by GOL § 5-1701 (o), from respondent-payee
Malik Washington to it, through an order of this court
pursuant to GOL § 5-1706. According to the petition, Mr.
Washington was the payee of "certain structured
settlement payment(s), "(verified petition, par. 2),
although no mention of the type of personal injury action, an
index number, the court in which it was settled, nor the
terms of a "structured settlement" were mentioned
in the petition or provided as exhibits thereto. As Exhibit
"A" to the petition, petitioner attached a poor
photograph of a letter from another listed "interested
party," Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.
("MetLife"). The letter, as best can be read, also
does not specifically mention the case/lawsuit that resulted
in the "structured settlement," although it does
suggest in a paragraph entitled "What you need to
do," that Mr. Washington "contact the attorney who
settled the case, or the court where the case was
settled," to obtain other legal documents concerning the
structured settlement. Although served, none of the
"Interested Parties" submitted responses in support
or opposition to the petition. Upon the return of the
petition, by order dated October 9, 2019, this court set the
issues raised in the petition for a hearing on October 22,
date, counsel for petitioner appeared, along with payee Malik
Washington. At the hearing petitioner's counsel called
Mr. Washington to testify. His testimony established that he
was a reasonable and prudent person, that he was employed,
that he had a well planned use for the $160, 000.00 that he
hoped to receive from petitioner in exchange for his
assignment of "structured settlement payment
rights" of $218, 244.00 he was to receive pursuant to
his "structured settlement agreement" on January
court had searched the "E-Courts" filing system but
was unable to find a case or settlement involving Mr.
Washington that gave rise to the "structured
settlement" in the petition, the court asked him the
type of personal injury action that brought it about. Mr.
Washington told the court that he had not been involved in a
personal injury action or settlement, but rather that
payments he had already received and future payments,
including the one which he wished to assign to petitioner,
were the result of a "life insurance policy" his
father had before his death in the tragedy of September 11,
2001. Counsel appearing for petitioner appeared to be unaware
of this, believing that the application was based upon the
settlement of a personal injury case, but conceded that he
was unfamiliar with the case and the settlement, knowing only
what appeared in the petition.
court placed some of petitioner's exhibits submitted in
support of the petition in the record as court's Exhibits
1-3, and upon all of the testimony and evidence, including
that involving the anticipated agreement, gave its
conditional approval to the transfer of structured settlement
rights as the agreement appeared to meet the requirements of
GOL § 5-1706 (b), (c) and (e), but that additional
information and corrections in petitioner's submission
were necessary, as was the submission of a new proposed order
approving the transfer. Subsequently, petitioner submitted a
copy of the "structured settlement agreement,"
entitled "AWARD DETERMINATION PERIODIC PAYMENT
AGREEMENT" ("the award") (NYSCEF Doc. No.17)
and a new proposed order approving the transfer (NYSCEF Doc.
No.18). Upon review of these documents it is now clear to the
court that it has no authority to grant an order pursuant to
GOL § 5-1706 in this matter.
the copy of the award, which was both "e-filed" and
"faxed" to the court, is reproduced in poor
quality, there are a few things about it that are clear.
court to approve the transfer of "structured settlement
payment rights" under GOL § 5-1706, the agreement
must meet the definition of "structured settlement
payments rights" under GOL § 5-1701 (o). As the
payee, Mr. Washington, is domiciled in the state, the
requirement of GOL § 5-1701 (o) (I) is met, but the
additional requirement of compliance with either GOL §
5-1701 (o) (ii) or (iii) is not met
§ 5-1701 (o) (ii) requires that the settlement agreement
be approved by a court in this state. As shown by the terms
of the award, it was not approved by a court, but approved
and made by the Special Master of the September 11th Victim
Compensation Fund, appointed pursuant to Title IV of the Air
Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act
("ATSSSA"), 49 USCA § 40101. Under ATSSSA
§ 405 (3) (B), by accepting the option of proceeding
before the Special Master a claimant waives the right to file
a civil action. There is no action filed in any court,
whether state or federal, in New York relating to the award.
Although ATSSSA § 408 (b) provides exclusive
jurisdiction in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of
New York for all lawsuits brought involving the terror
attacks of September 11, 2001 by those who did not opt into
the compensation plan established by the act, it provides no
review of any awards made by the Special Master by that court
or any other court (see Schneider v. Feinberg, 345
F.3d 135 [2d Cir. 2003]). As the award was not approved by a
court in this state, the requirement of GOL § 5-1701 (o)
(ii) has not been met.
alternative provided by GOL § 5-1701 (o) (iii), that the
"structured settlement agreement" is expressly
governed by the laws of New York, is also inapplicable. Not
only is there no explicit reference in the award that the
laws of New York would govern its application, applicable
case law recognizes that ATSSSA preempts state law on issues
involving the air disasters of September 11, 2001 (see
McNally v. Port Authority of New York & New Jersey [
In re: WTC Disaster Site ], 414 F.3d 352');">414 F.3d 352 [2d Cir.
2005]; Antine v. City of New York, 14 Misc.3d 161');">14 Misc.3d 161
[Sup. Ct., NY County 2006]). Without meeting either GOL
§ 5-1701 (o) (ii) or (iii), the award to Mr. Washington
fails to meet the definition of "structured settlement
payments rights" under GOL § 5-1701 (o).
award to Mr. Washington does not meet the definition of
"structured settlement payment rights" set forth in
GOL § 5-1701(o), the award is not a structured
settlement payment right which can be approved for transfer
pursuant to the provisions of GOL §5-1706. Accordingly,
the court must deny the petition.
deciphering the poor copy of the award provided by petitioner
after the hearing, and reviewing a magnified copy of the
letter to Mr. Washington submitted as Exhibit "A,"
both contain language that prohibit the payee from
transferring or assigning the periodic payments under the
award. For this reason, even if the award had been determined
to be a "structured settlement payment right" under
GOL § 5-1701 (o), it could not be transferred by Mr.
Washington to petitioner. Although a "structured
settlement payment right" containing such a
non-transferability provision maybe transferable by the
waiver of the non-transferability by the obligor, the payee
may not waive that prohibition. Mere silence of the obligor
by failing to appear in opposition to the petition cannot be
determined to be a waiver of the non-transferability language
included in ...