United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge.
before the Court are Defendants' Motions for Summary
Judgment. (Docs. 44, 45). The Court grants Defendant Paul J.
Adams Jr.'s motion and denies Carole Ducharme's
Michele Adams and Defendant Paul J. Adams were previously
married and had a son named D.A. Ms. Adams and Mr. Adams
divorced in September 2006. The divorce decree stated that
“it is appropriate for both Husband and Wife to have
life insurance policies naming the child as a beneficiary[,
]” and the court ordered “that both parties
provide proof of insurance to the other party within 90 days
of entry of this Decree” and that “the minimum
amount of the life insurance policy benefit shall be not less
than $250, 000.00.” (Doc. 48 at 32). In September 2011,
Ms. Adams acquired life insurance from Hartford Life and
Accident Insurance Company (“Hartford”) through
her employer. The policy carried benefits of $141, 000, and
Ms. Adams named her mother, Defendant Carole Ducharme, as the
Adams died on July 30, 2015, triggering the payment of her
life insurance policy. Due to the death of the mother, Mr.
Adams became the legal guardian of D.A. A few months after
Ms. Adams' death, Ms. Ducharme submitted a claim for the
life insurance benefits, and Mr. Adams submitted a claim for
the same benefits on behalf of D.A. Early in 2016, Arizona
Superior Court granted Mr. Adams' motion to stay
insurance proceeds. Hartford then filed the Complaint in
Interpleader under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 against Mr. Adams,
on behalf of his son D.A., and Carole Ducharme as the
competing claimants to the death benefits.
Court grants summary judgment when the movant “shows
that 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). “[A] party seeking summary judgment
always bears the initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Contract interpretation in Arizona is a question of law, and
summary judgment is proper in those cases focused on contract
interpretation. See Williamette Crushing Co. v. State ex
rel. Dep't of Transportation, 188 Ariz. 79, 81, 932
P.2d 1350, 1352 (App. 1997).
parties do not dispute facts concerning the divorce decree or
the insurance policy. The parties only dispute a question of
law concerning whether the divorce decree invalidates Ms.
Adams' designation of her mother as the beneficiary of
her insurance policy contract with Hartford. This Court is
required to interpret a contract under Arizona law to
determine and make effective the intention of the contracting
parties. Taylor v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co.,
175 Ariz. 148, 158 (1993). A divorce decree is a final
judgment, adjudicated by a competent court, and carries the
weight of res judicata. De Gryse v. De Gryse, 135
Ariz. 335, 337 (1983).
divorce decree unambiguously mandates that decedent Michele
Adams have a life insurance policy naming D.A. as the
beneficiary. (Doc. 48 at 32). Ms. Adams violated the divorce
decree when she named her mother as the beneficiary of the
Hartford life insurance plan. Ms. Ducharme argues that the
statute of limitations in A.R.S. § 12-1551 bars Mr.
Adams' claim on behalf of DA., but that statute of
limitations “does not apply to . . . directives made in
a divorce decree that are not judgments for payments of sums
certain . . . .” Jensen v. Beirne, 241 Ariz.
225, 228 (App. 2016). Although Ms. Ducharme has stated that
she would set up a trust for D.A. with the death benefits,
she would not have a legal obligation to use the payment on
DA's behalf, and she is not D.A.'s parent or
guardian. Because the divorce decree directs that D.A. be the
designated beneficiary of the life insurance policy, the
Court holds that the death benefits be paid to DA., and
Defendant Paul J. Adams, Jr. may receive the distribution as
D.A.'s legal guardian.
IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Paul J. Adams
Jr.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 44) is
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Carole
Ducharme's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 45) is
IS FURTHER ORDERED directing the Clerk of Court to
distribute the $133, 493.03 deposited by Hartford Life and
Accident Insurance (see Doc. 34), plus any interest accrued,
to Defendant Paul J. ...