Life Insurance Interpleader

Dallas life insurance lawyers know what an interpleader is and the circumstances under which, cause insurance companies to interplead life insurance proceeds into the court. An old 1931 case illustrates this. The case is styled, McCormick v. Southwestern Life Ins. Co. and is from the Waco Court of Appeals.
This is an interpleader filed by Southwestern in the District Court against Marjorie McCormick and Mike Lively and Ben Sleeper as guardian of the estate of Adelaide McCormick. Southwestern admitted they owed money under the insurance policy but unsure who to pay. Marjorie was the named beneficiary on a policy insuring the life of Andrew McCormick. Adelaide was the only surviving child. Ben was the assignee of the proceeds of the policy from Marjorie. The interpleader resulted from the allegation that Marjorie had intentionally caused the death of Andrew and thus, had forfeited her interest in the insurance proceeds.
The purpose of the remedy of interpleader is to protect an innocent stakeholder, (Southwestern) who is willing and ready to pay the funds int his hands to the party or parties entitled to receive the same. It is an efficacious and wholesome remedy. This is allowed to protect the stakeholder from conflicting claims.
Eddie Barr, a witness for McCormick, testified that he, as a newspaper reporter, visited the residence of Marjorie on September 29th, and that he saw Andrew there sitting in a chair. He had been shot and was in a semiconscious condition. The witness asked Marjorie who shot Andrew, and she said, “I did.” Witness then asked her why she shot him, and she said, “We had a little quarrel.” Southwestern introduced a part of the deposition of Marjorie in which she detailed the circumstances of the killing, and if her testimony is true, she killed him in self-defense. The evidence further showed that Ben, as guardian of Adelaide, had made demand on the insurance company for the payment of the proceeds of the insurance policy. Prior to the filing of the plea of privilege herein, said guardian had filed an answer in which he alleged that Marjorie had willfully brought about the death of the insured by shooting him, and said guardian claimed the insurance money on behalf of his ward. While such answer was not admissible to prove the truth of the allegations therein, it was evidence of an actual claim by such guardian and of the grounds of such claim, and the trial court had the right to take judicial knowledge of the claims made therein. The “Slayer Statute” at that time read:
“The interest of a beneficiary in a life insurance policy or contract heretofore or hereafter issued shall be forfeited when the beneficiary is the principal or an accomplice in willfully bringing about the death of the insured. When such is the case, the nearest relative of insured shall receive said insurance.”
While it was not proper for the court, at this time, to pass on the sufficiency of the evidence to establish the right of the guardian to the funds in question, the court thought the evidence sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to who is the rightful owner thereof. The evidence on a trial on the merits may show that the killing was in self-defense and that Marjorie is entitled to the funds, but Marjorie is a party to the suit and the weight of her testimony will be a question of fact for the jury. The insurance company was not required to decide this doubtful question of fact and to pay over the funds at its peril.
The current version of the Slayer Statute is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1103.151.

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