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Hearing v. Minnesota Life Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 16, 2015

Joetta Hearing, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Minnesota Life Insurance Company, Defendant, Nikole C. Holloway, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted April 14, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Sioux City.

For Joetta Hearing, Plaintiff - Appellee: Theodore E. Karpuk, Sioux City, IA.

For Nikole C. Holloway, Defendant - Appellant John Dodson Mayne, Bikakis & Mayne, Sioux City, IA; David Wayne Watermeier, Morrow & Poppe, Lincoln, NE.

Before MURPHY, COLLOTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

Jon Holloway purchased a life insurance policy from Minnesota Life Insurance Company and designated his sister, Joetta Hearing, as beneficiary. Jon died in 2013. On or near his body was found a handwritten note purportedly signed by Jon and expressing his intent that his daughter, Nikole Holloway, receive the proceeds of the life insurance policy.

Hearing, the sister, filed an action against Minnesota Life, seeking an order directing the insurer to pay the proceeds to her. Minnesota Life moved to interplead the funds and to join Holloway, the daughter, in the action as a third-party defendant. Holloway filed a counterclaim, seeking an order directing Minnesota Life to pay the proceeds to her. Hearing then moved to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment.

The district court[1] granted Hearing's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Jon Holloway did not effect a change in beneficiary from his sister to his daughter. Nikole Holloway appeals, and we affirm.

I.

Pursuant to a decree upon a divorce from his wife, Jon Holloway purchased a life insurance policy in the amount of $100,000 from Minnesota Life Insurance Company in 1998. The divorce decree required Jon to maintain a life insurance policy payable to his children until his child support obligations ended. Jon designated his sister, Hearing, beneficiary of the policy. The policy application stated that Jon was " [n]aming sister as beneficiary so ex-wife can't control the death proceeds." Jon's child support obligations ended no later than 2008.

When Jon died in 2013, a handwritten note dated September 18, 2012, addressed to " Nikki" and signed by Jon was found on or near his body. The note expressed Jon's love for Nikki, directed her to " sell everything you don't want and bank it," and said, " Chris would like the 44 Back The Rest you Get." At the end, the note listed the policy number for the Minnesota Life insurance policy, and the name and telephone number of the insurance agent.

Nikole Holloway, whom we will call " Holloway," submitted the note to Minnesota Life after Jon's death and claimed a right to the proceeds of the policy. Minnesota Life advised Holloway and Hearing of their competing claims. After a series of filings in state and federal court, the district court eventually permitted Minnesota Life to deposit the funds with the court and dismissed the company from the action. That left Hearing and Holloway to battle for the proceeds. The court granted summary judgment for Hearing, reasoning that Jon did ...


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