United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
C. Coggins, Jr., United States District Judge
an interpleader action involving competing claims to a $200,
000 life insurance policy issued to Robert Gilliland, who
died on July 8, 2016. At the time of his death, Gilliland had
in force the aforementioned life insurance policy
underwritten by Plaintiff, an insurance company organized
pursuant to the laws of Tennessee with its principal place of
business in Birmingham, Alabama. ECF No. 1.
LeClaire was named as the beneficiary to the life
insurance policy; however, Carrie Thomas, administratrix of
Gilliland's estate, contests her right to the proceeds
pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-507. Faced with
competing claims to the policy, Plaintiff initiated this
interpleader action, seeking permission to pay the policy
proceeds into the Court's Registry and be discharged. The
Court granted the Motion and dismissed Plaintiff from the
case. ECF No. 20.
trial was held on January 7, 2019. ECF No. 65. Present at the
hearing, were Thomas and LeClaire and no other witnesses.
After receiving testimony, carefully considering the
evidence, weighing the credibility of the witnesses,
reviewing the exhibits and briefs, and studying the
applicable law, this Court makes the following Findings of
Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 52. The Court notes that to the extent any of the
following Findings of Fact constitute Conclusions of Law,
they are adopted as such, and to the extent Conclusions of
Law constitute Findings of Fact, they are so adopted.
and Gilliland were married on December 2, 2000. ECF No. 1-2
at 3. On September 8, 2001, Robert Gilliland applied for a
$200, 000.00 life insurance policy from Plaintiff. ECF No.
35-2 at 4-7. The policy provides that if someone other than
the insured person is to be an owner, she must be
"named" as an owner in the policy schedule, an
endorsement, or an amendment to application. Id. at
20. The application provides a space for a non-insured to be
specifically named as an owner. Id. at 15. If
someone other than the proposed insured in to be the owner,
she is to be further identified by her social security number
and her relationship to the insured. Id.
September 8, 2001, LeClaire signed a "Pre-Authorization
Withdrawal Agreement," regarding "Policy No.
DT-0084888" for "Name of Insured Robert
Gilliland," allowing Plaintiff to automatically debit
her Bank of America checking account each month for the
policy premium. Id. at 9. Plaintiffs agent and
LeClaire also signed a "Conditional Receipt
Agreement" acknowledging that the agent had received the
"Pre-Authorized Withdrawal Agreement" form for
$139.50 per month on the policy. Id. at 8.
November 14, 2001, Gilliland and LeClaire signed an
"Amendment to Application" form regarding
"Name of Insured Robert Gilliland - Policy
DT0084888." Id. at 14. Gilliland signed on the
line designated for "Signature of The Insured(s),"
and LeClaire signed on the line designated for
"Signature of Adult Applicant/Owner(s) (if other than
Insured)." Id. This amendment does not provide
her social security number or identify her relationship to
the insured. The amendment further provides that "the
changes shown above shall be an amendment to and form a part
of the application and the policy." Id. The
only change above that line is an increase in the premiums.
Id. LeClaire signed the amendment below the space
indicated for changes. Id.
November 14, 2001, LeClaire executed a second
"Pre-Authorization Withdrawal Agreement,"
authorizing Plaintiff to deduct $139.50 per month in premiums
from her Sharonview Federal Credit Union checking account.
Id. at 35. On November 26, 2001, Plaintiff issued
the policy. Id. at 12. The policy identifies Robert
Gilliland as owner on the declarations page. Id. The
policy identifies LeClaire as the beneficiary. Id.
January 28, 2002, a decree of separate maintenance and
support with respect to Gilliland and LeClaire was issued by
the Cherokee County Family Court. ECF No. 1 -2. The Family
Court entered a divorce decree on August 20, 2003. ECF No.
April 15, 2003, LeClaire telephoned Plaintiff and requested a
Transfer of Ownership form. ECF No. 46-1 at 1-2. The form was
addressed to Gilliland and mailed to LeClaire's address.
Id. at 3. Gilliland's signature was required to
complete the form, but the form was never returned to
Plaintiff. Plaintiff made periodic annual reports that were
addressed to Gilliland and included "important
policyowner notice[s]". See, e.g., ECF No. 35-2
at 40. It was undisputed at trial that these notices were
sent to LeClaire's address. It appears that LeClaire paid
all premiums for the policy from November 2001 until
Gilliland's death in July 2016.
62-2-507 of the South Carolina Code was amended in 2013 and
now provides that:
(c) Except as provided by the express terms of a governing
instrument, a court order, or a contract relating to the
division of the marital estate made between the divorced
individuals before or after the marriage, divorce ...