United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
ORDER APPROVING MINOR SETTLEMENT
HONORABLE R. BRYAN HARWELL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter was filed by Plaintiff as an Interpleader based on the
payment of a life insurance policy issued by the Plaintiff on
the life of Tiana Mendez with the named beneficiary as Migeul
Mendez (herein "Beneficiary"). Juana Mendez-Diego
is the mother of Beneficiary and Yesenia Gonzales is the
sister of Beneficiary. Juana Mendez Diego and Yesenia
Gonzales did not respond or make an appearance in this
was married to Tiana Mendez (the insured), and from this
marriage there were 2 children born, N.M. (dob 11/11/2007)
and I.M. (dob 9/15/2014). Tiana Mendez had a child from prior
relationship, L.B (dob 12/22/2003). Law enforcement responded
to a call to the residence of Tiana Mendez on November 14,
2014. Beneficiary and Tiana Mendez were found dead in the
residence. The investigation by law enforcement determined
that Beneficiary killed Tiana Mendez and then killed himself
based on the placement of bodies when found and the autopsy
performed on Tiana Mendez.
Cruz engaged in family court litigation in Dillon County
Family Court (2015-DR-17-003) in 2015 to get full custody and
guardianship of the three minor children N.M., I.M., and L.B.
Defendant Juana Mendez-Diego was a party to this litigation
as was Quentin Brown, the father of the minor L.B. A final
hearing in the family court action was held January 20, 2016
with Jackie Cruz being awarded custody and guardianship of
the three minor children by order dated March 21, 2016 and
filed March 29, 2016. Janet Altman Paschal represented Jackie
Cruz in the custody/guardianship action. Jackie Cruz is the
hearing was held in the Probate Court for Dillon County S.C.
to determine whether Tiana Mendez was intentionally and
feloniously killed by Beneficiary (In re: Estate of
Miguel-Mendez; 2015-ES-17-38). Janet Altman Paschal
represented petitioner, Estate of Tiana Mendez in this
matter. The Honorable Teresa Campbell, Probate Judge for
Dillon County S.C. ruled that the death of Tiana Mendez was
homicide at the hands of Beneficiary. The order from the
hearing was signed and filed June 2, 2015 in the Probate
Court for Dillon County, SC.
Answer was filed in this matter on behalf of the minor
defendants asserting that the issue of whether Tiana Mendez
was wrongfully killed by Beneficiary had been adjudicated by
a court of competent jurisdiction, i.e. the Probate Court for
Dillon County. A provision of the Prudential policy provided
that a person that intentionally or wrongfully causes the
death of the named insured may not receive the benefits under
the policy nor can a member of the person's family
receive the death benefit. Juana Mendez Diego and Yesenia
Gonzales are not eligible to receive the death benefits of
the policy as members of the Beneficiary's family and as
beneficiaries of the Estate of Miguel Mendez (Estate of
Miguel Mendez; 2015-ES-17-38). Jackie Cruz was appointed to
serve as Guardian ad Litem for the minor children
N.M, I.M. and L.B in this matter by this Court by order dated
February 29, 2019.
Altman Paschal, a member of the Dillon County Bar, petitioned
the Probate Court for Dillon County S.C. for Jackie Cruz to
be appointed Conservator for the each of the minor children.
A hearing was held October 17, 2018 by the Judge of Probate
for Dillon County SC. The Probate Court granted the petition
and appointed Jackie Cruz as Conservator of L.B
(2018-GC-17-20), N.M (2018 -GC-17-21) and I.M.
(2018-GC-17-22) (See attached Certificates of Appointments).
Judgement has been entered against Defendants Juana Mendez
Diego and Yesenia Gonzales. Interpleader requested by
Plaintiff has been granted and the proceeds of the life
insurance policy insuring the life Tiana Mendez have been
deposited with the Court's Registry for the U.S. District
of South Carolina. Plaintiff was relieved of all liability
from any past, present and future claims that the Defendants
may have against it for the Group Policy and/or FSGLI Death
Benefits that are the subject of this action.
Mendez died intestate. The sole heirs of the Estate of Tiana
Mendez are the minor defendants of this action, L.B., N.M.
and I.M. Pursuant to South Carolina Probate law, the three
minor children should share equally in the proceeds in the
life insurance proceeds held in the Court Registry (SC Code
§ 62-2-103(1)). Petitioner request that the Court
approve the distribution of the funds held by the Clerk of
Court in the following manner:
AMOUNT OF SETTLEMENT .
Everett Mercer/Janet Altman Paschal
Filing Fee - Conservatorship for Lilyan Brown
Filing Fee - Conservatorship for Nicholas Mendez
Filing Fee - Conservatorship for Isabella Mendez
Process Server Fee - On Quentin Brown for Lilyan
TOTAL FEES AND
Jackie Cruz as Conservator of L.B.
Jackie Cruz as Conservator of N.M.
Jackie Cruz as Conservator of I.M.
Court finds that all parties have been properly represented,
are properly before the Court and no questions exist of
misjoinder or non-joinder of parties. This Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over this action and personal
jurisdiction over all parties.
Plaintiff has fully paid all money due under the terms of the
policy. There are no additional benefits available or due
from any policies issued by Plaintiff. The payment of the
policy and accrued interest is fair and reasonable.
Court finds that Jackie Cruz as Gaurdian ad Litem
for I.M., N.M. and L.B. has carried her burden of proof and
has convinced this Court that the proceeds of the life