United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant James V. Cagle's
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 27). As required at
this stage, all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of
the non-moving party with respect to Defendant James
Cagle's motion. Having drawn all reasonable inferences in
Defendant Margaret Cagle's favor, and for the reasons set
forth, the Court GRANTS Defendant James Cagle's
crux of the matter is that Mr. Vance Cagle irrevocably
designated his son, Mr. James Cagle, as his beneficiary under
the insurance policy at issue. (Doc. No. 1, 28-3). Neither
Plaintiff nor Defendants contest that the beneficiary
designation is irrevocable. It is also uncontested that Mr.
Vance Cagle requested the policy beneficiary be changed to
his wife in October of 2002 (Doc. No. 1, 15), and Plaintiff
Primerica Life Insurance processed the change. (Doc. No. 1,
32) What is contested is whether or not Mr. Vance Cagle's
October 2002 requested beneficiary change was legally valid.
the beneficiary of insurance policy proceeds is at issue, the
policy language controls. Fid. Bankers Life Ins. Co. v.
Dortch, 318 N.C. 378, 380 (1986). The language of Mr.
Vance Cagle's policy is clear and unambiguous. “A
beneficiary designated irrevocably may not be changed except
with the written consent of that beneficiary.” (Doc.
No. 28-1). Mr. Vance Cagle irrevocably designated Mr. James
Cagle as his beneficiary. While Vance Cagle requested the
beneficiary be changed to his wife, he never received Mr.
James Cagle's written consent. (Doc. No. 9, 28-5). Thus,
Mr. Vance Cagle's attempted change of beneficiary was
are two exceptions that may apply when a policy holder fails
to validly complete a beneficiary change. While Defendant
Margaret Cagle, appearing pro se, did not address
either exception, the Court will address each briefly.
North Carolina Law, an insured has substantially complied
with change of beneficiary policy requirements if all that
remains to be done are ministerial acts. Teague v. Ins.
Co., 200 N.C. 450, 456 (1931); see also Provident
Life and Acc. Ins. Co. v. Suarez, 846 F.2d 73 (4th Cir.
1988). Ministerial acts are those which involve obedience to
instruction, but do not require any special skill, judgment,
or discretion. Adams v. Jefferson-Pilot Life Ins.
Co., 148 N.C.App. 356 (2002) (citations omitted). It is
uncontested that Defendant James Cagle's written consent
was required to change the beneficiary. Defendant Cagle's
written consent demands special discretion and judgment, and
therefore Mr. Vance Cagle did not substantially comply with
the policy's beneficiary change requirements.
North Carolina Supreme Court addresses the second exception
in Sudan Temple versus Umphlett. 246 N.C. 555
(1957). Coined the “interpleader rule, ” the
exception allows for an insurer to waive any policy
formalities required to change a beneficiary when the insurer
chooses to interplead the claimants. Sudan, 246 N.C.
at 560. Instead of the policy formalities, the intent of the
deceased is put at issue and the matter is left for the Court
to decide based upon the rights and equities of the parties.
Fidelity, 318 N.C. at 383; see also Provident
Life, 846 F.2d at 73. The rule is limited to cases where
the original beneficiaries' rights had vested after the
beneficiary change because the rule was not designed to
defeat vested rights. Fidelity, 318 N.C. at 383.
rights of an irrevocably-designated beneficiary vest at the
time the designation is made. Id. at 382. It is
uncontested that Vance Cagle irrevocably designated Defendant
James Cagle as his beneficiary on August 18, 1998. As an
irrevocable beneficiary under the policy, Defendant James
Cagle's rights vested August 18, 1998 (Doc. No. 28-1),
four years before Vance Cagle attempted to change the
beneficiary to Defendant Margaret Cagle. The interpleader
rule cannot apply because Defendant James Cagle's rights
vested before the attempted beneficiary change.
these reasons, the Court finds no material facts remain in
dispute. Defendant James Cagle is the sole beneficiary of Mr.
Vance Cagle's life insurance policy and he is entitled to
the $40, 000.00 dollar death and applicable interest
deposited into the Registry of the Court. Accordingly,
Defendant James Cagle's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
No. 27) is GRANTED. The Clerk is respectfully DIRECTED to
issue payment of the death benefit from the funds deposited
into the Registry of this Court to Mr. Cagle in the amount of
 Defendant Margaret Cagle did not
appear at the April 6, 2017, Summary Judgment Hearing;
however, Ms. Cagle's absence in no way influenced this
Court's decision. The issue is purely a matter of law ...