ILNews

Justices rule for first time on FEGLIA preemption issue

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In a dispute between two ex-wives over the life insurance policy of their deceased husband, the Indiana Supreme Court has ordered the trial court determine how much money each woman is entitled to.

Carlos Hardy was married to Phyllis Hardy when he held a life insurance policy issued as part of a federal employee benefit plan. When they divorced in 1998, the divorce decree and property settlement required Carlos Hardy to maintain the life insurance policy and designated Phyllis Hardy and their two grandchildren as equal beneficiaries. Carlos Hardy later married Mary Jo Hardy and changed his beneficiary to her and increased his coverage. They divorced after several years of marriage.

When Carlos Hardy died, a dispute arose over who was entitled to the life insurance proceeds. The trial court determined that the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Act preempted Phyllis Hardy’s equitable state law claims and the proceeds belonged to Mary Jo Hardy. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.

The high court had never addressed whether FEGLIA preempts equitable state law claims; other jurisdictions have split over the decision. But the Indiana justices decided that FEGLIA doesn’t preempt equitable state law claims to recover FEGLIA proceeds that have been paid in accordance with FEGLIA’s provisions and the regulations promulgated under it. A different conclusion would run afoul of the strong presumption against preemption in this traditional area of state regulation, wrote Justice Steven David in Phyllis Hardy, Alax Keith Furnish and Megan Jessica Furnish, by next friend Phyllis Hardy v. Mary Jo Hardy, No. 51S01-1106-PL-366.

“We agree that FEGLIA and the regulations promulgated under it control who holds legal title to the proceeds. But we see nothing in the preemption clause that precludes equitable state law claims. To interpret the preemption clause as preventing the imposition of a constructive trust extends the clause’s scope beyond its plain language,” he wrote.

The justices also decided that Ridgway v. Ridgway, 454 U.S. 46 (1981), did not support the conclusion that FEGLIA precludes a court from imposing a constructive trust on life insurance proceeds, as Mary Jo Hardy argued.

“Ultimately, the lack of an anti-attachment provision within FEGLIA, the divergent purposes underscoring FEGLIA and SGLIA, and the 1998 amendment to section 8705 of FEGLIA compel us to conclude that Ridgway is not controlling here,” David wrote.

The justices held the divorce decree and property settlement agreement undoubtedly entitle Phyllis and the grandchildren to whatever the death benefit under Option A would have been at the date of Carlos’ death, as Carlos had to “maintain” his policy for the benefit of Phyllis and the grandchildren. Mary Jo Hardy argued that she should be entitled to whatever amount accrued once she married Carlos Hardy. They remanded the issue to the trial court.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. How do you go about each day with out having resentment or ill will towards the evil that has done this to you? Is it your faith that keeps you going and knowing that someday they will have to answer to God? At church our pastor talked about forgiveness and how Jesus forgave our sins and we should too. Its very hard knowing that we do the right thing in this world, and those that are liars, thieves, are continued in power and continue on doing their jobs, while you are banished from something that you have every right to do with out being penalized.

  2. From my post below .... I cut and pasted in error: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/human-trafficking-rising-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/42468

  3. Your prayers must account for some of the wind beneath my wings. That and this: His yoke is easy, His burden light. OK, now to bring this comment thread 100% back to the topic at hand. From my secret files, never before published, a letter that Commission head Myra Selby deemed interesting, but ..... This Hail Mary was ignored by the Commission, and then cited by the Indiana bar examiners to justify the need for a lifetime banishment from the Indiana Supreme Court. I tender it as a study in anti white male anti Christian antipathy in the Indiana court system. Focused upon the Race (ie not white) and Gender (ie not male) and not religious Commission for "fairness." Uncle Karl, eat your heart out: https://www.scribd.com/document/340472424/Race-gender-request-24128-1 ... https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BznfHUztK5eTUGlxbmRvMWJsaHhLcGFuaE5KNHZWVjk3eHRn/view?usp=sharing

  4. What a disgrace of Judicial Proceedings. Can complain and write comments forever but someone needs to show the mother how to fight back before he turns this little girl against her.

  5. The truth comes out Issac Law Firm for Men helped Montgomery to get custody.Should read the lies he told them.How much was paid to the judges?

ADVERTISEMENT