Defense Victory

DRI member Steven C. Huret of Wilson Worley PC in Kingsport, successfully defended an appeal of the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant. The defendant was the brother of deceased federal postal worker and named as the sole beneficiary on the decedent’s life insurance policy. The decedent’s two children filed a lawsuit to enforce their status as third-party beneficiaries under a Tennessee divorce decree that required the life insurance policy name them as beneficiaries. The defense filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the life insurance policy was governed under the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Act (“FEGLIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 8705, et seq., and that the plaintiffs’ state divorce decree was preempted by federal law under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The trial court granted summary judgment, which the plaintiffs’ appealed to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee.

On appeal, in Hughes, et al. v. Hughes, Tenn. Ct. App. Appellate No. E2016-00561-COA-R3-CV, the brief and oral argument on behalf of the plaintiffs was handled by a former justice of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. Despite this, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the basis that state domestic relations law was preempted by FEGLIA and that the plaintiffs had not complied with the statutory carve-out that Congress provided to deal with conflict that arises sometimes between FEGLIA’s order of precedence for the payment of life insurance proceeds and state divorce decrees.