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TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY v. STUART

February 24, 1964

THE TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INEZ STUART, NEALIA BELL LYLES, LEON HARRISON, HARRISON-ROSS MORTUARIES AND LINCOLN MEMORIAL PARK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Miller, Chief Judge.

This is an interpleader action under 28 U.S.C. § 1335, commenced on October 2, 1963, by the plaintiff, The Travelers Insurance Company, a Connecticut corporation, with its principal place of business in said state. The defendant Inez Stuart is a citizen of the State of California and resides in the City of Los Angeles. The defendant Nealia Bell Lyles is a citizen of the State of Arkansas and resides in the City of Texarkana, Arkansas. The defendant Leon Harrison is a citizen of the State of California. The defendants Harrison-Ross Mortuaries and Lincoln Memorial Park are California corporations with their principal places of business in that state.

The defendant Nealia Bell Lyles filed her answer November 6, 1963. The defendants Leon Harrison, Harrison-Ross Mortuaries and Lincoln Memorial Park did not answer although duly served with process.

The defendant Inez Stuart on December 4, 1963, filed her answer and a motion to transfer to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division, at Los Angeles, California.

On December 14, 1963, Nealia Bell Lyles filed her response to the motion of the defendant Inez Stuart to transfer, accompanied by a motion to strike the answer of Inez Stuart, together with a brief in support of the response of Nealia Bell Lyles. The Travelers Insurance Company on December 16, 1963, filed its response to defendant Inez Stuart's motion to transfer.

On January 15, 1964, the affidavits of Stuart I. Barth and Inez Stuart were filed on behalf of the defendant Inez Stuart in support of her motion to transfer. On January 22, 1964, the affidavit of Nealia Bell Lyles in opposition to the motion to transfer was filed.

The pertinent facts with respect to the motion to transfer as set forth in the pleadings are not in dispute. As set forth in plaintiff's complaint in paragraph III, it issued a group policy of life insurance in the sum of $5,000 to H. & S. Metal Products Company, which covered its employees, including Johnie Stuart. On or about August 4, 1963, Johnie Stuart died in the State of California while the policy was in full force and effect. Johnie Stuart left surviving him his wife, the defendant Inez Stuart, and a sister, Nealia Bell Lyles. Both defendants have made claims against the plaintiff for the proceeds of the policy.

The defendant Nealia Bell Lyles, in her answer filed November 6, 1963, admitted all the jurisdictional allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, but denied any knowledge of any other claim to the proceeds of the policy of life insurance. She further alleged that she is the sole beneficiary of said insurance policy and denied that Inez Stuart has any valid claim to the proceeds of the policy on the life of the deceased, Johnie Stuart, whom she alleged executed a change of beneficiary form on April 1, 1963, designating her, the defendant Nealia Bell Lyles, as the sole beneficiary of said insurance policy. Defendant Lyles further alleged that the insured, Johnie Stuart, was of sound mind and acted without force or duress at the time of execution the change of beneficiary form, and that the defendants Harrison-Ross Mortuaries and Lincoln Memorial Park have no claim to the proceeds of the said insurance policy because said policy was payable to a specified beneficiary and not the estate of the deceased, Johnie Stuart. As heretofore stated, the defendants Leon Harrison, Harrison-Ross Mortuaries and Lincoln Memorial Park did not answer and are not asserting any claim to the proceeds of the policy.

In defendant Inez Stuart's motion to transfer she alleged that all the parties involved except Nealia Bell Lyles are residents and citizens of the State of California; that the decedent, Johnie Stuart, was a resident and citizen of the County of Los Angeles, California; that the Travelers Insurance Company is doing business in California and maintains offices in the City of Los Angeles; that the decedent died in the City of Los Angeles; that the policy here described was issued and delivered in the City of Los Angeles; that all evidence on behalf of the defendant Inez Stuart with respect to the policy will be introduced by various individuals involved therein, all of whom are residents of the City of Los Angeles; that on the issue of incompetency, all physicians, doctors and nurses attending the decedent were then practicing and are now living in the City of Los Angeles.

Affidavits of defendant Inez Stuart and her attorney, Stuart I. Barth, were filed in support of the motion to transfer on January 15, 1964. In defendant Stuart's affidavit, she stated that the deceased and herself were married October 18, 1941, at Texarkana, Arkansas, and at the time of the death of the deceased were still married and cohabiting within the City of Los Angeles; that the decedent Stuart died August 4, 1963, in the City of Los Angeles; that at the time of his death decedent was a citizen and resident of Los Angeles and was employed by H. & S. Metal Products Company of Los Angeles; that as part of the consideration received from his employer, H. & S. Metal Products Company, Johnie Stuart received a group life insurance policy issued by the plaintiff, The Travelers Insurance Company, in the amount of $5,000; that the beneficiary of said insurance policy on record with The Travelers Insurance Company at the date of the death of Johnie Stuart was the affiant, Inez Stuart; that the decedent died of cancer at John Wesley County Hospital, Los Angeles; that evidence relative to the alleged incompetency of the deceased will be produced on behalf of the defendant Stuart by physicians and nurses attending the decedent, who are practicing and living in Los Angeles; that the policy was issued and executed within the City of Los Angeles; "that the affiant visiting the decedent while he was confined to the aforementioned hospital witnessed certain acts of coercion which directly caused the decedent, Johnie Stuart, to change the beneficiary of the aforementioned insurance policy"; that all evidence and witnesses that will be produced, except for the defendant Nealia Bell Lyles are located in the City of Los Angeles.

The affidavit of Stuart I. Barth, attorney for defendant Inez Stuart, states that he has checked and verified all statements appearing in the affidavit of defendant Stuart; that the deceased, Johnie Stuart, changed the beneficiary of said insurance policy under duress of defendant Nealia Bell Lyles; that the policy was paid for out of earnings of the decedent, Johnie Stuart, which represented community property of the decedent and the defendant Inez Stuart; that the physicians attending the decedent during his last illness are citizens and residents of Los Angeles; that the employer and representatives of the decedent's union are citizens and residents of Los Angeles, and that all evidence and witnesses that will be produced on behalf of the defendant Stuart are located in the City of Los Angeles.

In defendant Lyles' affidavit she stated that she is a citizen and resident of Texarkana, Arkansas; that she is the sister of Johnie Stuart, deceased, who was afflicted with cancer; that during the early part of May 1963, her son, Fred Lyles, Jr., a citizen and resident of Los Angeles, Calif., wrote her a letter in which he stated that Johnie Stuart had changed the beneficiary of a $5,000 life insurance policy with the plaintiff from his wife, Inez Stuart, to her, Nealia Bell Lyles; that on May 13, 1963, she flew to Los Angeles, Calif., to be with her brother, Johnie Stuart, who was hospitalized and remained there six days; that during this six-day period she visited Johnie Stuart daily and that he was completely possessed of his mental facilities and was otherwise competent; that he occasionally complained of pain in his legs which did not seem to be severe; that her son, Fred Lyles, Jr., was with her brother, Johnie Stuart, when he died August 4, 1963.

At a pretrial conference on February 3, 1964, at which the plaintiff and the claimant Lyles were represented by their respective attorneys, the issues were discussed, and the court overruled the motion of defendant Lyles to strike the answer of the defendant Stuart.

The case is now before the court upon the motion of defendant Stuart to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Affidavits filed by the parties contain citations in support of their respective contentions with respect to the motion to transfer and have been considered by the court.

  Under the provisions of Sec. 1404(a),*fn1 28 U.S.C. the
tests to be applied in determining whether a motion for change
of venue should be granted are (1) convenience of the parties;
(2) convenience of the witnesses; and (3) the interest of
justice. There is no dispute that the action could have
originally been commenced in the United States District Court
to which the defendant Stuart moves to transfer it. In Hoffman,
U.S. Dist. Judge v. Blaski (1960), 363 U.S. 335, 80 S.Ct.
1084, 4 L.Ed.2d 1254, the court held that under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1404
 (a), a Federal District Court in which a civil action has
been ...

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