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First National Bank & Trust Company of Mountain Home v. Stonebridge Life Insurance Co.

April 30, 2007

FIRST NATIONAL BANK & TRUST COMPANY OF MOUNTAIN HOME, SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF DEBRA HULSE KNIGHTON, DECEASED PLAINTIFF
v.
STONEBRIDGE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; EMC NATIONAL LIFE COMPANY; MINNESOTA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; AND FLOYD KNIGHTON DEFENDANTS
STONEBRIDGE LIFE INSURANCE COUNTER PLAINTIFF CROSS PLAINTIFF
v.
THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF FIRST NATIONAL BANK & TRUST COMPANY OF MOUNTAIN HOME, SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF DEBRA HULSE KNIGHTON, DECEASED COUNTER DEFENDANT
MARSHA SMITH; DONNIE GARVIN; AND VINCENT KNIGHTON THIRD PARTY DEFENDANTS FLOYD KNIGHTON CROSS DEFENDANT CROSS PLAINTIFF
v.
MINNESOTA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; EMC NATIONAL LIFE COMPANY; AND STONEBRIDGE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY CROSS DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending are Defendant/Cross Defendant/Cross Plaintiff Floyd Knighton's ("Knighton") Motions for Summary Judgment and for Reconsideration.*fn1 Responses to both motions were filed.*fn2

This is an action brought by Plaintiff First National Bank & Trust Company ("FNBT"), the Administrator of the Estate of Debra Knighton, to claim the proceeds of insurance policies for the Estate. EMC National Life Company ("EMC") and Stonebridge Life Insurance ("Stonebridge") issued life insurance policies to the deceased, Debra Knighton. The EMC policy named Debra Knighton's husband, Floyd Knighton, as primary beneficiary, and her Estate as contingent beneficiary.*fn3 The Stonebridge policy stated that the insurance proceeds would go to Debra Knighton's spouse, if living, and otherwise to her children and step-children in equal parts.*fn4

Because of conflicting claims to the insurance proceeds, an Order was entered allowing EMC and Stonebridge to interplead the funds.*fn5 Knighton asks for reconsideration of this order.

I. Background

Debra Knighton died as a result of a gunshot wound inflicted by her husband. Knighton was charged with second degree murder, but the charges were nol prossed. A month later, the Estate of Debra Knighton filed this lawsuit alleging that Knighton wrongfully caused his wife's death.*fn6

Knighton argues that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and he is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In support of his motion, Knighton attaches an affidavit, affirming that he did not intentionally kill his wife.*fn7 He swears that he accidently shot his wife while loading his gun to shoot skeet.*fn8 Finally, Knighton asserts that there were no other witnesses to the incident.*fn9

Knighton maintains that the circumstances of his wife's death have been thoroughly investigated by insurance companies and the Faulkner County's Sheriff's Office and, despite these efforts, there is not a "shred"*fn10 of evidence establishing that he willfully killed his wife. In response to Knighton's motion, EMC and FNBT attached affidavits and other documentary evidence.*fn11

EMC attached affidavits from Special Agent Karl Byrd ("Byrd"), the felony information sheet filed in the Faulkner County Circuit Court, and the Order of Nolle Prosequi signed by Judge Reynolds.*fn12

Agent Byrd affirms that he investigated the incident and attached his investigative report.*fn13 The report notes that evidence found at the scene and statements taken from neighbors were inconsistent with Knighton's version of events.*fn14

Based on the information provided by Byrd, a felony information was issued by the County prosecutor charging Knighton with second degree murder.*fn15 The order dismissing the charge states: "That as a result of subsequent investigation and at the specific request of the decedent's family members, the State of Arkansas determined that the most appropriate course of action at this time would be and is to nol pross the case against the above defendant."*fn16

In its Response,*fn17 FNBT attached affidavits from several witnesses including Knighton's neighbors, Kenneth Boucher ("Boucher") and Shirrell Simpson ("Simpson"). Attached to their affidavits are statements made to Byrd.

Boucher was the first to arrive on the scene, and reported that Knighton moved the skeet thrower before the police arrived.*fn18 Simpson told the police officer that, one hour before the shooting, he heard the Knightons arguing. Simpson also reported that, after he heard the gunshot, he looked over and saw Knighton walk toward the back porch before going to check on his wife.*fn19 Affidavits of other witnesses reported that Debra Knighton had an extra-marital affair, the ...


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