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Dish Network Corporation v. Pompa

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 29, 2019

DISH NETWORK CORPORATION, as Plan Administrator and on behalf of DISH NETWORK CORPORATION 401(K PLAN, Plaintiff in Interpleader,
v.
DEBORAH POMPA and ROY LOHRENGEL, Defendants in Interpleader.

          ORDER

          KENT J. DAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently before the Court is Cross-claimant Deborah Pompa's Motion for Summary Judgment (#30). Cross-Defendant/Counter-claimant Roy Lohrengel (“Roy”) filed a response in opposition (#33) to which Pompa replied (#34).

         I. FACTS

         Decedent, Larry Lohrengel (“Lohrengel”), was employed by Dish Network and participated in the Dish Network 401(K) Plan (“the Plan”). The Plan gave Lohrengel the right to designate a beneficiary to receive the benefits payable upon his death by filing a written notice of change of beneficiary with the retirement plan administrator.

         At the time of Lohrengel's illness and death, Movant Pompa, his long-time significant other, was residing with Lohrengel. On June 26, 2012, Pompa was designated as the one-hundred (100) percent (%) beneficiary of Lohrengel's retirement plan benefits. Lohrengel died on July 25, 2012. At the time of his death, Lohrengel was neither married, nor had he been married during any time that he participated in the Plan. Further, Lohrengel had no surviving children. According to the terms of the Plan, a surviving parent is entitled to the Plan benefits, only if no valid designation exists and there are no surviving spouse or children.

         On August 22, 2012, Roy sent correspondence through his counsel to the Plan demanding that no distributions be made to Pompa. The letter made allegations that Lohrengel lacked the computer savvy and the physical and mental capacity to change his designation of beneficiary on June 26, 2012. The letter also alleged that Pompa must have changed the designation of beneficiary without Lohrengel's knowledge or consent.

         The Plan's governing documents provided that the Administrator was required to provide a written or electronic notification of the Plan's adverse determination to the claimant within a reasonable time, no later than ninety (90) days after the Plan's receipt of the claim. Any extension of the time by the Plan was to be noticed to the claimant within the initial ninety days. Roy did not receive any written or electronic communication from the Plan.

         As of June 7, 2017, Lohrengel was due $73, 577.29. On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Interpleader (#1) seeking to deposit the full amount due to its inability to make a determination based upon the competing claims of Pompa and Roy. On August 22, 2017, five years after his initial letter to the Plan, Roy filed his Cross-claim (#24) against Pompa. Essentially, Roy asserts that Pompa fraudulently made the beneficiary designation in her favor. Pompa has now moved for summary judgment asserting that the statute of limitations bars Roy's claim.

         II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         The purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is available only where the absence of material fact allows the Court to rule as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Rule 56 outlines a burden shifting approach to summary judgment. First, the moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to produce specific evidence of a genuine factual dispute for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A genuine issue of fact exists where the evidence could allow “a reasonable jury [to] return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the evidence and draws all available inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Kaiser Cement Corp. v. Fischbach & Moore, Inc., 793 F.2d 1100, 1103 (9th Cir. 1986). Yet, to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must show more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586.

         III. ANALYSIS

         By the clear terms of the Plan, Lohrengel's benefits are payable to Pompa as the designated one-hundred percent (100 %) beneficiary. Roy's claim to the assets succeeds only if Pompa's designation is void. In order to defeat Pompa's claim, Roy's cross-claim asserts an action for declaratory relief seeking to have the Court declare the beneficiary designation void per Nevada Revised Statute § 155.097.

         NRS 155.097(2) establishes a rebuttable presumption that a transfer is presumed to be void if the ...


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