769 P.2d 158 (Okla. 1989), 67874, Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co.

Docket Nº:67874.
Citation:769 P.2d 158, 1989 OK 27
Party Name:Robert ROACH, Appellant and Counter-Appellee, v. ATLAS LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee and Counter-Appellant.
Case Date:February 21, 1989
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma

Page 158

769 P.2d 158 (Okla. 1989)

1989 OK 27

Robert ROACH, Appellant and Counter-Appellee,

v.

ATLAS LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee and Counter-Appellant.

No. 67874.

Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

February 21, 1989.

Page 159

Certiorari to the Court of Appeals, Oklahoma City Division; Raymond Naifeh and Bryan Dixon, Trial Judges.

The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the appellee/counter-appellant, Atlas Life Insurance Company, finding that the previous dismissal of Atlas in interpleader barred a subsequent action for bad faith breach of an insurance contract. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's entry of summary judgment. We find that discharge in interpleader does not protect the interpleading party from further litigation on issues not determined in the interpleader action; and that entry of summary judgment on the issue of bad faith breach of a life insurance contract does not constitute error where reasonable persons would not reach different conclusions from the facts.

CERTIORARI PREVIOUSLY GRANTED; OPINION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; JUDGMENT OF THE TRIAL COURT AFFIRMED.

Linda G. Alexander, Oklahoma City, for appellant and counter-appellee.

G. Michael Lewis, Lewis N. Carter, Jon E. Brightmire, Tulsa, for appellee and counter-appellant.

Page 160

KAUGER, Justice.

The question of first impression presented is whether interpleading proceeds from a life insurance policy protects an insurance company from a subsequent bad faith action by a third party named beneficiary. We find that it depends on the facts in each case. However, we must determine: 1) whether a life insurance company which has been discharged in an interpleader action is relieved of all liability to its policy beneficiary; and 2) whether the entry of summary judgment in favor of the insurer constituted error by the trial court in the face of a court order prohibiting payment of the policy proceeds to the named insured. Because life insurers are held to the same standard as other insurers, we find that discharge in interpleader does not automatically protect the interpleading party from further litigation on issues not determined in the interpleader action; and that the trial court properly entered summary judgment because reasonable persons would not reach different conclusions from the facts.

FACTS

In 1970, the appellee/counter-appellant, Atlas Life Insurance Company (Atlas) issued a group health insurance policy to the University of Oklahoma which insured the life of Nadine J. Roach (insured) for $35,000.00. When the policy was issued, the insured was married to Robert Henry Roach (Roach), appellant/counter appellee, the named beneficiary under the policy. Although the insured and Roach were divorced, Roach remained the policy beneficiary.

The insured died on December 3, 1980. The terms of the policy dictated that Atlas receive a notice of the death of the insured from the University and a death certificate before disbursement of policy proceeds. Before Atlas received either, it was served with an order from the Oklahoma County District Court dated December 30, 1980, precluding payment of the policy. On March 10, 1981, Atlas received the death certificate and the notice of death which contained a comment that the status of Roach as beneficiary had been questioned.

On February 8, 1982, the administratrix of the insured's estate filed an action in district court seeking payment of the policy proceeds to the estate, alleging that Roach was not the intended beneficiary of the life insurance policy. Atlas answered, acknowledging the existence of the policy, its willingness to pay the appropriate beneficiary, and noting that it was under an outstanding court order not to disburse the funds. Roach appeared pro se.

On April 15, 1982, thirteen months after receiving the notification of death, Atlas interplead the policy proceeds and filed a motion to dismiss. The motion was granted on June 25, 1982. In the same order, the trial court granted the administratix's motion for summary judgment, and it awarded the policy proceeds to the estate finding that Roach was not the beneficiary of the policy. Roach appealed the entry of summary judgment in favor of the administratrix, but he did not appeal the dismissal of Atlas as a party to the suit. While the appeal was pending, the trial court ordered a final accounting and payment of the interplead fund to the estate. Roach filed a motion to stay the payment of insurance proceeds until final adjudication of the controversy in the probate court which was overruled.

On February 21, 1984, the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that a material issue of fact existed concerning the insured's intended beneficiary. On September 5, 1984, Roach filed a motion in district court requesting that the administratrix deposit the proceeds with the Court Clerk until a determination of the case was made on remand. On September 12, 1984, the administratrix dismissed the cause of action filed February 8, 1982. The trial court dismissed Roach's motion for lack of jurisdiction, and no action was taken on remand.

On July 17, 1986, Roach brought this action alleging that Atlas had breached its duty to defend in good faith and to deal fairly with its insured. On October 2, 1986, Atlas moved for summary judgment which was granted on November 15...

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59 practice notes
  • 818 P.2d 1234 (Okla. 1991), 69749, French Energy, Inc. v. Alexander
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • 16 Octubre 1991
    ...760 P.2d 188, 192 (1988); Hargrave v. Canadian Valley Elec. Co-op., Okl., 792 P.2d 50, 55 (1990); Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., Okl., 769 P.2d 158, 163 (1989). Where there is room for a reasonable difference of opinion as to the proper inference to be drawn from the known and undisputed fac......
  • 525 N.W.2d 342 (Wis.App. 1994), 92-2708, Estate of Plautz by Pagel v. Time Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • 8 Noviembre 1994
    ...purchase of the policy--the peace of mind and security which it provides in the event of loss." Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., 769 P.2d 158, 162 (Okla.1989). As recognized in 18 COUCH ON INSURANCE § 74:327: The right of the beneficiary of a life policy to sue in his own name may be pred......
  • 976 P.2d 1102 (Okla.Civ.App. Div. 2 1999), 92, Campbell v. American Intern. Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Court of Appeals of Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma
    • 16 Febrero 1999
    ...beneficiary contract exists if the proceeds of an insurance policy are payable to third persons." Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., 1989 OK 27, p 8, 769 P.2d 158, 161, citing Zahn v. General Ins. Co., 1980 OK 79, p 13, 611 P.2d 645, 647; Christian v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 1977 OK 132......
  • 854 P.2d 527 (Utah 1993), 920300, Broadwater v. Old Republic Sur.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court of Utah
    • 4 Junio 1993
    ...830 P.2d 1335, 1335-36 (1992); United Fire Ins. Co. v. McClelland, 105 Nev. 504, 780 P.2d 193, 197 (1989); Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., 769 P.2d 158, 161 (Okla.1989); Allstate Ins. Co. v. Amick, 680 P.2d 362, 365 (Okla.1984); Kranzush v. Badger State Mut. Casualty Co., 103 Wis.2d 56, 307 N......
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59 cases
  • 818 P.2d 1234 (Okla. 1991), 69749, French Energy, Inc. v. Alexander
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • 16 Octubre 1991
    ...760 P.2d 188, 192 (1988); Hargrave v. Canadian Valley Elec. Co-op., Okl., 792 P.2d 50, 55 (1990); Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., Okl., 769 P.2d 158, 163 (1989). Where there is room for a reasonable difference of opinion as to the proper inference to be drawn from the known and undisputed fac......
  • 525 N.W.2d 342 (Wis.App. 1994), 92-2708, Estate of Plautz by Pagel v. Time Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • 8 Noviembre 1994
    ...purchase of the policy--the peace of mind and security which it provides in the event of loss." Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., 769 P.2d 158, 162 (Okla.1989). As recognized in 18 COUCH ON INSURANCE § 74:327: The right of the beneficiary of a life policy to sue in his own name may be pred......
  • 976 P.2d 1102 (Okla.Civ.App. Div. 2 1999), 92, Campbell v. American Intern. Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Court of Appeals of Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma
    • 16 Febrero 1999
    ...beneficiary contract exists if the proceeds of an insurance policy are payable to third persons." Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., 1989 OK 27, p 8, 769 P.2d 158, 161, citing Zahn v. General Ins. Co., 1980 OK 79, p 13, 611 P.2d 645, 647; Christian v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 1977 OK 132......
  • 854 P.2d 527 (Utah 1993), 920300, Broadwater v. Old Republic Sur.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court of Utah
    • 4 Junio 1993
    ...830 P.2d 1335, 1335-36 (1992); United Fire Ins. Co. v. McClelland, 105 Nev. 504, 780 P.2d 193, 197 (1989); Roach v. Atlas Life Ins. Co., 769 P.2d 158, 161 (Okla.1989); Allstate Ins. Co. v. Amick, 680 P.2d 362, 365 (Okla.1984); Kranzush v. Badger State Mut. Casualty Co., 103 Wis.2d 56, 307 N......
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