Mattingly v. Hoge, 010808 FED6, 07-5253

Docket Nº:07-5253
Party Name:PATRICIA E. MATTINGLY, and PATRICIA E. MATTINGLY, mother and friend of DERRICK LOGAN MATTINGLY, a minor, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. WILLIAM LACY HOGE, III, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:January 08, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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PATRICIA E. MATTINGLY, and PATRICIA E. MATTINGLY, mother and friend of DERRICK LOGAN MATTINGLY, a minor, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

WILLIAM LACY HOGE, III, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 07-5253

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 8, 2008

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY

BEFORE: BATCHELDER, COLE, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs Patricia E. Mattingly, individually, and as next friend of her son Derrick Logan Mattingly ("Logan Mattingly"), a minor, appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant William Lacy Hoge, III in this legal malpractice suit against Hoge. Plaintiffs argue that Hoge, who represented Patricia Mattingly in her divorce from her husband, Joseph M. Mattingly, was professionally negligent in failing to secure a qualified domestic relations order ("QDRO") to protect Logan's right to the proceeds of Joseph's welfare benefit plan. Plaintiffs further argue, even assuming that Hoge did obtain a QDRO, that he was professionally negligent in not sending this QDRO to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the administrator of Joseph M. Mattingly's welfare benefit plan. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

In 1987, in Jefferson County, Kentucky, William Lacy Hoge, III represented Patricia Mattingly in her divorce from Joseph M. Mattingly, an employee of General Electric. On December 17, 1987, the Jefferson County Circuit Court issued "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment, No. 87CI03367" ("divorce decree") in the matter. This judgment required that "the respondent [Joseph M. Mattingly] shall designate the parties' infant child [Logan Mattingly] as his primary beneficiary on any life insurance on his life currently maintained through his employment at General Electric. Said beneficiary designation shall continue until the child's eighteenth (18th) birthday." It is undisputed that Hoge did not provide a copy of the divorce decree to either General Electric or its ERISA plan administrator, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife").

Eight years later, in June of 1995, Joseph married Anita Mattingly. On March 4, 1998, Joseph Mattingly filed a GE Benefits Plan Beneficiary Designation, naming Anita as the primary beneficiary and then nine-year old Logan as one of two contingent beneficiaries, in contravention of the divorce decree. Joseph Mattingly died on November 28, 2002. On December 2, 2002, Patricia filed a claim for the policy proceeds on behalf of Logan pursuant to the provisions of the divorce decree. Anita Mattingly filed a competing claim on December 19, 2002.

MetLife, in accordance with federal law, was initially responsible for determining who was the legitimate beneficiary. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 1056(d)(3)(G)(i)(II), 1104(a), 1132(a)(3) & 1144. On March 11, 2003, MetLife determined that the divorce decree satisfied the requirements of a QDRO, and subsequently denied Anita Mattingly's claim. Patricia Mattingly claims to never have been notified of this decision.1

On May 2, 2003, in response to MetLife's determination, Anita Mattingly claimed that the QDRO was invalid and again sought administrative review. In response to this renewed claim, on June 6, 2003, MetLife filed a...

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