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Default Set Aside for Pro Se’s Letter

Deborah Elkins//November 30, 2011

Default Set Aside for Pro Se’s Letter

Deborah Elkins//November 30, 2011//

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The Norfolk U.S. District Court grants plaintiff life insurance company motion for interpleader and orders the carrier to deposit the proceeds of Arthur C. Jones’ life insurance policy of $100,000; the court will treat a letter from decedent’s daughter as an informal pro se pleading and set aside the default judgment entered against her.

A life insurance policy issued Nov. 13, 1985, to Arthur C. Jones named his wife, Clara Jones, as the primary beneficiary and his daughter, Belle Jones, as contingent beneficiary. On or about May 13, 2010, decedent apparently attempted to alter the beneficiaries of the policy by submitted a “Beneficiary Change Form” to Banner Life. The Form named as beneficiaries: Belle Jones, 30 percent; Raymond Jones, 30 percent; Clara Jones, 10 percent; Daphne Grantham, stepdaughter, 10 percent. The Form has a listing for “Misc.,” but no figure stated. Although the Form directs the total must be 100 percent, the total for designated beneficiaries is only 80 percent. On May 21, 2010, Banner sent decedent a notice rejecting his Form. He died May 30, 2010, without submitting a new Form.

Although Belle Jones did not reply to the complaint and did not respond formally when the clerk entered default against her, the court will regard her letter to the court as an informal pleading. The court finds several factors weigh in favor of setting aside the entry of default against her. She has demonstrated personal responsibility by directly contacting the court. There is no prejudice to Banner if the court sets aside the entry of default against Belle Jones. She has asserted no new claims or defenses with respect to the policy and thus will not hinder the progress of the case to trial. Her letter does not evince bad faith or a complete disregard for the mandates of procedure and authority of the court.

The court finds good cause to set aside the entry of default against Belle Jones.

Banner Life Ins. Co. v. Jones (Jackson) No. 2:11cv63, Sept. 29, 2011; USDC at Norfolk, Va. VLW 011-3-575, 15 pp.

VLW 011-3-575

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