Supreme Court Decision Governs Michigan Benefits Suit

July 6, 2009 ( - Applying a recent U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with disputed benefits payouts, a federal judge in Michigan has ruled that a life insurance plan administrator must disburse a dead participant's benefits to his ex-wife.

U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds of the U.S. District Court for the District of Michigan ruled that MetLife was required to pay to Yvette Jones, ex-wife to participant Manuel McCalip, Jr., $154,000 in benefits due under the policy for McCalip’s former employer, Johnson Controls.

Edmunds asserted in her ruling that she was following the dictates of a recent Supreme Court case, Kennedy v. Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings & Investment Plan  in which the court held that in circumstances like those in the McCalip lawsuit, a benefits administrator acting under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) must make such a payout to the last properly named employee beneficiary as reflected in plan documents (see High Court Affirms DuPont’s Payment to Ex-Wife ).  

According to the ruling, Manuel McCalip Jr. died and about a month later, MetLife received documents appointing Belinda McCalip as representative of his estate and stating a claim for the insurance benefits.

The estate filed suit in July 2008 to which MetLife insisted his ex-wife, instead, was the proper beneficiary.