Third Circuit affirms judgment to exclude defendant from claim to decedent's annuity payments

By Nicholas Malfitano | Mar 6, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – A panel of appellate judges has ruled to affirm a federal court’s decision to turn away a motion for reconsideration from a defendant who was shut out from making any further claim to his former friend and decedent’s annuity payments.

On March 2, Judges L. Felipe Restrepo, Anthony J. Scirica and D. Michael Fisher ruled judgment is entered in favor of defendants Francesco Papaleo and Rebecca Legault, and against fellow defendant Sharon Paige (a.k.a. Alfred Ricco).

New York Life Insurance Company filed an interpleader complaint to request the District Court determine the actual and rightful beneficiary of two annuities it had issued to Dr. Marvin Samuels, who passed away in 2014.

New York Life named three possible beneficiaries: Samuels’ niece, Legault; his former domestic partner, Papaleo; and his friend, Sharon Paige, a.k.a. Ricco. After Paige filed an answer to the original complaint, Legault filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

The District Court granted the motion on the conditions that Paige was dismissed from the case and prohibited from making any claim to the annuities or against Legault pertaining to the annuities, leading Paige to file two unsuccessful motions for reconsideration. Consequently, Legault and Papaleo reached a settlement, and the District Court ordered the distribution of funds to them. Paige now appeals.

“The District Court properly granted Legault’s motion for judgment on the pleadings against Paige. As the District Court stated, there was no dispute that Legault was the last named beneficiary of both annuities. And, as the District Court explained, there was no dispute about whether Samuels made every reasonable effort to change the beneficiary from Legault to Paige,” the Third Circuit said.

The Court added Paige does not argue Samuels named her as a beneficiary, but instead “disavows any argument that she or Samuels caused or sought to remove Legault as the beneficiary.”

The Third Circuit clarified, “Her arguments for relief center on how New York Life should have treated information about Samuels’ granting her power-of-attorney and on how New York Life should have given her access to the funds on the day before Samuels’ death for Samuels’ medical care and personal and legal needs. Those arguments do not undermine the District Court’s conclusion. Likewise, Paige’s claim that the judgment against her deprived her of pursuing a compulsory counterclaim against New York Life is not a reason to vacate the judgment.”

“The District Court also properly denied reconsideration. Reconsideration is warranted under limited circumstances, such as when a litigant shows “(1) an intervening 4 change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [ruled]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice,” the Third Circuit explained.

“As the District Court explained, the evidence that Paige presented in her first motion for reconsideration could not be properly considered as new, but even if it were so considered, it did not support reconsideration. As the District Court noted in regards to the second motion for reconsideration, Paige was essentially attempting to get the proverbial ‘second bite of the apple.’ Also, we note that in that motion for reconsideration, as in this appeal, Paige stated that she did not assert to be a beneficiary,” the appellate court said.

The plaintiff is represented by Katherine A. Mastrobuoni of d’Arcambal Ousley & Cuyler Burk, in Parsippany, N.J.

The defendants are represented by David F. McComb and Grace Henry Flanagan of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy in Philadelphia, and Libro G. Taglianetti Jr. in Havertown.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 16-1369 & 16-3259

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-00736

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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