United States District Court, D. Delaware
Tiffany M. Shrenk, Esquire of MacElree Harvey Ltd.,
Centerville, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant Olga A. Bratton.
E. York, Esquire of Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C.,
Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant Mario T. Glover,
THYNGE, CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
A. Bratton ("Thomas") passed away on February 13,
2016 at the age of 90.Thomas is survived by a wife, two
step-sons, and several siblings. The issue in this
arbitration dispute is whether the proceeds from the only
asset of value in Thomas' estate, a life insurance
policy, should go to his widow Olga A. Bratton
("Olga") or one of his brothers, Mario T. Glover
("Mario"). A one-day arbitration hearing was held
in this matter on December 4, 2017. The court has original
jurisdiction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1) and 28
U.S.C. § 1331, because the action arises under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1971, as amended.
had four siblings from his parents' marriage, and a
second set of siblings from when his mother remarried.
(Hr'g Tr. at 69:8-70:4). Among the second set of siblings
is Mario and Clarence. (Id.). Due to a thirty year
age difference, Thomas did not grow up with Mario and
Clarence. (Id.; Hr'g Tr. at 162:24-163:1).
married Olga in 1959. (D.I. 29-1, Tab 2 at 3:21-4:1). During
their marriage, there were never any periods of separations
or divorce, and they always lived in the same house.
(Hr'g Tr. at 70:13-21). Thomas and Olga did not have any
biological children. (Id. at 69:5-6). But at the
time of her marriage to Thomas, Olga had two children, Wayne
Darden ("Wayne") and Kerry Darden
("Kerry"), from a prior marriage, who were nine and
thirteen, respectively. (D.I. 29-1, Tab 2 at 4:8-15; Hr'g
Tr. at 67:21-23). Thomas never legally adopted Olga's
sons, but they grew up with him in a father/son relationship,
and he referred to them as his sons. (Hr'g Tr. at
has a high-school education and worked in a grocery store for
forty-three years until she retired. (Hr'g Tr. at
70:22-24). Thomas had a high-school education and worked as
the manager of a liquor store. (Id. at 71:1-6). Then
in the late 1960s, Thomas went to a computer school and
afterwards was employed at MetLife working with computers.
(Id. at 71:6-10). Thomas stayed at MetLife until his
retirement in the late 1980s. (Id.). After
retirement, Thomas worked doing laundry and cleaning houses
for about five years to keep himself busy. (Id. at
71:10-72:1). In 2007, when the Brattons were in their early
eighties, they moved from New York to Delaware. (Hr'g Tr.
at 67:24-68:2, 72:2-10). The Brattons' children and
grandchildren live in New York, while Thomas' brothers,
Mario and Clarence, live in Delaware. (Hr'g Tr. at
Mario Manages the Brattons' Finances
2013, the Brattons were having difficulty managing their
household finances, so Mario began to assist the Brattons
with paying their bills. (Hr'g Tr. at 76:2-9, 113:13-16).
Mario was to use the Brattons' money to pay their bills
and pay them on time. (Id. at 107:18-24). Notably,
Mario had his own financial difficulties around the same
time. Mario's employer, Yellow Cab was abruptly sold,
leaving him unemployed for a period of time. (Id. at
136:8-137:5). As a result, Mario asked Olga for a loan, which
she provided. (Id.). Olga confided in others that
she loaned Mario some money and he never paid her back.
(Id. at 48:17-20). Thomas also loaned money to Mario
when he needed it. (Id. at 28:18-19, 60:21-61:5). In
2013, before Mario began managing the Brattons' finances,
he filed for bankruptcy. (Id. at 155:21-156:20).
Madison ("Madison") witnessed the Brattons'
declining health over the last few years of Thomas' life.
Madison is the wife of Thomas' barber, John Fields
("Fields"), and first met the Brattons in October
2014. (Hr'g Tr. at 22:16-22). She regularly visited the
Brattons thereafter and described their living conditions
upon first meeting them as "not good."
(Id. at 23:5-16). Their home was very messy,
particularly from bladder accidents that Thomas experienced
which left stains on the carpet "in front of where he
always sat." (Id. at 23:14-23). Olga had not
left the house in two years except to attend doctors'
appointments. (Id. at 23:24-24:5). The Brattons'
mailbox was overflowing, because it had not been checked.
(Id. at 25:13-25).
2015, both Thomas and Olga were admitted to the hospital and
then to Churchman's Village for rehabilitation. (Hr'g
Tr. at 27:15-24). Sometime during this period, Mario had a
conversation with Thomas about his funeral arrangements.
Thomas asked Mario to handle his funeral arrangements and
told Mario that he had a life insurance policy with MetLife
worth $42, 000 that could cover his funeral expenses.
(Id. at 143:8-144:13). Thomas and Mario did not
discuss how much they expected the funeral to cost, but the
actual funeral expenses were between $10, 000 and $12, 000.
(Id. at 143:18-21). Thomas never said that he was
gifting the life insurance policy to Mario. (Id. at
157:25-158:4). With Mario's assistance, Thomas called
MetLife and asked that a change of beneficiary form be mailed
to him. (Id. at 144:24-146:11). Neither Thomas nor
Mario discussed the change of beneficiary form with anyone
else. (Id. at 157:14-16).
Mario Is Appointed Power of ...