A photo of the author. Steven Meyerowitz

(This story is reprinted with permission from the Insurance Coverage Law Center, the industry’s only comprehensive digital resource designed for insurance coverage law professionals. Visit the website to subscribe. )

A federal district court in Georgia has ruled that a son who shot his mother to death was not entitled to any of the proceeds of her insurance policy, and it awarded the full amount of benefits under the policy to her other son.

The Case

On March 3, 2017, Nicholas S. Bacon shot his mother, Montez Bacon, in the back, killing her.

Bacon was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and murder in connection with the death of his mother. A jury found Bacon guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, malice murder, and possession of a firearm or knife during commission of or attempt to commit certain crimes.

After Ms. Bacon’s death, Eric C. Smith, her other son, claimed the benefits of the $100,000 group life insurance policy issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America covering Ms. Bacon.

Prudential filed an interpleader action and deposited the $100,000 benefit plus interest into the registry of the court and was dismissed from the case.

Mr. Smith moved for entry of judgment in his favor.

The District Court’s Decision

The court entered judgment in favor of Mr. Smith.

In its decision, the court explained that, under O.C.G.A. Section 53-1-5 and the terms of the policy, if Bacon “feloniously and intentionally” killed his mother, he forfeited his right to the benefits and was treated as if he had predeceased her. The court added that O.C.G.A. § 33-25-12 further provided that any person who committed murder or voluntary manslaughter may not receive benefits from any insurance policy on the life of the deceased, even if that person was the named beneficiary. Thus, the court continued, if Bacon murdered his mother, the policy’s benefits would be payable to her heirs at law, Mr. Smith.

The court took judicial notice of the jury’s guilty verdict in Bacon’s criminal trial, adding that the finding of guilt provided prima facie evidence of Bacon’s liability and Mr. Smith’s right to the policy’s benefits. Because Bacon had been found guilty of murdering his mother, the insured, he was precluded from receiving any benefits under the policy.

Therefore, the court concluded, Mr. Smith had established that he was entitled to the policy’s benefits in the amount that Prudential deposited in the registry plus any accrued interest.

The case is Prudential Ins. Co. of America v. Bacon, No. CV 617-134 (S.D. Ga. April 18, 2019). Attorneys involved include: For Eric C. Smith: C. Dorian Britt, Karsman, McKenzie & Hart, Savannah, GA.

Steven A. Meyerowitz, a Harvard Law School graduate, is the founder and president of Meyerowitz Communications Inc., a law firm marketing communications consulting company. Mr. Meyerowitz is the Director of the Insurance Coverage Law Center and editor-in-chief of journals on insurance law, banking law, bankruptcy law, energy law, government contracting law, and privacy and cybersecurity law, among other subjects. He may be contacted at smeyerowitz@meyerowitzcommunications.com.