District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn


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Govel’s fiancee Colleen Rogers died in a crash of Govel’s motorcycle. Govel had been drinking throughout the evening. He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter. Insurer Prudential’s interpleader action sought a determination whether Govel or Colleen’s brother Joseph was the rightful beneficiary of an ERISA-governed life insurance policy issued to Colleen. The court denied Joseph’s summary judgment on his claim that New York’s “Slayer Rule” barred Govel from receiving Colleen’s life insurance proceeds because he pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter. A conviction for second-degree vehicular manslaughter does not necessarily prohibit one from receiving the life insurance proceeds of his victim. Further, a reasonable jury could find insufficient evidence of Govel’s awareness of the risk he created the night of Colleen’s death to deem him reckless. Nor would a reasonable jury be compelled to find the only reason Govel did not perceive the riskiness of his conduct was his voluntary intoxication. Govel’s admissions that he was intoxicated and that his intoxication contributed to the crash do not conclusively show he failed to recognize the dangerousness of his behavior solely because of his intoxication.