United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE CO. OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
MARY ANN HERZOG, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion of defendant Mary
Ann Herzog for summary judgment and plaintiff's motion
for interpleader relief. The issues are fully briefed.
September 15, 1960, Kenneth J. Arnold purchased a life
insurance policy from plaintiff. Six years later, in December
1966, Arnold married defendant Mary Ann Herzog. Arnold named
defendant Herzog as the Class 1 beneficiary of the Policy on
February 8, 1967. He designated the children born of his
marriage to Herzog - defendants Jennifer Carpenter, William
Arnold, and Richard Arnold - as Class 2 beneficiaries of the
policy. In September 2003, Arnold and Herzog entered into a
Marital Settlement and Separation Agreement. The couple was
divorced on September 25, 2003. In 2009, Arnold changed his
name and requested that the policy be re-issued in his new
name, Karen J. Arnold. Arnold did not change the beneficiary
designations. Arnold died on April 28, 2014.
filed this interpleader action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1335 to resolve potential competing claims between the Class
1 and Class 2 beneficiaries of the Policy. Herzog responded
to the complaint, but the Class 2 beneficiaries did not.
Accordingly, the Court entered default against the Class 2
beneficiaries pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
55(a). On February 21, 2017, plaintiff deposited $12, 706.00,
the insurance policy proceeds, into the registry of the
motion for summary judgment, Herzog argues that she is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law as the Class 1
beneficiary. Plaintiff does not dispute Herzog's claim to
the proceeds of the policy. In its motion, plaintiff asks
that it be relieved from any further liability relating to
the policy now that it has deposited the funds into the
registry. Alternatively, plaintiff asks that default judgment
be entered against the Class 2 beneficiaries and that
plaintiff be ordered to pay the funds to Herzog.
56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
summary judgment shall be entered if the moving party shows
“that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In ruling on a motion for
summary judgment a court is required to view the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give
that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be
drawn from the underlying facts. AgriStor Leasing v.
Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving
party bears the burden of showing both the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact and its entitlement to
judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87
(1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the
non-moving party may not rest on the allegations of his
pleadings but must set forth specific facts, by affidavit or
other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact
exists. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co. v. Honea, 458
F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986).
Motion for Interpleader Relief
interpleader action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1335, the district court must first determine whether the
requirements of the statute have been met and whether the
stakeholder may be relieved from liability. During this first
step, the court “determines whether the prerequisites
to rule or statutory interpleader have been met by examining
such things as the citizenship of the litigants, the merits
of the asserted threat of multiple vexation, and, if
interpleader is sought under the statute, the sufficiency of
the stakeholder's deposit or bond . . .”
Vanderlinden v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 137 F.Supp.2d
1160, 1164 (D. Neb. 2001). If these requirements are met, the
court may dismiss the disinterested stakeholder from the
interpleader action, leaving the claimants to prosecute their
conflicting claims. Id. Notably, the merits of the
claims do not foreclose interpleader relief. See Hunter
v. Fed. Life Ins. Co., 111 F.2d 551, 556 (8th Cir.
1940). After completing the first step, the court may then
proceed to adjudicate the adverse claims to the interpleaded
money or property. See NYLife Distrib. Inc. v. Adherence
Group, Inc., 72 F.3d 371, 375 (3d Cir. 1995).
interpleader statute requires that the value of the money or
property in the plaintiff's possession be in an amount of
$500.00 or more and that there be at least two adverse
claimants of diverse citizenship asserting claims to the
money or property. 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a)(1). In
the instant case, the requirements of the statute have been
met. The record shows that there are potentially competing
claims by minimally diverse parties on a single
obligation. See Id. (reasoning that “a
stakeholder, acting in good faith, may maintain a suit in
interpleader for the purpose of ridding himself of the
vexation and expenses of resisting adverse claims, even
though he believes that only one of them is
meritorious”). The relevant parties have “not
admitted that no such liability exists.” Dakota
Livestock Co. v. Keim, 552 F.2d 1302, 1308 (8th Cir.
1977). Indeed, the evidence shows that Herzog's
beneficiary status has been contested by defendants Jennifer
Carpenter and William Arnold. [Doc. # 22 ¶ 8; Doc.
#22-5]. Also, plaintiff disclaims any interest in the
policy's funds, and is therefore a disinterested
stakeholder. And finally, the value of the disputed property
exceeds $500.00. See Gaines v. Sunray Oil Co., 539
F.2d 1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 1976) (stating that “[t]he
subject matter of an interpleader action is defined by the
fund deposited by the stakeholder.”)
an interpleader action is appropriate here, and
plaintiff's motion will be granted.
Herzog's Motion for Summary Judgment
diversity action, the Court is bound by the decisions of the
Missouri Supreme Court regarding issues of substantive state
law. Owners Ins. Co. v. Hughes, 712 F.3d 392, 393
(8th Cir. 2013). Decisions by the Missouri Court of Appeals
may be used as “an indication of how the Missouri