United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on its own motion for review of
plaintiff’s complaint for the existence of subject
matter jurisdiction. The Court will order plaintiff to show
cause why this action should not be dismissed for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
January 11, 2019, plaintiff filed an interpleader complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335 against defendants Patrick
Yates, Deborah Hart, Jeannette Stickler, Al Uhle, Corey Uhle,
Joseph Uhle, Sean Uhle, Susan Uhle, Lauren Volkerding, and
Anthony Bove. Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges that on September 10,
1999 it issued policy number 09238591 (the
“Policy”) in the amount of $15, 000 to insure the
life of Ashley Yates (the “Insured”).
Id. at 3. Plaintiff asserts that the
“application for the Policy provides that ‘unless
otherwise requested, the parents of the Proposed Insureds
shall be the beneficiaries, ’ and no other person was
identified or designated as a beneficiary.”
Id. at 16. Plaintiff states the Insured died on
October 31, 2017, and attached the death certificate to the
interpleader complaint. Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff further states
that the Insured’s maternal aunt, Deborah Hart, who was
appointed legal guardian of the Insured, submitted a claim
for the Policy proceeds on September 2, 2018. Doc. 1-2. A
competing claim was submitted on November 14, 2018 by the
Insured’s father, Patrick Yates. Doc. 1-2. The
Insured’s mother predeceased the Insured. Doc. 1 at 4.
letters, dated February 4, 2019, were sent to
plaintiff’s counsel by defendants Albert Uhle and Susan
Uhle confirming they have no claim of entitlement to the
proceeds of the Policy. Doc. 25-1. Another letter, dated
February 21, 2019, was sent to plaintiff’s counsel by
defendant Joseph Uhle, also confirming he did not have a
claim to the proceeds of the Policy. Id.
August 30, 2019, the Court ordered the Clerk of the Court to
enter default against defendants Jeannette Stickler, Al Uhle,
Corey Uhle, Joseph Uhle, Sean Uhle, Susan Uhle, Lauren
Volkerding, and Anthony Bove pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 55(a) for failure to file a timely answer or
other response to the interpleader complaint. Doc. 28. The
Clerk’s Entry of Default was entered on September 5,
2019. Doc. 31. The only remaining defendants are Deborah Hart
and Patrick Yates, who each filed an answer.
alleges it is an innocent stakeholder with respect to the
Policy and is unable to determine who is entitled to the
Policy proceeds without incurring the risk of being subject
to costs and expenses in defending itself in multiple suits
or the possibility of multiple payments for the amount due.
Plaintiff requests the Court to: (1) issue an order directing
it to deposit into the registry of the Court the disputed
Policy proceeds of $15, 000, plus interest and less $1500 in
attorneys fees and costs; (2) dismiss plaintiff from this
action with prejudice; and (3) issue a permanent injunction
enjoining defendants and any other potential claimant from
filing legal action against it in relation to the Policy.
is a procedural device that allows a party holding money or
property, concededly belonging to another, to join in a
single suit two or more parties asserting mutually exclusive
claims to the fund. In this way the stakeholder is freed from
the threat of multiple liability.” Acuity v. Rex,
LLC, 296 F.Supp. 3d 1105, 1107 (E.D. Mo. 2017),
aff'd, 929 F.3d 995 (8th Cir. 2019) (citing
Gaines v. Sunray Oil Co., 539 F.2d 1136, 1141 (8th
Cir. 1976)). An interpleader action may be brought pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1335 (statutory interpleader).
every federal case the court must be satisfied that it has
jurisdiction before it turns to the merits of other legal
arguments.” Carlson v. Arrowhead Concrete Works,
Inc., 445 F.3d 1046, 1050 (8th Cir. 2006). The Eighth
Circuit has admonished district courts to “be attentive
to a satisfaction of jurisdictional requirements in all
cases.” Sanders v. Clemco Indus., 823 F.2d
214, 216 (8th Cir. 1987). Statutes conferring diversity
jurisdiction are to be strictly construed. Sheehan v.
Gustafson, 967 F.2d 1214, 1215 (8th Cir. 1992).
law grants original jurisdiction to district courts in §
1335 interpleader actions where (1) there are adverse claims
to money or property worth $500 or more, and where (2) there
is “‘minimal diversity, ’ that is,
diversity of citizenship between two or more
claimants[.]” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v.
Tashire, 386 U.S. 523, 530 (1967) (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 1335). Absent diversity of citizenship between two or
more adverse claimants, this Court lacks jurisdiction under
the interpleader statute. Id.
Court acknowledges that “the statutory interpleader
remedy is not limited to cases where there are actual
competing claims, ” as “the United States Supreme
Court has held that ‘claimants’ include
individuals with potential claims because the text of section
1335 includes those who ‘may claim’ the
interpleaded money[.]” Rubinbaum LLP v. Related
Corporate Partners V, L.P., 154 F.Supp.2d 481, 487
(S.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2001) (citing State Farm, 386
U.S. at 531-33). “Interpleader is therefore available
to a stakeholder ‘even though no action has been
brought against it by some or all of the potential
claimants’ as long as it can demonstrate that it
‘has been or may be subjected to adverse
claims.’” JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v.
Oklahoma Oncology & Hematology, P.C., 2007 WL
1428623, at *2 (S.D. Tex. May 11, 2007) (quoting Dunbar
v. United States, 502 F.2d 506, 511 (5th Cir. 1974)).
However, “[a] plaintiff is not entitled to the
statutory interpleader remedy if the assertion that there are
two or more adverse claimants is utterly baseless and made
without good faith.” Rubinbaum LLP, 154
F.Supp.2d at 487.
instant action, the only adverse claimants who have responded
to the complaint, Deborah Hart and Patrick Yates, do not have
diverse citizenship as they are both citizens of the State of
Missouri. Therefore, the diversity requirement of statutory
interpleader would not be met in this case and the Court
would not have jurisdiction under § 1335. However,
plaintiff also named as alleged potential claimants to the
Policy defendants Jeannette Stickler (citizen of Missouri),
Al Uhle (citizen of Florida), Corey Uhle (citizen of
Missouri), Joseph Uhle (citizen of Florida), Sean Uhle
(citizen of Colorado), Susan Uhle (citizen of Florida),
Lauren Volkerding (citizen of Missouri), and Anthony Bove
(citizen of Missouri). If these defendants are potential
adverse claimants, their presence in this action would create
minimal diversity under § 1335.
previously stated, plaintiff’s complaint alleges:
“The application for the Policy provides that
‘unless otherwise requested, the parents of the
Proposed Insureds shall be the beneficiaries, ’ and no
other person was identified or designated as a
beneficiary.” Compl. ¶ 16. Plaintiff also alleges
that “the Insured’s mother predeceased the
Insured” and the Insured’s father, Patrick Yates,
is alive and has submitted a claim. Id. ¶¶