Mutual of America Life Insurance Company v. Smith et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Nadine Smith, Craig Seymour, Karen Leftride, Lillian Robinson, Matilda Dawson, Linda Thompson, and Bryan J. Hutchinson 6/20/17 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 6/20/2017. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
MUTUAL OF AMERICA LIFE INSURANCE
Civil Action No. DKC 16-1125
NADINE SMITH, et. al.
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this federal
interpleader action are two motions for default judgment filed
(ECF Nos. 51; 52).
The issues have been briefed, and
the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary.
For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s motions will
be DENIED without prejudice to renewal.
claims over amounts payable pursuant to annuity contracts issued
by Plaintiff and held by Verneda Pigott.
(ECF No. 1).
complaint names as defendants eight individuals, including Ms.
Dawson and Ms. Leftride; the Estate of Verneda R. Pigott; and
the Living Trust of Verneda Pigott.
(Id. ¶¶ 3-14).
Ms. Leftride was served on April 23, 2016.
(ECF Nos. 13;
She did not file an answer or a responsive pleading.
Upon Plaintiff’s motion (ECF No. 31), the Clerk entered default
against Ms. Leftride on November 7 (ECF No. 43).
made upon Linda Thompson, who is authorized to accept service on
behalf of Ms. Dawson, on May 26.
(ECF Nos. 37; 51-2; 51-3).
Ms. Dawson did not file an answer or a responsive pleading.
Upon Plaintiff’s motion (ECF No. 38), the Clerk entered default
against Ms. Dawson on November 22 (ECF No. 46).
On February 7,
2017, Plaintiff moved for default judgment against Ms. Dawson
and Ms. Leftride.
(ECF Nos. 51; 52).
Neither defendant has
participated in this action, before or after the entries of
Standard of Review
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), “[w]hen a party against whom a
judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or
otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or
otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.”
interpleader action, a default judgment forfeits ‘any claim of
entitlement’ the defaulting party might assert to the interpled
Legacy Inv. & Mgmt., LLC v. Susquehanna Bank, No.
5:10CV00004, 2010 WL 3522131, at *3 (W.D.Va. Sept. 8, 2010));
see also Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Eason, 736 F.2d 130,
133 n.4 (4th Cir. 1984).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
has a “strong policy” that “cases be decided on their merits,”
Dow v. Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D.Md. 2002) (citing United
States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993)),
unresponsive, see S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421
(D.Md. 2005) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C.
entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default judgment; rather,
that decision is left to the discretion of the court.
v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2001).
While the well-
pleaded allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as
true upon entry of default, Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at 422, “it
Legacy Inv., 2013 WL 6990367, at *2 (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
record under the three annuity contracts at issue in this action
are Defendants Nadine Smith, Patricia Doxey, and the Estate.
(ECF No. 1 ¶ 21).
These beneficiary designations were made on
April 14, 2015, by Defendant Craig Seymour as guardian for Ms.
Pigott, and are contested by Defendant Kim Marie St. Amant,
personal representative of the Estate and trustee of the Living
authority as guardian to effectuate a change in the beneficiary
beneficiary designation, dated October 23, 2013, was also made
by Mr. Seymour as guardian.
(Id. ¶ 25).
Ms. Leftride and Ms.
Dawson were designated as beneficiaries on the October 23 form,
as were Ms. Smith, Ms. Doxey, Mr. Seymour, Defendant Lillian
Robinson, and Defendant Sylvia Coleman.
(ECF No. 1-11).
As the court noted in denying without prejudice Ms. St.
Amant’s motion for default judgment in the form of a declaratory
judgment that Mr. Seymour’s beneficiary designations are null
disposition of the designations executed by Mr. Seymour.
No. 50, at 1).
One of those defendants is Ms. Coleman, who was
also named only in the October 23 beneficiary designation and
whose estate has not yet been served.
While entry of default
judgment may be appropriate after all parties have been served
and the parties have been realigned, to enter default judgment
against only some of the beneficiaries under the October 23
properly served and have not opposed the entries of default
against them, the court in its discretion will not enter default
judgment at this time.
Plaintiff’s motions therefore will be
denied without prejudice to renewal.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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