Regions Equipment Finance Corporation v. Blue Tee Corp.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants alternative motion to dissolve the attachment is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall have until March 3, 2016, to file with the Clerk of Court proof that it is registered to do business in the State of Missouri. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is stayed until March 3, 2016, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 64(a) and Mo. Rev. Stat. § 351.574.3. If plaintiff fails to file proof that it is registered to do busine ss in the State of Missouri by that date, the stay shall terminate automatically and the Court will enter an order dissolving the writ of attachment without further notice to the parties. ( Response to Court due by 3/3/2016.) Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 2/22/2016. (KMS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
REGIONS EQUIPMENT FINANCE CORP.,
BLUE TEE CORP.,
Case No. 4:16-CV-140-CEJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on defendant’s motion to dissolve a writ of
On January 27, 2016, plaintiff Regions Equipment Finance Corporation initiated
this action against defendant Blue Tee Corporation in the Circuit Court of St. Louis
In Count I plaintiff asserted a claim of breach of contract in
connection with defendant’s default under the terms of an equipment lease.
Count II, plaintiff sought a writ of attachment. On the same date, plaintiff filed a
motion for a pre-judgment writ of attachment, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 521.010(2) and Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85, directed to monies held the defendant’s account
at Bank of America, N.A. In support of the motion, plaintiff submitted the affidavit of
its authorized agent, Robert Korte, attesting to the defendant’s default and the
amount owed to plaintiff.
The circuit court granted the motion, and the writ was served on the Bank of
America branch located in Clayton, Missouri.
Defendant had opened its account at
what is now one of Bank of America’s branch locations in Illinois.
concedes that it accesses the funds in the account from its headquarters in New York,
and it does not deny that it can access the funds at any Bank of America branch in
Missouri or elsewhere.
In compliance with the writ of attachment, Bank of America
froze the funds in the defendant’s account, totaling $2,203,732.84.
On February 3, 2016, defendant removed the action to this Court, invoking
jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
now moves to dissolve the attachment, pursuant to Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.14, and a
hearing on the motion was held on February 18, 2016, pursuant to Mo. Sup. Ct. R.
Rule 64(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides: “At the
commencement of and throughout an action, every remedy is available that, under
the law of the state where the court is located, provides for seizing a person or
property to secure satisfaction of the potential judgment.” In turn, Rule 85.02 of the
Missouri Supreme Court Rules permits “a party who presents” in “a civil action” a
“claim by petition” to “obtain a writ of attachment.”
See State ex rel. Costco
Wholesale Corp. v. Hartenbach, 267 S.W.3d 725, 727–28 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008)
(applying Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.02 and commanding a lower court issue a writ of
attachment against a non-Missouri corporation, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 521.010(2)). A plaintiff seeking a writ of attachment must file a “sufficient bond,”
as it is conceded plaintiff did here.
§ 521.070 (same).
Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.08; see Mo. Rev. Stat.
A plaintiff requesting a writ of attachment must also file an
affidavit stating “the nature and amount of the claim” and “[f]acts showing the
existence of one or more of the grounds for attachment set forth in” Mo. Rev. Stat.
Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.03; see Mo. Rev. Stat. 521.060 (same).
applicable to defendant, a New York corporation, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 521.010(2)
establishes grounds for attachment “[w]here the defendant is a corporation whose
chief office or place of business is out of this state.”
A defendant whose property is attached has two methods of recourse. First,
the defendant “may retain or regain the possession” of the property “at any time
before final judgment” by providing adequate “bond and security.” Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 521.260; see Mo. Rev. Stat. 521.480(2)–(3) (describing the nature of an adequate
bond); Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.09.
Defendant has not elected to post a bond to regain
control of the attached funds.
Second, a defendant deprived of its property by attachment may initiate
proceedings seeking to dissolve the writ of attachment, pursuant to Mo. Sup. Ct. R.
85.14. That Rule provides that an attachment “may be dissolved on motion made by
the owner of the property at any time before final judgment,” and further provides
that the plaintiff bears “the burden of proving that the attachment was properly
Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.14(a)–(b); see Mo. Rev. Stat. § 521.420.1 (same).
Rule 85.14(c) in turn commands that an “attachment shall be dissolved at any time
before final judgment when” a defendant so requests and, as relevant here, a court
finds either “[t]he affidavit is insufficient and the claimant fails to file a sufficient
affidavit, approved by the court, within such time as the court directs;” or that “[f]or
any other reason the writ of attachment should not have been issued. Mo. Sup. Ct.
R. 85.14(c)(2), (4).
Where, commensurate with Rule 85.14(c)(2), a defendant files “a motion to
dissolve [an] attachment” “putting in issue the truth of the facts alleged in the
affidavit on which the attachment was sued out” that motion must be “verified by
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 521.410.
Here, defendant challenges the Korte affidavit
supporting the attachment, but defendant has not filed an affidavit supporting its
motion to dissolve.
Thus, the only question for purposes of Rule 85.14(c)(2) is
whether Korte’s affidavit is “insufficient” on its face.
See Mo. Rev. Stat.
However, even where a court finds an affidavit in support of a writ of
attachment is insufficient, the attachment must not be dissolved “if the plaintiff shall
file a good and sufficient affidavit, to be approved by the court, in such time and
manner as the court shall direct.” Id.
Defendant advances five grounds for dissolving the writ of attachment. First,
defendant argues it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Missouri, which
necessitates dismissal of the case, and thus dissolution of the writ. As explained at
the hearing, the Court will reserve ruling on the issue of personal jurisdiction pending
Second, defendant contends that the complaint either fails to state a claim in its
entirety or fails to state a claim for the full $2.2 million in the frozen account. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Applying the Missouri attachment procedures at issue here,
the Eighth Circuit has held that, “[t]he affiant must simply have good reason to
believe in the existence of one or more grounds for attachment.”
Enterprise Bank v.
Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747–48 (8th Cir. 1996) (citing Mo. Rev. Stat.
“The affiant need not be ultimately correct in his belief.”
Elliott v. McCormick, 19 S.W.2d 654, 659–60 (Mo. 1929)).
the complaint fails to state a claim for some or all of the relief plaintiff requests is not
an “other reason” to dissolve the writ immediately. See Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.14(c)(4).
Defendant cites no support holding to the contrary, and the Court has found none.
Also, defendant’s disagreement with the factual allegations in the complaint
and in Korte’s affidavit does not justify dissolving the attachment. See Mo. Sup. Ct.
R. 85.14(c)(2). Korte attests that there were multiple events of default that gave
rise to the claimed damages of $2,203,732.84, with additional liability continuing to
accrue for attorney’s fees, costs, and interest. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 521.060; Mo.
Sup. Ct. R. 85.03. In opposition to the motion to dissolve plaintiff has submitted the
affidavit of Daniel Devries, who attests to the schedules, supplements and other
documents on which the calculation of the plaintiff’s damages is based and further
supports the attachment.
Although it had the option to do so, see Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 521.410, defendant has not proffered an affidavit to counter the affidavits
submitted by plaintiff or the factual allegations of the complaint. Plaintiff’s evidence
supporting the writ thus stands uncontroverted.
Third, defendant contends that Rule 85.14(c)(4) requires that the attachment
be dissolved because no court in Missouri has the power to attach defendant’s
fungible, intangible assets held at Bank of America. “Because Missouri law governs
this diversity suit,” the Court is “bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court of
Gray v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 799 F.3d 995, 999 (8th Cir.
2015) (quotation marks and citation omitted). “If that court has not addressed an
issue of state law,” the Court must “predict how it would rule, and [must] follow
decisions from the intermediate state courts when they are the best evidence of
Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Neither party was able to
cite a case—and the Court has found none—in which the Missouri courts have
addressed whether an attachment in Missouri will lie as to funds held in an account at
a national bank that are available to the accountholder at one of the bank’s branches
Persuasive authority leads the Court to “predict that the Missouri Supreme
Court would find that,” W. Heritage Ins. Co. v. Asphalt Wizards, 795 F.3d 832, 837
(8th Cir. 2015), funds held in a bank account concededly available and (for all intents
and purposes, therefore) “present” at a bank’s branch in Missouri are subject to
attachment in this State.
The closest Missouri courts have come to addressing this issue appears to be in
Strande v. Mershon, 814 S.W.2d 704 (Mo. Ct. App. 1991).
In Strande, the Missouri
Court of Appeals held that “wages owed to” a Kansan defendant, who was employed
in Kansas, and whose “wages are paid there” “had no situs” and were therefore
subject to garnishment in Missouri in satisfaction of the Kansan’s debt to a Missouri
Id. at 705.
Though wages owed but not yet paid are not precisely
analogous to funds purportedly based in Illinois and New York but electronically
available everywhere, Strande suggests Missouri’s courts take an expansive view of
where intangible assets are located.
See also See State ex rel. Fielder v. Kirkwood,
138 S.W.2d 1009, 1011 (Mo. 1940) (explaining “laws relating to attachments”
“necessarily assume that the property has a situs distinct from the owner’s domicile,
that it “is well settled that a debt may be attached wherever the creditor might
maintain a suit to recover it,” and that “it is settled that in this state one non-resident
may sue another by attachment”). That expansive view is consistent with predicting
that the Missouri Supreme Court would find that defendant’s funds that are available
in Missouri are subject to attachment here.
See also Friedman v. Fid. Brokerage
Servs., Inc., 56 F.3d 866, 866 (8th Cir. 1995) (affirming a district court’s order that a
plaintiff could not “recover funds” the defendant “had turned over to the State of New
York according to a tax levy,” and finding the plaintiff’s “jurisdictional arguments
[were] misplaced,” where the plaintiff had argued the defendant “should not have
honored the levy because the funds it turned over were located in a Massachusetts
account and ‘not within the jurisdiction of the State of New York’”).
Further, it is noteworthy that Bank of America has made no claim that the
defendant’s account is not located in Missouri and is thus not subject to attachment
Instead, the bank has complied with the writ with the effect being that
defendant cannot access the money in its account, whether at the Illinois branch
where the account was opened, the New York branch where defendant is located, or
any other Bank of America location.
See Wry v. Wade, 814 S.W.2d 655, 658–59
(Mo. Ct. App. 1991) (holding that a garnishee-corporation “with a registered agent for
service in Missouri” and which had “access and authority to pay over the [plaintiffs’]
funds” created a sufficient nexus between Missouri and the intangible debt, such that
the funds in question were located “in this state and subject to in rem jurisdiction”).
The concerns defendant cites predate modern computerized banking and do not
square with the facts here, where Bank of America was able to seamlessly freeze
defendant’s intangible assets everywhere immediately after it was served with the
writ at its Missouri branch.
See Acme Contracting, Ltd. v. Toltest, Inc., No.
07-10950, 2008 WL 4534175, at *5 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 3, 2008) (holding the “separate
entity rule” is “obsolete” policy because today, “banks use highspeed computers with
central indexing capabilities to keep track of accounts which, along with other
sophisticated communications equipment, enable a bank with multiple branches to
easily monitor checking accounts from the main branch,” and the defendant’s “right to
draw on its account at any of the numerous [bank] branches located in” the state was
dispositive of whether the intangible funds were located there); see also Marisco, Ltd.
v. Am. Samoa Gov’t, 889 F. Supp. 2d 1244, 1250 (D. Haw. 2012) (predicting Hawaii
also would not apply the separate entity rule). The Court predicts that the Missouri
Supreme Court, when faced with the fact that Bank of America is not contesting the
attachment and that it froze defendant’s account without delay or difficulty from its
Missouri branch, would not apply the separate entity rule here.
Though defendant cites some support for the proposition that the separate
entity rule continues to apply, recent decisions from the Second Circuit and the New
York Court of Appeals recapitulating the rule have pointed out that it has “no apparent
mooring in the text” of New York law and have instead upheld it based on “policy
consideration[s]” of “international banking” irrelevant here.
See Tire Eng’g &
Distribution L.L.C. v. Bank of China Ltd., 740 F.3d 108, 115 (2d Cir.) certified question
accepted, 5 N.E.3d 590 (2014) and certified question withdrawn, 7 N.E.3d 506 (2014)
and certified question answered sub nom. Motorola Credit Corp. v. Standard
Chartered Bank, 21 N.E.3d 223 (2014) (citing Det Bergenske Dampskibsselskab v.
Sabre Shipping Corp., 341 F.2d 50, 53 (2d Cir. 1965)).
concession that its purportedly Illinois-sitused account is available at its headquarters
in New York—which is not where Bank of America is headquartered—establishes that
the account is available in every domestic state Bank of America has a branch.
those reasons, the Court predicts the Missouri Supreme Court would hold attaching
the account in Missouri was consistent with Missouri law.
Fourth, defendant argues that the attachment should be dissolved because
plaintiff is not presently registered to do business in Missouri. Plaintiff concedes that
its registration has lapsed.
Under Missouri law, “[a] foreign corporation transacting
business in this state without a certificate of authority may not maintain a proceeding
in any court in this state until it obtains a certificate of authority.”
Mo. Rev. Stat.
The statute further provides that a court “may stay a proceeding
commenced by a foreign corporation . . . until the foreign corporation or its successor
obtains the certificate.”
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 351.574.3; see State ex rel. Carlund Corp.
v. Mauer, 850 S.W.2d 357, 359–61 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993) (holding Mo. Rev. Stat
§ 351.574.3 “authorizes the court to stay the proceedings until the foreign
corporation complies with the law”).
Plaintiff is presently undertaking to renew its registration, and the Court finds it
is appropriate to temporarily stay the proceedings to permit plaintiff to complete that
process. Defendant will not be prejudiced by the Court issuing a brief stay because
none of the other grounds it has asserted for dissolving the attachment are availing.
Finally, no “other reason” raised by defendant exists to dissolve the
attachment, because defendant has a method by which to regain control of its funds.
See Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 85.14(c)(4). To reestablish control over its funds, defendant
need only post a sufficient bond. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 521.260; see Mo. Sup. Ct. R.
85.09. Defendant’s ability to regain access to its funds vitiates its argument that it
will suffer irreparably if the Court refuses to prematurely rule on personal jurisdiction.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s alternative motion to dissolve the
attachment is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall have until March 3, 2016, to
file with the Clerk of Court proof that it is registered to do business in the State of
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is stayed until March 3, 2016,
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 64(a) and Mo. Rev. Stat. § 351.574.3. If plaintiff fails to
file proof that it is registered to do business in the State of Missouri by that date, the
stay shall terminate automatically and the Court will enter an order dissolving the writ
of attachment without further notice to the parties.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 22nd day of February, 2016.
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