Acuity, A Mutual Insurance Company v. Simler et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: Because it cannot establish the full amount in dispute, the Court will defer ruling on Plaintiff Acuitys Motion to Deposit Funds (Doc. 34 ), and direct the remaining defendants to advise the Court of their positions regardi ng the liability limits of the subject policies. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Ross, Gartner, Guy, LM General, State Farm, Progressive, and Hartford shall each file with the Court a memorandum stating its position on Plaintiffs declaratory judgment count within 14 days of the entry of this order. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 4/9/18. (JAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ACUITY, A MUTUAL INSURANCE
KELLY MARIE SIMLER, et al.,
No. 4:17-CV-02197 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Acuity’s Motion to Deposit Funds. (Doc. 34.)
Plaintiff seeks to deposit a sum of $2 million, representing what it alleges is the maximum
amount in dispute. (Id.; Doc. 67 at 2.)
Plaintiff alleges the following:
On September 6, 2016, Defendant Kim Ross, an
employee of Defendant Dubuque Paint Equipment, Inc. (“Dubuque Paint”), was involved in a
motor vehicle accident on Interstate 70 in Montgomery County, Missouri. (Doc. 40 at ¶ 20.)
Also involved in the accident were Defendants Kelly and Scott Simler, Linda Gartner, and Terrel
Guy. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-23.) At the time, Dubuque Paint was covered under insurance policies issued
by Plaintiff, including a business auto policy and a commercial excess policy. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.)
The Simlers, Gartner, and Guy all filed claims against the proceeds of those policies. (Id. at ¶¶
21-23.) The Simlers and Gartner also filed suit against Ross and Dubuque Paint. (Id. at ¶¶ 2122.)
In light of the Defendants’ multiple competing claims and lawsuits, Plaintiff filed this
action, advancing two counts: an interpleader count allowing it to deposit the proceeds of the
policies and be discharged from further obligations; and a declaratory judgment count seeking a
court order declaring that Plaintiff’s liability is limited to $2 million ($1 million per accident, per
policy). (Id. at ¶¶ 28-38.) Also named as defendants are LM General Insurance Company (“LM
General”), which insured Kelly Simler at the time of the accident; State Farm Fire & Casualty
Company (“State Farm”), which insured Gartner at the time of the accident; Progressive
Casualty Insurance Company (“Progressive”), which insured Guy at the time of the accident; and
Hartford Insurance (“Hartford”), which provided workers’ compensation benefits to Kelly
Simler following the accident. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-26.)
All of the defendants filed individual answers, except for Ross and Progressive. (Docs.
41, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59.) In their answers, the Simlers and Guy advanced counter-claims
for declaratory judgement, seeking a court order declaring that Plaintiff’s liability limit is $1
million per person, per policy. (Docs. 51, 10.) 1 Meanwhile, Gartner and State Farm assert in
their answers that the liability limit is $1 million per vehicle, per policy, though neither advances
a formal counter-claim. (Docs. 55, 56.) LM General, Hartford, and Dubuque Paint each deny
Plaintiff’s $1-million-per-accident liability limitation assertion, but offer no express alternative.
(Docs. 41, 50, 54.)
Plaintiff filed the underlying Motion to Deposit Funds, seeking to place in the Court’s
registry $2 million. (Doc. 34.) Believing that the amount deposited by Plaintiff may cap the
Court’s jurisdiction over the interpleader action, the Court directed Defendants to file any
objection to Plaintiff’s Motion to Deposit Funds. (Doc. 57.) When no objection was filed, the
The Court notes that Guy does not include the counter-claim in his answer to Plaintiff’s amended complaint, (Doc.
Court ordered Defendants to show cause why it should not enter an order granting Plaintiff’s
Motion to Deposit Funds and thereby accept that the Court’s jurisdiction over the interpleader is
limited to a total amount of $2 million. (Doc. 60.) The Simlers responded, objecting to the
deposit “if that deposit requires a finding by the Court that $2,000,000 is in fact equal to the
largest claim made against [Plaintiff] and its insureds.” (Doc. 66.)
Also, Plaintiff and the Simlers have filed competing Motions for Summary Judgment on
their declaratory judgment claim and against the other’s. (Docs. 61, 62.) Dubuque Paint has
joined the Simlers’ motion. (Doc. 65.)
The Federal Interpleader Act grants district courts jurisdiction over cases in which (1)
two or more diverse and adverse claimants may claim to be entitled to the same money, property,
or benefits of a policy and (2) the plaintiff has deposited such money or property or the amount
due under such policy into the registry of the court. 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a). Courts have long held
that jurisdiction is contingent on Plaintiff depositing the full amount in dispute. Gaines v.
Sunray Oil Co., 539 F.2d 1136, 1142 (8th Cir. 1976) (“A stakeholder may not compel a party to
litigate his claim in interpleader unless he deposits with the court an amount equal to the sum
claimed by that party.” (emphasis added)); see also, CNA Ins. Companies v. Waters, 926 F.2d
247, 250 (3d Cir. 1991) (“[S]ince the amount of the stake is in dispute, [Plaintiff] should have
paid into the court registry the highest amount for which it ultimately may be liable.”); Miller &
Miller Auctioneers, Inc. v. G. W. Murphy Indus., Inc., 472 F.2d 893, 895 (10th Cir. 1973)
(“[W]hen rival claims for a sum of money are involved, payment of the entire sum into the
registry of the court or the giving of a bond meeting the requirements of the statute is a condition
precedent to the jurisdiction of the court.”); Metal Transp. Corp. v. Pac. Venture S. S. Corp., 288
F.2d 363, 365 (2d Cir. 1961) (“[A] district court has no jurisdiction of an action of interpleader if
the stakeholder deposits a sum smaller than that claimed by the claimants.”); Austin v. TexasOhio Gas Co., 218 F.2d 739, 745 (5th Cir. 1955) (“When claims for a sum of money only are
involved, payment of the entire sum (or giving of a bond) is a condition precedent to the court's
jurisdiction.”); A & E Television Networks, LLC v. Pivot Point Entm't, LLC, 771 F. Supp. 2d 296,
300-01 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (collecting cases).
For its part, Plaintiff asserts that it “is aware of no claim by any defendant that he or she
is entitled to more than $2 million.” (Doc. 67.) However, the Simlers, Gartner, and Guy
expressly assert that, together, their claims total more than $2 million. (Doc. 61-3.) Therefore,
the Court cannot find that Plaintiff’s proposed $2 million deposit is sufficient without first
determining the full amount in dispute. Moreover, the Court cannot establish the full amount in
dispute without also ruling on Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment count (and the attendant Motions
for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff and the Simlers and joined by Dubuque Paint). The
Court will therefore defer ruling on Plaintiff’s Motion to Deposit pending resolution of the
declaratory judgment count.
Because it cannot establish the full amount in dispute, the Court will defer ruling on
Plaintiff Acuity’s Motion to Deposit Funds (Doc. 34), and direct the remaining defendants to
advise the Court of their positions regarding the liability limits of the subject policies.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Ross, Gartner, Guy, LM General, State
Farm, Progressive, and Hartford shall each file with the Court a memorandum stating its position
on Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment count within 14 days of the entry of this order.
Dated this 9th day of April, 2018.
JOHN A. ROSS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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