Standard Insurance Company v. Asuncion et al

Filing 21

ORDER granting 16 Plaintiff's Motion for dismissal, discharge and attorneys' fees and costs. Standard Insurance Company terminated, by Judge John C Coughenour.(MD, cc to Fin'l Dept)

Download PDF
THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 STANDARD INSURANCE COMPANY, 10 Plaintiff, 11 CASE NO. C14-0134-JCC ORDER v. 12 PAULA ASUNCION, et al., 13 Defendant. 14 This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Standard Insurance Company’s 15 16 unopposed motion for dismissal, discharge, and an award of attorney’s fees and costs in this 17 interpleader action. (Dkt. No. 16). Having thoroughly considered Plaintiff’s briefing and the 18 relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion. 19 I. BACKGROUND 20 This interpleader action involves the conflicting claims of Defendants Paula Asuncion, 21 Donna Marie Whitaker, Thomas Henderson, Martin Lee Henderson Oroshiba, and Calvin John 22 Henderson to life insurance proceeds in the amount of $20,000. John Charles Henderson, the life 23 insurance policy holder, passed away on August 15, 2013. After his death, his ex-wife Paula 24 Asuncion made a claim to Plaintiff Standard Insurance Company that she is entitled to the 25 benefits as the designated beneficiary under the Policy. Mr. Henderson’s surviving siblings— 26 Donna Marie Whitaker, Thomas Henderson, Martin Lee Henderson Oroshiba, and Calvin John ORDER PAGE - 1 1 Henderson—have also claimed entitlement to the policy benefits. (See Dkt. Nos. 1 at ¶¶ 1–10; 9 2 at ¶¶ 1–4; 14 at 1–2.) Standard encouraged the named defendants to resolve their conflicting 3 claims amongst themselves, but the claimants could not do so. Plaintiff, fearing that it would 4 exposed to conflicting claims and double liability, filed the instant Complaint in Interpleader on 5 January 28, 2014. (Dkt. No. 1.) Standard also delivered a check in the amount of $20,872.80 to 6 the Clerk of Court on February 4, 2014, which represents the disputed insurance proceeds 7 together with statutory interest. (Dkt. No. 17 at ¶ 3.) With the exception of Paula Asuncion, who 8 was served with process on March 30, 2014 (Dkt. No. 13), all other defendants waived service of 9 process. (Dkt. Nos. 4–6, 8.) Defendants Donna Marie Whitaker and Thomas Henderson are the 10 only named defendants to have appeared and filed an answer to the Complaint.1 No defendant 11 opposes Plaintiff’s instant motion for dismissal, discharge, and attorneys’ fees. 12 II. DISCUSSION 13 Interpleader allows a plaintiff stakeholder to sue all those parties who are asserting or 14 might assert claims to a common fund or property held by the stakeholder, and forces the 15 claimants to litigate who is entitled to the funds or property before the same judge. Cripps v. Life 16 Ins. Co. of North America, 980 F.2d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1992); see generally 28 U.S.C. § 1335. 17 The purpose of such an action is to shield the uninterested stakeholder from the costs of 18 unnecessary, multiple litigations by parties with competing claims. See Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. 19 Bayona, 223 F.3d 1030, 1034 (9th Cir. 2000). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1335, the Court has jurisdiction 20 to entertain an interpleader action if (i) the money or property at issue is valued at $500 or more; 21 (ii) two or more adverse claimants of diverse citizenship claim to be entitled to the money or 22 property; and (iii) the plaintiff has deposited the disputed funds into the registry of the court. See 23 28 U.S.C. § 1335. Where an interpleader action is brought pursuant to § 1335, the Court has 24 25 1 Defendant Donna Marie Whitaker also filed a motion for default against the non-appearing defendants. 26 That motion is not the subject of this order, as the Court must first determine whether it may appropriately exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s Complaint in Interpleader. ORDER PAGE - 2 1 authority to enjoin the defendant-claimants from prosecuting any other claims against the 2 plaintiff relating to the benefit under the insurance policy at issue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2361. Finally, 3 the Ninth Circuit has recognized that a plaintiff ―in an action in the nature of interpleader . . . 4 should be awarded attorney fees for the services of his attorneys in interpleading.‖ Schrimer 5 Stevedoring Co. Ltd. v. Seaboard Stevedoring Corp., 306 F.2d 188, 194 (9th Cir. 1962). Here, Plaintiff’s interpleader action is proper under § 1335. The disputed insurance 6 7 proceeds total $20,000 and have been deposited with the Clerk of Court, and at least two of the 8 defendant-claimants are of diverse citizenship. (See Dkt. No. 1 at 1–2; 17 at 2.) Indeed, Plaintiff 9 has disclaimed any interest in the Policy proceeds and encouraged the defendant-claimants to 10 resolve their dispute amongst themselves to no avail; instead, it is now subject to the potential 11 threat of multiple, conflicting claims. As a disinterested stakeholder, Plaintiff is entitled to be 12 discharged from liability. See, e.g., General Electric Capital Assurance v. Van Norman, 209 F. 13 Supp. 2d 668, 670 (S.D. Texas 2002); Standard Insurance Co. v. Nelson, No. C07-0140, 2007 14 WL 1453099 (W.D. Wash. May 17, 2007). Additionally, Plaintiff’s request for an injunction 15 under § 2361 is well founded. Defendants will be enjoined from prosecuting any action against 16 Standard relating to the Policy proceeds, and must instead make their claims to the fund before 17 this Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2361. Finally, because Plaintiff acted in good faith and no Defendant 18 has opposed its request, Standard is entitled to its reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in 19 bringing this action. See Trustees of the Directors Guild of America-Producer Pension Benefits 20 Plan v. Tise, 234 F.3d 415, 426 (9th Cir. 2000). 21 III. CONCLUSION 22 For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion for dismissal, discharge, and attorneys’ fees 23 and costs (Dkt. No. 16) is GRANTED. The Court accordingly ORDERS as follows: 24 (1) Plaintiff Standard Insurance Company is hereby DISMISSED with prejudice from 25 this action and discharged from any and all liability relating to the proceeds of the Group Life 26 Insurance Policy at issue in this litigation. ORDER PAGE - 3 1 (2) Defendants are hereby enjoined from prosecuting any action or commencing any 2 claim against Standard relating to the proceeds of the Group Life Insurance Policy at issue in this 3 action, and instead, shall make their claims to the fund in the Court’s Registry within thirty (30) 4 days of the date of this Order. 5 (3) Plaintiff’s request for an award of costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees is granted. 6 Standard shall file a motion setting forth the specific amount requested with supporting 7 documentation within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Order. 8 DATED this 18th day of June 2014. 9 10 11 A 12 13 14 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 ORDER PAGE - 4

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?