United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
S. MOODY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendants Mary and Matthew
Burnes' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 27), Plaintiff American
National Insurance Company's Advisory in Response to the
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 30), Defendant Danielle Elardo's
Brief in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 31), and a
court hearing held on May 24, 2017. Upon review, the Court
concludes that Defendants' motion should be denied.
an interpleader action. On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff
American National Insurance Company (“American
National”) filed a complaint (Doc. 1) alleging that it
was subject to conflicting and inconsistent claims regarding
entitlement to the proceeds of the life insurance policy of
James L. Burne, III. American National named five potential
claimants to the life insurance proceeds as defendants: April
Hansen, V.B., Danielle Elardo, Mary Burne, and Matthew Burne.
American National is a citizen of Texas; all five claimants
are citizens of Florida. The proceeds at issue are one million
March 24, 2017, the Parties stipulated that American National
would deposit the life insurance proceeds into the
Court's registry and then be discharged from this
lawsuit. American National deposited the proceeds, and the
Court entered a judgment discharging American National (Docs.
20 & 40). Shortly thereafter, Defendants Mary Burne and
Matthew Burne filed the instant motion, arguing that the
Court should dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)
because it lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
in equity, interpleader is a handy tool to protect a
stakeholder from multiple liability and the vexation of
defending multiple claims to the same fund.”
Washington Elec. Co-op., Inc. v. Paterson, Walke &
Pratt, P.C., 985 F.2d 677, 679 (2d Cir. 1993). When the
stakeholder fears conflicting claims to the fund, it can file
an interpleader action, which requires the adverse claimants
to litigate the issue between themselves in that one
proceeding. See Fulton v. Kaiser Steel Corp., 397
F.2d 580, 582-83 (5th Cir. 1968) (internal citation omitted).
stakeholder can file an interpleader action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. section 1335 (“statutory interpleader”) or
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22 (“rule
interpleader”). In a statutory interpleader action, the
court has subject matter jurisdiction if the adverse
claimants are minimally diverse and the amount in controversy
is at least $500. 28 U.S.C. § 1335. In a rule
interpleader action, the court has subject matter
jurisdiction if there is federal question jurisdiction or
diversity jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 22; 28
U.S.C. § 1331; 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Diversity
jurisdiction exists when the plaintiff (i.e., the
stakeholder) is completely diverse from the defendants (i.e.,
the claimants) and the amount in controversy exceed $75, 000.
28 U.S.C. § 1332; Ohio Nat. Life Assur. Corp. v.
Langkau ex rel. Estate of Langkau, 353 F.App'x 244,
249 (11th Cir. 2009).
National filed this action pursuant to both section 1335 and
Rule 22 even though only Rule 22 was applicable; it alleged
diversity jurisdiction. Defendants Mary Burne and Matthew
Burne argue that the Court does not have diversity
jurisdiction because it discharged American National from
this action, so all remaining parties are citizens of
Florida. They cite no legal authority to support this
argument. The Court is not persuaded by Defendants'
argument for the following reasons.
it is well-established that the Court must assess the
existence of diversity jurisdiction at the time an action is
filed. Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. v. K N Energy, Inc.,
498 U.S. 426, 428 (1991). It is evident that diversity
jurisdiction existed at the time of filing- the Amended
Complaint (Doc. 38) alleges complete diversity between
Plaintiff American National and Defendants (i.e., the five
claimants), as well as an amount in controversy far exceeding
$75, 000. Subsequent events do not generally divest the Court
of this jurisdiction. Freeport, 498 U.S. at 428
(internal citations omitted); Charles Alan Wright et al., 13E
Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 3608 (3d ed. 2017).
even if discharging American National did divest the Court of
its diversity jurisdiction, the Court would still have
supplemental jurisdiction over the claimants' remaining
claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367; see also Charles Alan
Wright et al., 7 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1710 (3d
ed. 2017). Given that the Court had jurisdiction over
American National's original claim for interpleader, it
can retain jurisdiction of the claimants' related claims
to the life insurance proceeds.
the Court notes that accepting Defendant's argument would
lead to results wholly inconsistent with the policies
underlying the interpleader remedy. The purpose of
interpleader is to provide relief for a stakeholder who might
otherwise be threatened by multiple lawsuits and competing
judgments for a single source of funds. See Fulton,
397 F.2d at 582-83 (internal citation omitted). If courts
dismissed an interpleader action after it discharged the
stakeholder but before the adverse claimants had litigated
their competing claims, the claimants would be left to assert
their claims in separate actions, once again exposing the
stakeholder to numerous lawsuits and multiple liability.
therefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that:
Defendants Mary and Matthew Burnes' Motion to ...