United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
ORDER GRANTING JOINT MOTION FOR INTERPLEADER
L. PARKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an interpleader action involving an ERISA-regulated group
life insurance plan. Plaintiff, Sun Life Assurance Company of
Canada (“Sun Life”), and W.T., a minor, through
his duly appointed Guardian Ad Litem, jointly move to
interplead $73, 000.00 in funds from Decedent Waddell. B.
Twilley's life insurance policy. (ECF No. 26.) No. other
Defendant has made an appearance here. The Court finds that
the joint motion is well-taken and is hereby GRANTED.
Life filed this interpleader action seeking to determine the
rightful recipient of funds payable under the life insurance
policy (the “Policy”) of Decedent Waddell B.
Twilley. (See ECF No. 1.) The Policy was an
ERISA-regulated plan, and Sun Life is the plan issuer and
claim administrator. (ECF No. 26 at PageID 106.) At the time
of Decedent's passing, his wife, Latosha Starks-Twilley,
was a 50% primary beneficiary and his minor child, W.T., was
a 50% primary beneficiary of the proceeds of the Policy.
(Id. at PageID 107.) No. secondary or contingent
beneficiaries were named. (Id.)
Latosha Starks-Twilley is charged with the homicide of
Decedent and is awaiting trial on criminal charges of
first-degree murder. (Id.) As a result,
Starks-Twilley's claim to 50% of the death benefits under
the Policy is in dispute under Tennessee's slayer
statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 31-1-106.
(Id. at PageID 106.) And Decedent's death has
led to the disbursement of more benefits under the
Policy's Accidental Death and Dismemberment provision.
(ECF No. 26 at PageID 107.) The total benefits payable under
the Policy is about $146, 000.00. (Id.)
Life paid W.T.'s 50% interest of these funds in May 2019.
(Id. at PageID 108.) Now Sun Life, as a stakeholder
with no claim to the disputed funds, and W.T. jointly seek to
deposit the remaining funds, about $73, 000.00, into this
Court's registry pending the determination of the
rightful beneficiary. (Id. at PageID 109.) Sun Life
also seeks two additional orders: one requiring all
Defendants to present their claims in this interpleader case
for the disputed benefits; and, another order enjoining the
Defendants from instituting or prosecuting any other lawsuit,
action or proceeding in any State or United States court
against Sun Life, nexAir, LLC, and or the Policy for the
recovery of death benefits, plus any applicable interest or
any portion of it. (Id.)
seeks interpleader under Rule 22 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 26 at PageID 105.) A plaintiff
exposed to multiple liabilities from persons with claims may
join, as defendants, those persons and require them to
interplead under this Rule. Fed.R.Civ.P. 22(a)(1). There are
typically two stages to an interpleader action. United
States v. High Tech. Products, Inc., 497 F.3d 637, 641
(6th Cir. 2007). The first stage entails determining
“whether the stakeholder has properly invoked
interpleader, including whether the court has jurisdiction
over the suit, whether the stakeholder is actually threatened
with double or multiple liability, and whether any equitable
concerns prevent the use of interpleader. Id.
(citing 7 CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER, & MARY
KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1714 (3d ed.
2001)). The second stage is when “the court determines
the respective rights of the claimants to the fund or
property at stake . . . .” Id. If the court
determines that interpleader is appropriate, the court may,
before proceeding to the second stage, discharge a
disinterested stakeholder, enjoin the parties from
instituting legal proceedings related to the disputed funds,
and direct the claimants to interplead. Id.
Sun Life has shown that there is a legitimate possibility
that multiple, adverse parties could lay claim to the
remaining 50% of the benefits under the Policy. A good case
in point is that W.T. answered the interpleader action and
asserted a crossclaim against Starks-Twilley alleging that
Starks-Twilley forfeited her share of the Policy benefits and
so her 50% share defaults to W.T. (See ECF No. 20 at
PageID 95-97.) The Court agrees that Sun Life is not in the
best position to decide the merits of the competing claims.
Interpleader is thus proper.
Life has shown that it is a disinterested stakeholder simply
seeking to determine the rightful beneficiary of the
remaining funds under the Policy. Sun Life does not dispute
that the funds are due and payable on Decedent's benefit.
Additionally, no Defendant has filed a counterclaim against
Sun Life here. Thus, dismissal of Sun Life is proper once the
funds have been deposited into this Court's registry.
reasons above, this Court GRANTS Sun Life and W.T.'s
Joint Motion for Interpleader. Sun Life is ORDERED to deposit
the disputed funds, about $73, 000.00, into the Court
Registry within fourteen days of this Order being entered.
The Court will enter judgment dismissing Sun Life from this
case once the funds are deposited, and the Defendants shall
interplead their claims.