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One Bank & Trust, N.A. v. Lenderman

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

January 25, 2017

ONE BANK & TRUST, N.A. APPELLANT
v.
HORACE L. LENDERMAN, DIANNA SUE LENDERMAN, AND FRANCELLA K. MERRITT APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NINTH DIVISION [NO. 60CV-15-1738] HONORABLE MARY SPENCER MCGOWAN, JUDGE

         REVERSED IN PART; AFFIRMED IN PART; APPELLEES' MOTION DENIED

          Hopkins Law Firm, P.A., by: Stewart Headlee and Gregory M. Hopkins, for appellant.

          Dodds, Kidd & Ryan, by: Lucas Rowan and Catherine A. Ryan, for appellees.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

         This case involves an interpleader action filed by appellant One Bank & Trust, N.A. (the Bank) with respect to funds being held by the Bank. In its complaint for interpleader, the Bank named the appellees herein, Horace L. Lenderman, Dianna Sue Lenderman, and Francella K. Merritt, as defendants who may assert a claim to the funds. The trial court authorized the Bank to deposit the disputed funds into the court registry, and later entered summary judgment awarding the interpleaded funds to Francella. The trial court subsequently awarded Horace and Francella attorney's fees in the amount of $3, 188.25 and did not award attorney's fees to the Bank. The Bank filed a motion for clarification and reconsideration of the order awarding attorney's fees, which was deemed denied thirty days later by operation of law. The Bank appealed from both the order awarding attorney's fees and the denial of its posttrial motion.

          The issues on appeal are solely related to attorney's fees. The Bank argues that the trial court erred in granting separate appellees Horace and Francella's motion for attorney's fees. The Bank further argues that the trial court erred in denying its motion for attorney's fees and costs. Finally, the Bank assigns error to the trial court's denial of its motion for clarification and reconsideration of the order awarding attorney's fees. We reverse the award of attorney's fees to the appellees, and we affirm the trial court's decision declining to award attorney's fees and costs to the Bank.

         The underlying facts are these. Horace and Dianna are married, and Francella is Horace's daughter. The appellees held a certificate of deposit (CD) account with the Bank. The CD account was closed in August 2013, and on August 26, 2013 the Bank issued a check for $21, 005.10 made payable to Horace or Dianna.

         The appellees did not deposit or otherwise negotiate the check for a period of several months, and on June 12, 2014, the Bank placed a stop-payment on the check. On the same day, the Bank issued a replacement check (less a $45.00 stop-payment fee) in the amount of $20, 960.10 made payable to Horace or Francella.[1] Francella then deposited that check into a One Bank account.

         On July 17, 2014, the Bank received a letter from Dianna's attorney stating that Dianna had attempted to deposit the original check at a different bank, but that payment was refused due to the stop-payment order on the check. In the letter, Dianna's attorney demanded payment of the funds, stating that if prompt payment was not made a lawsuit would be filed against the Bank. In response to that letter, the Bank placed a hold on the $20, 960.10 that had been deposited with the Bank by Francella, representing the amount of the replacement check.

         On August 27, 2014, and again on September 9, 2014, the Bank sent letters addressed to each of the appellees advising them of the situation and of the hold placed on the account where the replacement check had been deposited. In these letters, the Bank requested payment instructions so that the $20, 960.10 being held by the Bank could be released. The letter further advised that, if agreed payment instructions were not timely provided, the Bank would deposit the funds with the court so that competing claims could be determined with no further involvement of the Bank. The Bank received no response to these letters.

         On May 22, 2015, the Bank filed a complaint for interpleader, naming the appellees as defendants. In its complaint, the Bank alleged that because competing claims had been made or may be made by each of the appellees, the Bank was unable to determine without hazard to itself which of them was legally entitled to the funds being held by the Bank. The Bank asserted that it should not be required to make that determination because, by doing so, it may subject itself to double liability. The Bank asked permission to deposit the funds into the court's registry, and upon doing so to be discharged from all liability.

         Dianna filed a separate answer, asking that the Bank's complaint for interpleader be dismissed. Horace and Francella filed a joint answer, asserting that they were entitled to the funds at issue and asking that the Bank's complaint be denied and dismissed. On July 22, 2015, the trial court entered an order authorizing the Bank to deposit $20, 960.10 into the court's registry.

          Horace and Francella subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that the trial court award the interpleaded funds to Francella. Dianna did not respond to the summary-judgment motion. The Bank responded, stating that it had no objection to the relief requested, and asking that it be dismissed from the action. On August 27, 2015, the trial court entered summary judgment, awarding the interpleaded funds ...


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