United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
OPINION AND ORDER
WEBBER WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bank, an Alabama Banking Corporation, brought this
interpleader action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 22 to resolve competing claims of ownership of
funds in the amount of $80, 677.87 that were on deposit in a
checking account with Regions (Account No. xxxx-0886) but
have now been paid into the registry of the
Court. Nancy Hampton, an Arkansas resident and
Admistratix for the Estate of Willie Townsel, a deceased
former resident of Arkansas, and ArbertDella Lamb, also an
Arkansas resident, both claim ownership of the
funds. Hampton has filed a cross-claim against
Lamb claiming that she is the rightful owner of the funds.
Regions has since been discharged from this action.
before the Court is a motion of Lamb for summary judgment
[doc.#37]. Hampton has responded in opposition to Lamb's
motion and Lamb has filed a reply to Hampton's response.
For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Lamb's
motion for summary judgment.
18, 2009, Townsel and Lamb opened a checking account-Account
No. xxxx0886-with Regions. The account was titled
“Willie Townsel or ArbertDella Lamb.” Townsel and
Lamb were brother and sister. Hampton was Townsel's
contractual rights and duties of Regions, Townsel, and Lamb
with respect to the account were set forth in a written
Deposit Agreement. The Deposit Agreement provides in
pertinent part as follows:
If your account is a personal account and has more than one
name on it, we will treat it as a joint tenant account with
right of survivorship (to the extent such accounts are
recognized under applicable law) unless otherwise expressly
designated on the signature card or other account records.
Deposit Agreement at ¶ 23.
April 4, 2014, Townsel died at age 66. Approximately three
weeks later, on April 23, 2014, Lamb presented Townsel's
death certificate to Regions and requested that the account
be changed to her name alone. Regions granted Lamb's
request after searching its account records and not finding
any express designation or any other evidence that would
alter the presumption that the account at all times was a
joint tenant account with right of survivorship (JTWRS).
April 28, 2014, Hampton petitioned the Circuit Court of
Crittenden County, Arkansas, to administer Townsel's
estate and be appointed his personal representative. On April
30, 2014, the circuit court granted Hampton's petition
and appointed her administratrix of Townsel's
estate. The following day, May 1, 2014, Regions
received written demand from Ronald Wilson, an attorney
representing Hampton, that the account be
“frozen” until the rightful owners of the account
funds could be determined by a state court.
letter dated June 24, 2014, Eric Buchanan, an attorney
representing Lamb, informed Regions that because Townsel and
Lamb owned the account JTWRS, Lamb became the sole owner of
the account when Townsel died. Buchanan asked Regions
“[o]n what legal authority has the account being [sic]
email to Wilson dated July 22, 2014, Regions informed Wilson
that the account was being treated as JTWRS and that it was
not aware of any basis to abide by his request that the
account be frozen. Regions requested that Wilson either
reiterate and detail his request that Regions leave the
freeze on the account or that he withdraw his request. When
Wilson did not respond, Regions, by email dated August 5,
2014, informed him that it would appreciate an update on the
matter and that if it did not hear from him, Regions would
evaluate its options on moving forward without his input.
email to Regions dated August 14, 2014, Wilson stated he was
informed that Townsel left a Last Will and Testament which he
was attempting to locate and that the best course of action
was to interplead the account funds in state court until it
could be determined who was the rightful owner of the funds.
However, in her petition to the circuit court to administer
Townsel's estate, Hampton stated that Townsel died
intestate. In granting Hampton's petition, the circuit
court likewise stated that Townsel died intestate. In her
cross-claim against Lamb, Hampton does not mention a will but
states she is the rightful owner of the funds “based on
a constructive trust theory and other applicable common law
and statutory law.”
letter dated August 15, 2014, Buchanan, referencing
Hampton's petition to the circuit court to administer
Townsel's estate and the circuit court's order
granting same, informed Regions that Townsel died intestate
and that because the Deposit Agreement required the account
to be treated as JTWRS, it was unnecessary to interplead the
funds. Buchanan stated he ...