United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge
the Court is Plaintiff Community State Bank's Motion for
Discharge and for Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs (ECF
No. 89). No. party has responded to the motion and the time
to do so has passed. See Local Rule 7.2(b). The
Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.
is a state-chartered banking corporation located in Bradley,
Arkansas, that holds $255, 209.47 in a checking account (the
“Fund”). Plaintiff commenced this interpleader
action to resolve competing claims to the Fund. Plaintiff
indicates that the following individuals have asserted
competing claims to all or part of the Fund: Separate
Defendant Marvin, a district attorney in Bossier Parish,
Louisiana; Maxine Wilson; Separate Defendant Carrie W.
Winford; and Intervenor Gary Wilson.
October 9, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion, asking
the Court to allow it to deposit the Fund with the Clerk of
Court and, accordingly, order that Plaintiff be dismissed and
discharged from this lawsuit. Plaintiff also asks the Court
to exercise its discretion to award it attorney's fees
and costs incurred in bringing this action, to be recovered
from the Fund.
is a procedural device that allows a party holding money or
property, concededly belonging to another, to join in a
single suit two or more parties asserting mutually exclusive
claims to the fund. A party may bring a claim under statutory
interpleader, governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1335, or Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 22. The case at bar is both a
statutory and Rule 22 interpleader case. “The purpose
of an interpleader action is to shield a disinterested
stakeholder from the costs of having to defend against
multiple suits, and from the risk of multiple liability or
inconsistent obligations where several claimants assert
rights to a single stake.” Stonebridge Life Ins.
Co. v. Litherland, No. 4:10-cv-1231 (CEJ), 2011 WL
743753, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 23, 2011) (citing S & W
Foreclosure Corp. v. Okenfuss, No. 4:09-cv-353, 2010 WL
106675, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 6, 2010)).
actions generally unfold in a two-stage process. In a
statutory interpleader case, like this one, the Court first
determines whether the requirements of the interpleader
statute have been met and whether the stakeholder may be
relieved from liability. Viking Ins. Co. of Wis. v.
Kemp, No. 3:12-cv-0216-KGB, 2013 WL 6780571, at *3 (E.D.
Ark. Dec. 19, 2013). If the Court answers those questions
affirmatively, it then proceeds to the second stage, where it
adjudicates the adverse claims to the interpleaded fund.
case is currently in the first stage of the interpleader
process. Plaintiff presently asks the Court to determine that
it is a disinterested stakeholder. Plaintiff then asks the
Court to allow it to deposit the Fund into the registry of
the Court and, afterwards, to be dismissed from this action.
Accordingly, the Court must now determine whether Plaintiff
has satisfied all requirements for this. If so, the Court
will then determine whether Plaintiff is a disinterested
stakeholder and, thus, whether the instant motion should be
granted. If necessary, the Court will determine whether
Plaintiff is entitled to fees and costs.
Discharge and Dismissal
is no set procedure for conducting the first stage of
interpleader.” 7 Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice
& Procedure Civil § 1714 (3d ed. 2018). Courts
typically “determine whether the prerequisites to . .
. statutory interpleader have been met by examining such
things as the citizenship of the litigants, the merits of the
asserted threat of multiple vexation, and, if interpleader is
sought under the statute, the sufficiency of the
stakeholder's deposit or bond.” Prudential Ins.
Co. of Am. v. Herzog, No. 4:16-cv-01306 (CEJ), 2017 WL
1477142, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 25, 2017) (quoting
Vanderlinden v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 137 F.Supp.2d
1160, 1164 (D. Neb. 2001)). “If these requirements are
met, the court may dismiss [a] disinterested stakeholder from
the interpleader action, leaving the claimants to prosecute
their conflicting claims.” Id. Notably, the
merits of the claims do not foreclose interpleader relief.
See Hunter v. Fed. Life Ins. Co., 111 F.2d 551, 556
(8th Cir. 1940).
interpleader statute requires that the value of the money or
property in the plaintiff's possession is at least
$500.00 and that there are at least two adverse claimants of
diverse citizenship asserting claims to the money or
property. 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a)(1). The
requirements of the statute have been met in this case. The
record shows that there are competing claims by minimally
diverse parties because Defendant Maxine Wilson is an
Arkansas citizen and the other claimants are Louisiana
citizens. Thus, Plaintiff “has shown a
legitimate fear of ‘multiple vexation' directed
against a single fund by identifying adverse parties who
claim or could have attempted to claim the [Fund].”
Viking, 2013 WL 6780571, at *3. Plaintiff disclaims
any interest in the Fund and is therefore a disinterested
stakeholder. Prudential, 2017 WL 1477142, at *2.
Finally, the value of the Fund exceeds $500.00. Accordingly,
interpleader action is appropriate here. For this reason, and
because no party has opposed the motion,  the Court finds
that Plaintiff's request for discharge and dismissal
should be granted. The Court must now determine whether
Plaintiff is entitled to fees and costs
Fees and Costs
seeks to recover its attorneys' fees and costs incurred
in bringing and maintaining this interpleader action. No.
rule or statute permits an interpleader plaintiff to recover
its attorney fees. Normally, this lack of authorization would
preclude such a recovery. See, e.g., Doe v.
Nixon, 716 F.3d 1041, 1048 (8th Cir. 2013) (describing
the so-called “American Rule, ” under which each
party bears its own attorneys' fees unless Congress has
provided “explicit statutory authority for awarding
fees to a prevailing party”). “However, federal
courts have traditionally relied on the equitable nature of
the interpleader remedy to allow a ‘modest' award
of attorney fees despite the lack of statutory
authority.” Hearing v. Minn. Life Ins. Co., 33
F.Supp.3d 1035, 1042 (N.D. Iowa 2014), aff'd,
793 F.3d 888 (8th Cir. 2015); see also Hunter v. Fed.
Life Ins. Co., 111 F.2d 551, 557 (8th Cir. 1940)