In our opinion defendants' contention is without merit. The interpleader statute, § 1397, Title 28 U.S.C., gives plaintiff the right to bring the interpleader action in the judicial district in which one or more of the claimants reside.
It does not appear why plaintiff delayed nearly five months after the insured's death in bringing the interpleader action, but defendants make no complaint in this respect.
In the circumstances disclosed we think plaintiff is entitled to costs and reasonable counsel fees.
However, defendants also contend that even if plaintiff is so entitled, that the claimed fees in their total amount should not be charged against the fund. We agree.
There is no objection to the amount of the cost advanced in the sum of $ 56.50, and they will be allowed.
Plaintiff's California counsel charged $ 125.00 for presenting a petition to transfer the action to Pennsylvania. This petition was not contested. Indeed, the claimant Levic attempted to do the same thing, but his efforts were unsuccessful because of his counsel's unfamiliarity with the local rules of the California Court. Since the transfer was for the benefit of all the claimants, we think this item should be paid out of the fund.
The remainder of the claimed fees, i.e., $ 415.00, represents charges for the ordinary interpleader proceedings. Except for a short jurisdictional hearing held in this court -- at which plaintiff's Pittsburgh counsel was in attendance but took no part -- there were no complications, opposition, or resistance to the petition for interpleader. Over and above preparing and presenting the customary petitions to the court, the only extraordinary features were correspondence between Pennsylvania and California counsel and the jurisdictional hearing. On the other hand, the insurance company will be relieved of vexation and the expense of resisting a multiplicity of lawsuits in widely separated jurisdictions, will avoid erroneous election, and will be discharged from all liability on account of the policy involved.
As stated in Shrepic v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 120 F.Supp. 650, 653 (W.D.Pa.1954):
'No inference should be taken, however, that counsel is not entitled to the full amount he claims, taking into account the totality of the value of legal services rendered. But regard for the insurance company's right to costs must be balanced against the true beneficiary's right to the full amount of the policy, bearing in mind that costs are usually difficult to recover from the losing claimant. We think any deficiency in the counsel fee awarded should be paid by the insurance company which receives substantial benefits from the use of this equitable procedure.'
See: Hunter v. Federal Life Ins. Co., 111 F.2d 551 (8th Cir. 1940); John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Doran, 138 F.Supp. 47, 50 f.n. 2 (S.D.N.Y.1956); Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Edner, 73 F.Supp. 300 (W.D.Pa.1947), in which three policies were involved; Edner v. Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co., 59 F.Supp. 688 (W.D.Pa.1945).
In the circumstances, it is our opinion that a fair and reasonable sum to be paid out of the fund for the services rendered in prosecuting the uncontested interpleader proceedings is $ 150.00.
An appropriate order will be entered.