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UNITED BEN. LIFE INS. CO. v. LEECH

May 3, 1971

UNITED BENEFIT LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
Blanche R. LEECH and Emilio J. Leech


VanArtsdalen, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAN ARTSDALEN

VANARTSDALEN, District Judge.

 This is a motion for summary judgment brought by the defendant, Blanche R. Leech, who contends that plaintiff's complaint brought under the Federal Interpleader Act, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1335 (1962), should be dismissed because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. This motion is granted.

 The plaintiff, United Benefit Life Insurance Company, admits liability under annuity life insurance policies upon the deceased, James S. Leech, to the extent of $4,124.20. It has brought this interpleader action under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1335 (1962) to avoid multiple actions from the conflicting claims to that sum made by Blanch R. Leech, the deceased's wife, and Emilio J. Leech, the deceased's uncle. The defendant, Blanche R. Leech, claims that the amount due under the policy is $18,886.12, plus interest from July 22, 1966, the date of the annuitant's death. All the defendants are citizens of Pennsylvania and the plaintiff corporation was incorporated under the laws of Nebraska and has its principal place of business there.

 The deceased died on July 22, 1966. The defendant, Blanche R. Leech, brought an action in state court on June 16, 1967, against the plaintiff, United Benefit Life Insurance Company, to recover the proceeds of the policies. The plaintiff brought this interpleader action on June 3, 1969, almost two years after the state court action was commenced. On June 27, 1969, this Court, by order of Judge Body, refused plaintiff's motion to stay the state court proceedings.

 In the present motion, the defendant, Blanche R. Leech, asserts the following grounds for dismissal of this interpleader action:

 
(1) This proceeding is contrary to the jurisdictional provisions of 28 U.S.C.A. § 1335 because the defendant claimants are not of diverse citizenship.
 
(2) This proceeding is contrary to the jurisdictional provisions at 28 U.S.C.A. § 1335 because the plaintiff has failed to deposit $18,886.12 or any amount with the registry of the court.
 
(3) The court should dismiss this case for laches because plaintiff delayed almost two years from the commencing of the state court action to file the interpleader action in federal court.

 Section 1335 of 28 U.S.C.A. (1962), enacted in 1948, provides:

 
"The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action of interpleader or in the nature of interpleader filed by any person, firm, or corporation, association, or society having in his or its custody or possession money or property of the value of $500 or more * * * if
 
(1) Two or more adverse claimants, of diverse citizenship as defined in section 1332 of this title, are claiming or may claim to be entitled to such money or property, or to any one or more of the benefits arising by virtue of any note, bond, certificate, policy or other instrument, or arising by virtue of any such obligation; and if (2) the plaintiff has deposited such money or property or has paid the amount of or the loan or other value of such instrument or the amount due under such obligation into the registry of the court * * *."

 In order for the court to have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this interpleader action under Section 1335, two or more of the adverse claimants to the proceeds of the annuity policies must be citizens of different states. MFA Mutual Insurance Co. v. Lusby, 295 F. Supp. 660, 664 (W.D. Va. 1969). "This provision has been uniformly construed to require only 'minimal diversity,' that is, diversity of citizenship between two or more claimants, without regard to the circumstance that other rival claimants may be co-citizens." State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Tashire, 386 U.S. 523, 530, 87 S. Ct. 1199, 1203, 18 L. Ed. 2d 270 (1966) (See cases cited at p. 530, n. 5, 386 U.S. 523, 87 S. Ct. 1199, 18 L. Ed. 2d 270). However, in the absence of any diversity of citizenship among the claimants, this court is without jurisdiction under Section 1335. The diverse citizenship of the stakeholder is immaterial. Treinies v. Sunshine Mining Co., 308 U.S. 66, 60 S. Ct. 44, 84 L. Ed. 85 (1939). See Wright on Federal Courts § 74 (2nd ed. 1970). Thus the plaintiff, Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co., cannot proceed under the Federal Interpleader Act because all of the claimants in this action are citizens of Pennsylvania and thus there is no diversity of citizenship among the claimants.

 The question remains, however, whether this court has jurisdiction of this interpleader action under Rule 22 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure *fn1" which is governed by 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332 (1966). There is sufficient diversity for jurisdiction under Section 1332 where, as here, there is diversity of citizenship between the stakeholder and the claimants. Brisacher v. Tracy-Collins Trust Company, 277 F.2d 519, 525 (10th Cir. 1960), citing John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Kraft, 200 F.2d 952 (2nd Cir. 1953); Kerrigan's Estate v. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, 199 F.2d 694 (3rd Cir. 1952). However, Section 1332 provides that "[the] district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs * * *." The determination of whether the jurisdictional amount is present is generally controlled by the sum claimed by the ...


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