United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
ZAINEY JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike
(Rec. Doc. 20) filed by Plaintiff Tricia Story.
Defendant/Plaintiff in Interpleader Metropolitan Life
Insurance Company (“MetLife”) opposes the motion.
(Rec. Doc. 24). The motion, set for submission on April 17,
2019, is before the Court on the briefs. Having considered
the motion and memoranda of counsel, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion
should be DENIED for the reasons set forth
employed by AT&T, Inc. (“AT&T”),
Plaintiff's husband Michael Zauner participated in an
employee welfare benefit plan governed by the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. §
1001, et seq. (“ERISA”). (Rec. Doc. 1
Complaint, ¶ 9) (Rec. Doc. 24, p. 5). On September 17,
2018, Zauner passed away. (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶ 13). Plaintiff
filed the instant case alleging that AT&T, MetLife, and
Fidelity Workplace Services, LLC (“Fidelity') have
unlawfully denied her the funds that she is entitled to as
beneficiary under the terms to the ERISA plan. (Id.
March 26, 2019, Defendant MetLife filed an Ex Parte
Motion for Interpleader (Rec. Doc. 17). As the motion was
filed ex parte and Plaintiff did not consent to the
motion, counsel for Plaintiff called chambers to indicate
that the ex parte motion was in fact
opposed. Affording Plaintiff the opportunity to
state objections on a motion before the Court, the Court
noticed the interpleader motion for submission on April 17,
2019. (Rec. Doc. 22). In opposition to MetLife's
interpleader, Plaintiff requests the Court to dismiss and
strike the interpleader motion pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), based on lack of subject matter
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may only hear
those cases authorized by the United States Constitution and
federal statutes. Coury v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 248
(5th Cir.1996). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
provides that a party may assert that a court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction. Upon the determination that the court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).
case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Home
Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison,
Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir.1998). “Courts
may dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on any
one of three different bases: (1) the complaint alone; (2)
the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts in the record;
or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus
the court's resolution of disputed facts.”
Clark v. Tarrant Cnty., 798 F.2d 736, 741 (5th
Cir.1986). The burden of proof on a 12(b)(1) motion is on the
party asserting jurisdiction over the claim. Ramming v.
United States, 281 F.3d 158 (5th Cir.2001).
to 28 U.S.C. § 1335, this Court “shall have
original jurisdiction of any civil action of interpleader or
in the nature of interpleader.” In order for a party to
establish Section 1335 subject matter jurisdiction, there
must be two or more adverse claimants to the money or
property in the interpleader's possession. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1335(a)(1). The issue before the Court is whether
there exist two or more adverse claimants to the funds in
argues that the alleged “adverse claimants”
consented to MetLife's tender of the life insurance
policy proceeds in whole to Plaintiff. (Rec. Doc. 20-1, p.
1). MetLife counters that under 28 U.S.C. § 1335, there
need only be claimants who may claim
entitlement to the fund. (Rec. Doc. 24, p. 2). MetLife
asserts that in December of 2018, AT&T informed MetLife
that Fidelity was referring a claim for Zauner's death
benefits, and that Fidelity had received a “rival
claim.” (Id. at 3). As of January 31, 2019,
MetLife states that Fidelity identified Jennifer Scheurich,
Zauner's child, as the rival claimant. (Id.).
MetLife concedes counsel for Zauner's children, including
Jennifer Scheurich, confirmed in an email that the children
do not object to payment of the benefits to Plaintiff.
Nevertheless, MetLife argues that this does not clarify that
the children never had a claim to the funds nor does it state
that the children release MetLife from further liability.
(Id. at 4). In furtherance, MetLife argues that the
agreement between Plaintiff and Zauner's children is a
result of a Texas state court probate action. (Id.
at 9). As MetLife was not a party to that action and is not
privy to any of the details regarding the settlement
agreement, MetLife asserts that it does not have a written
agreement from any of the children agreeing to the
disposition of the funds at issue. (Id.).
January 8, 2019, MetLife sent the following in a letter to
James Bowen, counsel for the Zauner children, including
It is our understanding that you represent Jennifer
Scheurich, Andrew Zauner, and Chiristina Zauner, the