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John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.) v. Allen

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

October 28, 2014

JOHN HANCOCK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY (U.S.A.), Plaintiff,
v.
URSULA C. ALLEN, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM H. STEELE, Chief District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on defendant Carla Walker's Motion for Joinder (doc. 37). The Motion has been briefed and is now ripe for disposition.

I. Background.

Plaintiff, John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), commenced this action pursuant to Rule 22, Fed.R.Civ.P., by filing a Complaint in Interpleader (doc. 1) on December 16, 2013. The caption of the Complaint listed as defendants Ursula C. Allen; "Carla L. Walker, individually;" "Carla L. Walker, as Executrix of the Estate of Ulysses Allen;" and "Carla L. Walker, as Trustee of the Ulysses Allen Living Trust." No other defendants were named in the caption or the body of the Complaint; indeed, the "Parties" section of the pleading consisted of three short paragraphs, one each devoted to John Hancock, Ursula Allen, and Carla L. Walker. With respect to Walker, the Complaint identified her as follows: "Carla L. Walker is an individual over the age of 19 residing in Mobile County, Alabama. Thus, Carla L. Walker is a citizen of the State of Alabama." (Doc. 1, ¶ 3.) No mention is made of Walker representing the Estate of Ulysses Allen or of the Estate being a defendant/claimant in its own right.

According to the well-pleaded factual allegations of the Complaint, John Hancock issued an annuity contract bearing number FX07102989 (the "Annuity Contract") to Ulysses Allen in approximately December 2005. The application materials for that Annuity Contract listed the primary beneficiary as "Estate." (Doc. 1, ¶ 5.) The Complaint reflects that John Hancock received a Change of Owner and/or Beneficiary form dated September 2, 2011, which purported to change the primary beneficiary of the Annuity Contract to Ursula C. Allen. ( Id., ¶ 6.) This form purportedly bore Ulysses Allen's signature as owner of the Annuity Contract. ( Id. ) According to the Complaint, Ulysses Allen died on June 11, 2013, leaving John Hancock ready and willing to pay out Annuity Contract benefits in the amount of approximately $88, 000. ( Id., ¶¶ 8-9.) John Hancock alleges that Ursula C. Allen submitted a Beneficiary Claim Statement in July 2013 claiming entitlement to those funds as beneficiary. ( Id., ¶ 10.) Walker also made a claim, described in the Complaint as follows:

"John Hancock has also received correspondence from Carla L. Walker alleging that Ursula C. Allen forged the signature of Ulysses Allen on the change of beneficiary form. Carla L. Walker has also submitted to John Hancock what purports to be the will of Ulysses Allen, in which Carla L. Walker is named as Executor' of the will and the beneficiary of the entire estate, in her capacity as Trustee of the Living Trust.'"

( Id., ¶ 11.) The Complaint alleges that "[t]he dispute between Ursula C. Allen and Carla L. Walker remains unresolved." ( Id., ¶ 13.) Based on these allegations, John Hancock sought leave to deposit the Annuity Contract proceeds in the court registry, and thereafter to be discharged and otherwise granted relief under the interpleader mechanism of Rule 22.

Upon receiving leave of court, John Hancock deposited the sum of $93, 387.32 with the Clerk of Court on May 2, 2014. ( See doc. 22.) Those funds are presently on deposit in an interest-bearing account in the Court Registry Investment System, pending final adjudication of the conflicting claims brought by Ursula C. Allen and Carla L. Walker. Having fully complied with its Rule 22 obligations, John Hancock was discharged from this matter via Order (doc. 35) entered on September 19, 2014.

This case now proceeds solely as between Ursula C. Allen and Carla L. Walker, the competing claimants. For her part, Walker (by and through counsel of record) filed an Answer (doc. 13) on February 3, 2014. This Answer does not purport to have been filed by or on behalf of anyone other than "Carla L. Walker, " in her individual capacity. In other words, nothing in Walker's pleading suggested that she was bringing a claim in any capacity but her own ( i.e., she did not purport to be appearing on behalf of the Estate of Ulysses Allen). The same is true of the Report of Parties' Planning Meeting (doc. 17), which is devoid of any indication that Walker is litigating her claim to the Annuity Contract benefits on behalf of anyone or anything other than herself.

On March 14, 2014, Magistrate Judge Bivins entered a Rule 16(b) Scheduling Order (doc. 19) in this case, setting forth various pretrial deadlines and litigation requirements. Of particular note, the Scheduling Order included a provision stating that "[a]ny motion for leave to amend the pleadings or to join other parties must be filed by May 30, 2014." (Doc. 19, ¶ 5.) At no time prior to this May 30 deadline did Walker or anyone else file a motion for joinder or request an enlargement of said period for joining additional parties.

Nonetheless, on October 1, 2014, Walker filed a Motion for Joinder (doc. 37), in which she requested that "the Court enter an order joining Frank Kruse, the Administrator ad colligendum of the Estate of Ulysses Allen, as a necessary party to this action." ( Id. at 4.) Without Kruse's involvement, Walker reasoned, "this Court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties, " and Kruse's "ability to fully protect the interest of the Estate of Ulysses Allen" would be jeopardized. ( Id. ) Ursula Allen has filed an Objection (doc. 39), setting forth her position that the Motion for Joinder is due to be denied as untimely, and because Kruse is not a necessary party. On October 9, 2014, during the pendency of this Motion for Joinder, Kruse (a Mobile attorney) transmitted an email to claimants' counsel setting forth his position on the Motion for Joinder, as follows:

"My role is extremely limited as an Administrator ad Colligendum. I am more or less a caretaker of the status quo for the estate until it is decided whether the Will is to be probated or not.... I'm not even sure that my limited authority includes joining this type of lawsuit.... I do not seek to be added [as a party in this interpleader action], but I am not unwilling to be added, so if it is determined that I am a necessary party to the proceedings, by all means add me. I'll accept service and file some sort of answer that says I don't know anything."

(Doc. 45, Exh. 1.)

II. ...


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