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Value v. Richardet

September 9, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Court


Reagan, District Judge

Following a three-vehicle collision, Kenneth Richardet, Leslie Richardet, Eugene Sturm and Virginia Sturm ("the four original Plaintiffs") filed suit in this Court against Kevin Harrison (the driver of the truck that struck their cars) and Murdale True Value (Harrison's employer, who owned the truck). See Case 07-cv-0368. In March 2009, a jury returned verdicts in favor of the four original Plaintiffs and against Murdale and Harrison as follows:

$21,000 to Kenneth Richardet, $24,000 to Leslie Richardet, $27,000 to Eugene Sturm, and $41,000 to Virginia Sturm.

Those totals included damages for reasonable medical expenses.

On March 13, 2009, the undersigned Judge signed (and the Clerk of Court entered) a judgment against Murdale and Harrison in the amount of $113,000, to be paid to the four original Plaintiffs as above-delineated (Doc. 87 in Case No. 07-cv-0368). The Court denied a new trial motion in June 2009. Issues regarding costs are referred to Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud and recently have been briefed, but the litigation otherwise is concluded here.

Six weeks ago, Murdale and Harrison (Defendants in the underlying action) filed the above-captioned lawsuit here, Case No. 09-cv-0573. This suit, in the nature of an interpleader action, names 9 defendants: the four original Plaintiffs (who hold a judgment for $113,000 via the jury verdicts) plus (5) their lawyer, Brad L. Badgley, (6) Rehab Missouri, LLC, (7) Paul Oliver, (8) Jean Oliver, and (9) Geico. The action was randomly assigned to the Honorable J. Phil Gilbert, who transferred it to the undersigned Judge in early August 2009.

The complaint invokes subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a)(1), which vests federal district courts with original jurisdiction over civil actions "in the nature of interpleader filed by any person, firm, or corporation ... having money or property of the value of $500 or more... or being under any obligation ... to the amount of $500 or more, if ... two or more adverse claimants, of diverse citizenship" claim entitlement to that money.

The complaint alleges the following as to the citizenship of -- and claims asserted by -- the named defendants in this interpleader action.

Attorney Badgley, an Illinois citizen, has an attorneys' fee lien, thereby claiming a portion of the proceeds from the judgment in the underlying action. Rehab Missouri, LLC (doing business as "Rehab Xcel") is actually a corporation (not an LLC), is an Alabama and Missouri citizen, and has a lien of unknown amount for medical treatment rendered to the Richardets. Paul and Jean Oliver are Missouri citizens who registered a $35,759.15 consent judgment against the Richardets and Perma Glass Service Corporation in Illinois state court. Geico, a corporation and a citizen of Maryland and Washington, D.C., has asserted a claim for medical and hospital expenses paid on behalf of the Sturms, and "asserted this claim in a lawsuit filed in McCracken County, Kentucky on January 5, 2009 against Murdale and Harrison" (Doc. 2, pp. 2-3).

Murdale and Harrison ("M&H") explain that they are "in doubt" as to which of the 9 defendants is entitled to what portion of the judgment proceeds from the underlying action. They ask the undersigned Judge to resolve that question and moved the Court to allow them to deposit the $113,000 in the Court registry "in full satisfaction of the judgment against them so that the defendants can litigate its disbursement" (Doc. 2, p. 3). M&H further ask this Court to discharge them from all further liability, to restrain each of the 9 parties from bringing any suit against M&H for recovery of the judgment, and to award M&H their costs incurred with this action.

On August 18th, Magistrate Judge Frazier granted M&H's motion to deposit the $113,000 with the Clerk of Court. At that time, the case was not ripe for threshold review or tracking by the undersigned District Judge, because none of the 9 named defendants in this interpleader action had moved, answered or entered an appearance.

On September 2, 2009, attorney Badgley answered M&H's interpleader complaint, so the case is ready for threshold review and track.*fn1

The record currently before the Court cites no legal basis supporting the sweeping relief sought in the complaint.*fn2 Clearly, it is premature to issue a ruling restraining all other lawsuits or discharging M&H from all liability on claims about which this Court knows little (e.g., the consent judgment involving the Olivers and "Perma Glass Service Corporation"). Indeed, at this juncture, the Court is not convinced that a separate federal interpleader action is the proper or best method to litigate the various claims mentioned in the complaint or that this can be done ...

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