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Manufacturers & Traders Trust Co. v. Del Conca USA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

July 25, 2017

MANUFACTURERS & TRADERS TRUST COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DEL CONCA USA, INC. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge

         In this interpleader action. Plaintiff Manufacturers & Traders Trust Company ("M&T") brings suit against Defendants Del Conca USA, Inc. ("Del Conca") and Nathaniel L. Akers. requesting that the Court authorize M&T to deposit $302, 662.69 in wired funds ("'the Funds") into the Registry of the Court, dismiss M&T from the action, discharge M&T from further liability relating to the Funds, and award M&T the attorneys' fees and costs associated with this case. ECF No. 1. Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for Entry of an Order of Interpleader and Other Relief. ECF No. 16. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons. Plaintiffs Motion for Entry of Interpleader is granted, in part. and denied, in part. Once the Funds have been deposited with the Registry of the Court. Plaintiff M&T shall be dismissed, discharged from liability, and awarded $9, 092.60 in attorneys' fees and costs from the deposited funds. The remaining parties shall be realigned with Del Conca as Plaintiff and Nathaniel Akers as Defendant.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the Complaint. Plaintiff M&T is a New York state chartered bank maintaining an office in Baltimore, Maryland. ECF No. 1 ¶ 1. Defendant Del Conca is a corporation organized under the laws of Tennessee and maintains an office in Loudon. Tennessee. Id, ¶ 2. Nathaniel Akers is an individual who resides and is domiciled in Capitol 11 eights. Maryland. Id, ¶ 3. Akers does or has done business under the registered trade name Greenland Enterprises. Id, M&T currently holds $302, 662.69 in wired funds, and has filed this interpleader action to determine which of the two Defendants is entitled to the funds.

         On or about February 5. 2016. Akers opened a business checking account with M&T. ECF No. 1 ¶ 10: see ECF No. 16-2 ¶ 4. On or about September 6. 2016. Del Conca initiated a wire transfer of $302, 662.69 from an account Del Conca maintained with Banca Monte Del Paschi Di Siena ("BMPS") to an account Akers held at M&T. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11-13. Shortly after the Funds were transferred and credited to the M&T account. Del Conca contacted M&T. asserting that the transfer was procured by fraud, and requesting that M&T return the Funds to the BMPS account. Id, *i 14. In response. M&T did not return the Funds, but instead froze the account. Id, ¶ 1 5. M&T made repeated efforts to contact Akers. its customer, to determine whether Akers would contest Del Conca"s claim to the Funds or allow M&T to return the Funds to Del Conca. but M&T was unsuccessful in reaching him. Id, ¶ 18. M&T maintains that it is contractually and legally obligated to retain the Funds until the dispute is resolved, id, ¶¶ 16. 19.

         M&T initiated this interpleader action against Del Conca and Akers on October 5, 2016. ECF No. 1.[2]" Through efforts to serve Akers personally. M&T discovered that Akers was homeless. See ECF No. 6-1 at 2-4."[3] M&T also learned that the personal address and business address on file for Akers were actually two separate churches where Akers periodically resided. See Id, M&T's private process server was unable to locate Akers despite several attempts. Id, M&T filed a Motion for Alternative Service as to Defendant Akers. ECF No. 6. which the Court granted on December 14. 2016. ECF No. 8. M&T subsequently served Akers by first class U.S. mail, ECF No. 15 ¶ 4, and according to M&T, on or about January 6. 2017. Akers called Plaintiffs counsel, confirming that he had received the summons, and inquiring about the matter. id, ¶ 6.

         In the instant Complaint. M&T requests that the Court restrain and enjoin the Defendants from instituting any action against M&T for recovery of the Funds, authorize M&T to deposit the Funds into the Registry of the Court, dismiss M&T from suit and discharge M&T from any further liability with respect to the Funds, award M&T the attorneys" fees and costs associated with this action, and require the Defendants to interplead as to the Funds. Defendant Del Conea has answered the Complaint, ECF No. 11. Akers was served on January 3. 2017. and an answer was due by January 24. 2017. ECF No. 17. Akers has not answered the Complaint or entered an appearance in this matter. Del Conca has now moved for Default Judgment against Akers. ECF No. 17. M&T opposes Default Judgment against Akers as premature. ECF No. 19 at 2. The time for Akers to respond has expired, and the Clerk shall be directed to enter default against Akers. However, default judgment against Akers cannot be resolved in the current posture, and Del Conea's Motion for Default Judgment will therefore be addressed in forthcoming proceedings. See Wells Forgo Bonk. N.A. v. Eastham, No. CV DKC 1 6-0386. 2016 WE 2625281. at *5 (D. Md. May 9. 2016) (noting that interpleader defendant's motion for default against other defendant could not "be resolved in the present posture." and therefore realigning the remaining parties as adversaries and directing further proceedings): Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. White, No. 1:16-CV-1()94. 2017 WL 2834459. at *3 (M.D. Pa. June 29. 2017) (denying interpleader plaintiffs motion for default judgment against one defendant, noting that "the Court finds that such relief is more appropriately sought in the second stage of this proceeding . .."').

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Interpleader is a procedural device that allows a disinterested stakeholder to bring a single action joining two or more adverse claimants to a single fund." Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Arcade Textiles. Inc, 40 F. App"x 767. 769 (4th Cir. 2002). The device is designed "to protect the stakeholder from multiple, inconsistent judgments and to relieve it of the obligation of determining which claimant is entitled to the fund." Id, In interpleader claims, the interpleader plaintiff typically will "admit liability, deposit the fund with the court, and be permitted to withdraw from the proceedings." Wells Fargo Bank. N.A. v. Eastham, No. CV DKC 16-0386. 2016 WL 2625281. at *3 (D. Md. May 9. 2016) (citing CMFG Life Ins. Co. v. Schell, No. G.III-13-3032. 2014 WL 7365802. at *2(D. Md. Dec. 22. 2014)).

         28 U.S.C. § 1335(a) "grants the district courts original jurisdiction over interpleader claims involving at least $500.00 in funds or property and at least two claimants of diverse citizenship." Hells Fargo Bank. N.A. v. Eastham, No. CV DKC 16-0386. 2016 WL 2625281. at *3 (D. Md. May 9. 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a)). 28 U.S.C. § 2361 provides that in an interpleader action under Section 1335:

[A] district court may issue its process for all claimants and enter its order restraining them from instituting or prosecuting any proceeding in any State or United States court affecting the properly . . . involved in the interpleader action until further order of the court. . . .
Such district court shall hear and determine the case, and may discharge the plaintiff from further liability, make the injunction permanent, and make all appropriate orders to enforce its judgment.

28 U.S.C. § 2361.

         An interpleader action generally proceeds in two stages. Eastham, 2016 WL 2625281. at *2 (D. Md. May 9, 2016) (citing 7 Charles A. ...


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