United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
interpleader action, Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
(“Wells Fargo”) brings suit against Defendants
Patrice Wanki and Iota Communications, Inc. f/k/a Solbright
Group, Inc. (“Iota”), requesting that the Court
authorize Plaintiff to deposit $34, 850.51 in wired funds
into the Registry of the Court, dismiss Plaintiff from the
action, discharge Plaintiff from further liability relating
to the funds, and award Plaintiff the attorneys' fees and
costs associated with this case. ECF No. 1. Pending before
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Interplead Restrained
Proceeds into the Registry of the Court and Motion for
Dismissal (“Motion for Interpleader Relief”). ECF
No. 8. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6
(D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's
Motion for Interpleader Relief is granted. Once the wired
funds have been deposited with the Registry of the Court,
Plaintiff shall be dismissed, discharged from liability, and
awarded $6, 637.72 in attorneys' fees and costs from the
deposited funds. The remaining parties shall be realigned,
with Iota as Plaintiff and Patrice Wanki as Defendant.
is a national banking association with its main office in
Sioux Falls, South Dakota. ECF No. 1 ¶ 3. Iota is a
Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in
New Hope, Pennsylvania, and it holds a Wells Fargo WellsOne
account (“Iota Account”). Id.
¶¶ 4, 10. Wanki is a resident of Greenbelt,
Maryland and holds a Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account
(“Wanki Account”). Id. ¶¶ 5,
10. The relationship between Plaintiff and Iota relative to
the Iota Account and the relationship between Plaintiff and
Wanki relative to the Wanki Account are governed by the Wells
Fargo Deposit Account Agreement (the “Account
Agreement”). Id. ¶ 15.
about November 30, 2018, Iota wired $34, 901.00 from the Iota
Account to the Wanki Account. Id. ¶ 10. Iota
subsequently requested that the wired funds be recalled based
on alleged fraud. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff
restrained the Wanki Account, which now contains a balance of
$34, 850.51 (the “Restrained Funds”).
Id. Despite multiple requests, Wanki has not
authorized Plaintiff to debit the Restrained Funds from the
Wanki Account. Id. ¶ 12.
initiated this interpleader action against Iota and Wanki on
March 24, 2019. ECF No. 1. Iota filed an Answer on April 18,
2019. ECF No. 4. An Affidavit of Service filed on May 12,
2019 shows that Wanki was served via substituted service on
April 6, 2019. ECF No. 6. Wanki did not file an answer or
otherwise respond to this action. Plaintiff subsequently
filed a Motion for Clerk's Entry Default on May 13, 2019,
ECF No. 7, and the Clerk entered a default against Wanki on
August 8, 2019, ECF No. 10. On July 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed
a Motion for Interpleader Relief requesting that the Court
order it to deposit the Restrained Funds in the Registry of
the Court or, in the alternative, to pay the funds directly
to Iota. ECF No. 8. Iota responded on July 25, 2019, stating
its preference that the Court order the Restrained Funds be
paid to it directly. ECF No. 9.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
is a procedural device that allows a disinterested
stakeholder to bring a single action joining two or more
adverse claimants to a single fund.” Sec. Ins. Co.
of Hartford v. Arcade Textiles, Inc., 40 Fed.Appx. 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. DKC-16-0386,
2016 WL 2625281, at *3 (D. Md. May 9, 2016) (citing CMFG
Life Ins. Co. v. Schell, No. GJH-13-3032, 2014 WL
7365802, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 22, 2014)).
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.” Eastham, 2016 WL
2625281, at *3 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1335(a)). 28 U.S.C.
§ 2361 provides that in an interpleader action under
[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 property . . . 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.
interpleader action generally proceeds in two stages.
Eastham, 2016 WL 2625281, at *2 (citing 7 Charles A.
Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Mary K. Kane, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1714 (3d ed. 2001); Rapid
Settlements, Ltd. v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 672
F.Supp.2d 714, 717 (D. Md. 2009)). Initially, the Court
determines “whether the stakeholder has properly
invoked interpleader.” Eastham, 2016 WL
2625281, at *2 (citing United States v. High Tech.
Prods., Inc., 497 F.3d 637, 641 (6th Cir. 2007)). The
propriety of interpleader rests upon whether the stakeholder
“legitimately fears multiple litigation over a single
fund, ” id., and the Court considers whether:
“(1) it has jurisdiction over the suit; (2) a single
fund is at issue; (3) there are adverse claimants to the
fund; (4) the stakeholder is actually threatened with
multiple liability; and (5) equitable concerns [would]
prevent the use of interpleader.” Id.; see
also Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Vines, No. WDQ-10-2809,
2011 WL 2133340, at *2 (D. Md. May 25, 2011). If the Court
determines interpleader to be proper, consistent with 28
U.S.C. § 2361, “the Court may direct the funds
plus interest to be deposited with the Clerk, dismiss the
stakeholder with prejudice and discharge it from all
liability with respect to the deposited funds, and prohibit
the claimants from initiating or pursuing any action or
proceeding against the stakeholder regarding the [property at
issue].” Eastham, 2016 WL 2625281, at *2.
the second stage of an interpleader action, the Court issues
a scheduling order and “the case continues between the
claimants to determine their respective rights.”
Id. (citing Rhoades v. Casey, 196 F.3d 592,
600 (5th Cir. 1999)). The claimants engage in the
“normal litigation processes, including ...