United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on plaintiff's Unopposed
Motion for Default Judgment and other Interpleader Relief.
(Doc. 13). Defendant Peggy J. Owens does not oppose
plaintiff's motion. (Docs. 13, at 1; 13-7, at 1).
Defendants Fredrick Williams (“Williams”) and
Frederick Burnside (“Burnside”) have not resisted
plaintiff's motion. For the reasons set forth below,
plaintiff's motion is granted in part,
denied in part, and held in abeyance
filed this interpleader action on March 5, 2019. (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff served Burnside and Owens on March 15, 2019, (Docs.
3; 4) and Williams on March 18, 2019, (Doc. 6). To date, only
Owens has filed an answer. (Doc. 8). Owens' answer does
not assert a cross-claim against the other defendants, or
otherwise assert a claim to the funds at issue.
(Id.). On May 10, 2019, plaintiff filed its Motion
for Clerk's Entry of Default Judgment against Williams
and Burnside. (Doc. 11). The Clerk of Court found Williams
and Burnside in default. (Doc. 12). Plaintiff then filed the
instant motion for entry of default judgment. (Doc. 13).
Owens does not resist plaintiff's motion (Docs. 13, at 1;
13-7, at 1), and Williams and Burnside did not file
resistances. On July 24, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion for
leave to amend to correct the spelling of Williams' first
name. (Doc. 18.) The Court granted the motion (Doc. 19) and
plaintiff's amended complaint was deemed filed on July
determining the relevant facts, the Court will consider the
allegations in the First Amended Complaint in Interpleader
(“complaint”) and portions of the affidavits and
exhibits attached to plaintiff's motion for default.
“An allegation-other than one relating to the amount of
damages-is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and
the allegation is not denied.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6).
Williams and Burnside have not answered plaintiff's
complaint, and thus have not denied any of the allegations in
the complaint. Plaintiff's complaint does not seek
damages from defendants, so the Court will assume the truth
of the allegations in the complaint for purposes of ruling on
plaintiff's motion for default. The Court will also consider
plaintiff's affidavits and exhibits to the extent that
the information within the affidavits is within the
affiant's personal knowledge and not hearsay, and to the
extent the exhibits are accompanied by sworn statements
laying proper foundation. See, e.g., Weinreich
v. Lamson, 23 Fed.Appx. 597, 598 (8th Cir. 2001)
(finding the district court did not commit plain error by
relying on the plaintiffs' affidavits when they
“were grounded in personal knowledge and sufficient to
support the district court's finding the summons was
served.”); Oceanic Trading Corp. v. Vessel
Diana, 423 F.2d 1, 4 (2d Cir. 1970) (“Unless there
are very unusual circumstances to justify it, the evidentiary
material offered in support of a final judgment should
consist of material within the personal knowledge of the
affiant and not hearsay, and attached exhibits should be
accompanied by sworn statements of the circumstances that
would qualify them as full exhibits.”).
is an insurance company that issued group life insurance
policies to the W.W. Grainger Inc. Group Benefit Trust (the
“Trust”). (Doc. 20, at 1-2). Lakisha Williams
(the “Insured”) was an eligible employee under
the Trust. (Id., at 2). Plaintiff issued the Trust
group life insurance policy G-45880 which provided basic term
life coverage (“Basic Coverage”) and accidental
death and dismemberment coverage (“AD&D
Coverage”), and policy G-48380 which provided optional
term life coverage (“Optional Coverage”)
(collectively, the “Plans”). (Doc. 14-1, at 1-2).
The Plans are employee welfare benefit plans, governed by the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”). (Doc. 20, at 2). The Insured was
enrolled in the Plans, and designated Owens as the sole
primary beneficiary of the Basic Coverage and Williams as the
sole primary beneficiary of the Optional Coverage and
AD&D Coverage. (Id., at 3).
Insured died on January 26, 2018. (Id.). The
Insured's death was ruled a homicide by the Iowa Office
of State Medical Examiner. (Doc. 13-5). Williams was a person
of interest in the Insured's death. (Doc. 20, at 3). On
February 13, 2019, the State of Iowa charged Williams with
Murder in the First Degree of the Insured. State v.
Williams, Black Hawk County No. FECR 229282, Criminal
Complaint (Feb. 13, 2019). Williams pleaded not guilty to the
Insured's murder and is currently awaiting trial.
Id., Written Arraignment and Plea of Not Guilty to
Trial Information (Mar. 10, 2019); Pretrial Conference Order
(May 9, 2019). Plaintiff paid Owens the death benefit for the
Basic Coverage under the Plans. (Docs. 14-1, at 2; 20, at 3).
If it is determined that Williams intentionally and
unjustifiably caused or procured the Insured's death,
then under Iowa's “slayer statute” Williams
is not entitled to the death benefits for the Optional
Coverage or AD&D Coverage (the “Remaining Death
Benefits”). (Doc. 20, at 4 (citing Iowa Code §
633.535)). Under the slayer statute, Williams will be treated
as though he predeceased the Insured for purposes of
determining the recipients of Remaining Death Benefits.
Plans provide as follows:
Any amount of insurance under a Coverage for which there is
no Beneficiary at your death will be payable to the first of
the following: your (a) surviving spouse or Civil Union
Partner; (b) surviving child(ren) in equal shares; (c)
surviving parents in equal shares; (d) surviving siblings in
equal shares; (e) estate.
(Id.; see also Doc. 20, at 31). The Insured
had no living children at the time of her death.
(Id., at 4; Doc. 8, at 2). Under the terms of the
policies, if Williams cannot receive the Remaining Death
Benefits, then Owens, the insured's mother, and Burnside,
the Insured's father, will be the beneficiaries of the
Remaining Death Benefits. (Doc. 20, at 4). The Optional
Coverage has a death benefit of $28, 000.00, and the AD&D
Coverage has a death benefit of $41, 528.00. (Doc. 14-1, at
seeks to deposit the Remaining Death Benefits, $69, 528.00,
plus applicable interest, into the Court Registry Investment
System ("CRIS") and requests that the Court
discharge plaintiff from any further liability to defendants
under the Plans after depositing the funds. (Docs. 13, 20).
Plaintiff also seeks an order enjoining defendants from
bringing any claim or proceeding against plaintiff for the
Remaining Death Benefits and requiring defendants to litigate
their claims to the Remaining Death Benefits. (Id.).
Plaintiff also requests its attorneys' fees and costs, in
their entirety. (Doc. 20).
Default Judgment Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs default judgments:
By its terms, the Rule requires two steps before entry of a
default judgment: first, pursuant to [Rule] 55(a), the party
seeking a default judgment must have the clerk enter the
default by submitting the required proof that the opposing
party has failed to plead or otherwise defend; second,
pursuant to [Rule] 55(b), the moving party may seek entry of
judgment on the default under either subdivision (b)(1) or
(b)(2) of the rule.
Dahl v. Kanawha Inv. Holding Co., 161 F.R.D. 673,
683 (N.D. Iowa 1995). “[I]t is of course appropriate
for a district court to enter a default judgment when a party
fails to appropriately respond in a timely manner.”
Marshall v. Baggett, 616 F.3d 849, 852 (8th Cir.
2010). The clerk can enter a judgment on a default when a
plaintiff seeks a sum certain, but in all other cases the
court must enter the judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). Plaintiff
has already obtained a default from the Clerk of Court
against Williams and Burnside for failing to plead, answer,
or otherwise respond to the complaint. (Docs. 11, 12). Here,