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Hartford Life Insurance Co. v. Banks

October 8, 2010

HARTFORD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARY BANKS, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matters before the Court are the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 106) filed by Defendant Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C., and the Motion to Reconsider Dismissal of Cross-Complaint Against Sandberg or Leave to File Second Amended Answer and Cross Complaint (Doc. # 108) filed by Cross-Plaintiff Umar Almajid.

BACKGROUND

On July 16, 2008, Plaintiff Hartford Life Insurance Company ("Hartford") initiated this action by filing the Complaint in Interpleader ("Complaint") against Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C. ("Sandberg"), Mary Banks ("Banks"), Beryl Rayford ("Rayford"), Umar Almajid ("Almajid"), North American Mercantile ("NAM"), Richard Wier ("Wier"), and Monnye Gross ("Gross"). (Doc. # 1). This case concerns a dispute over the inheritance of annuities owned by Cleona Bailey Shortridge ("Shortridge"). The Complaint alleges that Almajid and Rayford, Shortridge's nephew and niece, were named as the beneficiaries of the annuities in a revocable trust executed on August 4, 1997, with Banks as the successor trustee. Compl. in Interpleader, Doc. # 1 at 5. The Complaint alleges that on June 2, 2002, Shortridge changed the beneficiary of the annuities to NAM. Id. at 4.

The Complaint alleges that after Shortridge's death, Banks and Rayford filed a Petition in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri ("Petition") which disputed ownership of the annuities. Id. at 5. The Complaint alleges Sandberg, a law firm, represented Almajid and NAM in the state court suit. Id. at 5. The Complaint alleges a settlement was memorialized in writing on July 10, 2007. Id. at 6. The Complaint alleges Hartford sent forms to allow the disbursement of funds pursuant to the settlement to Sandberg for Almajid and NAM to complete. Id. at 6. The Complaint alleges the forms were never returned. Id. The Complaint alleges that Almajid sent a letter to Hartford stating that there was a dispute between Almajid, NAM, and Sandberg. Id. at 7. The Complaint alleges Hartford requested confirmation from Almajid and NAM that Sandberg still represented them, but received no response. Id. The Complaint alleges that the dispute over disbursement of proceeds necessitated this interpleader action by Hartford. Id. The Complaint alleges claims for declaratory relief and interpleader. Id.

On September 30, 2008, Sandberg filed an answer. (Doc. # 8). On November 12, 2008, Wier and Gross were dismissed as interpleader defendants. (Doc. # 19). On November 21, 2008, Almajid, proceeding pro se, filed an "Answer-Complaint in Interpleader Counterclaim for Damages" ("Answer and Cross-Claim") on behalf of himself and NAM. (Doc. # 21). The Cross-Claim against Sandberg, Banks, Rayford, Gross, and Wier alleged claims for (1) civil RICO violations, (2) conspiracy, (3) interference with contractual relationship, (4) fraudulent concealment, and (5) accounting. On December 17, 2008, Banks and Rayford's Motion for a 30-day extension of time to file an answer to the Complaint in Interpleader was granted. (Doc. # 26). However, Banks and Rayford did not file answers before the extended deadline passed.

On March 25, 2009, this Court dismissed Almajid's Cross-Claim in its entirety for failure to state a claim. (Doc. # 39). On July 17, 2009, the Court granted Sandberg's Motion for Leave to File Cross-Complaint Against North American Mercantile, Inc. (Doc. # 48). On July 20, 2009, the Court struck the Answer that Almajid filed on behalf of NAM, holding that Almajid may not represent NAM because Almajid is not an attorney. (Doc. # 48). Also on July 20, 2009, the Court granted Almajid's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Answer and Cross-Complaint. Id. On August 3, 2009, Sandberg filed its Cross-Claim which alleged a single claim for breach of contract against NAM. (Doc. # 49). NAM did not file an answer to Sandberg's Cross-Claim. On August 12, 2009, Almajid filed his amended Answer and Cross-Complaint against Sandberg, Banks, Rayford, Gross, and Wier. (Doc. # 52). In his Answer, Almajid denies "that Defendant Banks, Rayford, or Sandberg has any legitimate or bona fide interest in the accounts . . . ." Id. at 2. The Cross-Claim alleges claims for (1) civil RICO violations, (2) conspiracy, (3) interference with contractual relationship, (4) fraudulent concealment and (5) accounting. Id. at 23-26.

On January 26, 2010, the Court denied Almajid's Motion to Drop Defendant (Doc. # 56), which sought to substitute Almajid for NAM as the defendant to Sandberg's cross claim. (Doc. # 86). In the same order, the Court denied Banks, Rayford, and Sandberg's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. # 69), granted Sandberg's Motion to Dismiss Cross-Complaint (Doc. # 54), and denied Sandberg's Ex Parte Motion to Set Status Conference (Doc. # 79). (Doc. # 86). Also on January 26, 2010 the Court issued a scheduling order revising the motion cutoff date and pretrial conference date (Doc. # 85), an order directing the Clerk of the Court to add Gross and Wier to the docket as Third-Party Defendants to Almajid's Cross-Complaint and five orders to show cause (Docs. # 80-84). The Court issued Orders to Show Cause to Banks (Doc. # 81), Rayford (Doc. # 80), and NAM (Doc. # 82) requiring them to show cause why they should not be dismissed as to the complaint in interpleader for failure to file an answer. The Court issued two orders to show cause to Almajid, requiring him to show cause why his cross-claim against Gross and Wier should not be dismissed for failure to serve them within the 120 day period allowed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) and to show cause why his claims against Banks and Rayford should not be dismissed for failure to move for default judgment within the time allowed pursuant to Local Civil Rule 55.1 after obtaining a clerk's default. (Docs. # 83, 84).

On February 19, 2010, Banks filed an answer to the Complaint in Interpleader (Doc. # 88) and a declaration stating she had previously failed to file an answer because she cannot afford counsel and is "not familiar with the Rules of Court" and therefore "was not aware that [she] had to respond to the Complaint . . ." (Doc. # 88-1).

On February 22, 2010, Almajid filed responses to orders to show cause issued as to him and as to NAM. (Docs. # 89-91). In his filing on behalf of NAM, Almajid contended "[t]he statutory provision requiring NAM to retain counsel is unduly prejudicial and burdensome . . . ." (Doc. # 89 at 3). Almajid sought to "excuse NAM from answering the Complaint in Interpleader . . . ." Id.

On February 23, 2010, Rayford filed an answer to the complaint in interpleader. (Doc. # 93). On February 26, 2010, the Court ordered Rayford to file a proof of service on her answer to the Complaint in Interpleader within ten days. (Doc. # 94). On March 9, 2010, Rayford filed her proof of service. (Doc. # 99).

On May 18, 2009, the Court issued four orders in this case. (Docs. # 102-105). The Court struck Almajid's response to the order to show cause issued to NAM. (Doc. # 105 at 8). The Court declined to sanction Almajid for the filing, but warned Almajid that further filings on behalf of NAM could result in sanctions. Id. The Court dismissed NAM as a party to the Complaint in Interpleader for failure to file an answer. (Doc. # 102 at 1). The Court denied Almajid's motion for an enlargement of time to serve Gross and Wier and dismissed Almajid's cross claim against them. (Doc. # 104 at 1). The Court ruled that Almajid had shown cause as to why his cross claims should not be dismissed as to Banks and Rayford for failure to move for default judgment. (Doc. # 103 at 2).

On May 28, 2010, Sandberg moved for summary judgment in its favor on the complaint in interpleader. (Doc. # 106). Also on May 28, 2010, Almajid filed a motion to reconsider dismissal of the cross complaint against Sandberg or, in the alternative, for leave to file a second amended answer and cross complaint. (Doc. # 108). On June 22, 2010, Almajid filed supplemental materials in support of his motions. (Doc. # 113).

ANALYSIS

I. Motion for Summary ...


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