United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is “Great American Life Insurance
Company's Supplement to its Motion for Dismissal with
Prejudice and Recovery of Attorneys' Fees and
Costs.” Doc. #87.
April 5, 2016, Great American Life Insurance Company filed an
interpleader complaint in this Court for the purpose of
determining whether Ava Mitchell Tanner, Alita Margaret
Mitchell, Craig J. Cheatham, or anyone else is the proper
recipient of the death benefits of Don Mitchell. Doc. #1.
Great American made no claims against the annuity proceeds
and did not challenge any of the defendants' claims to
the sums deposited into the Court.
October 31, 2016, Great American filed an “Unopposed
Motion for Its Dismissal with Prejudice and Recovery of
Attorneys' Fees and Costs.” Doc. #67. On November
29, 2016, the Court issued an order granting Great
American's motion to the extent Great American requested
dismissal with prejudice. Doc. #74 at 6. The Court, however,
deferred Great American's request for $9, 000.00 in
attorneys' fees and costs, allowing Great American
fourteen days to supplement such request. Id. On
December 12, 2016, Great American filed the instant
“Supplement to its Motion for Dismissal with Prejudice
and Recovery of Attorneys' Fees and Costs.” Doc.
“It is well settled that a district court has the
authority to award costs, including reasonable attorney's
fees, in interpleader actions.” Corrigan Dispatch
Co. v. Casa Guzman, S.A., 696 F.2d 359, 364 (5th Cir.
1983). Such an award “is in the discretion of the
district court, and fees [and other costs] are available when
the interpleader is a disinterested stakeholder, and is not
in substantial controversy with one of the claimants.”
Rhoades v. Casey, 196 F.3d 592, 603 (5th Cir.
1999). The Court has already determined that
Great American is a disinterested stakeholder and has no
substantial controversy with the defendants. Doc. #74 at 2-3.
As such, the only question remaining is whether the fees and
costs Great American seeks are reasonable.
general rule, “attorneys' fee awards are properly
limited to those fees that are incurred in filing the action
and pursuing ... release from liability, not in
litigating the merits of the adverse claimant
….” Trs. Of Dirs. Guild of America-Producer
Pension Benefits Plans v. Tise, 234 F.3d 415, 426 (9th
Cir. 2000). Under this rule, “[c]ompensable expenses
include ... preparing the complaint, obtaining service of
process on the claimants to the fund, and preparing an order
discharging the plaintiff from liability and dismissing it
from the action.” Id. at 426-27.
support of its request for a total of $9, 000.00 for
attorney's fees and costs, Great American submitted an
affidavit from its attorney, Randy L. Dean. Doc. #87-1. In
his affidavit, Dean avers that he and another attorney,
Walter D. Willson, as well as a paralegal, Mary Beth Jordan,
worked on this matter at the hourly rates of $285.00,
$360.00, and $65.00, respectively. Id. at
¶¶ 5-6, 11. Dean also avers that “[a]lthough
[his] firm has billed [Great American] in excess of the
amount for its services in connection with this matter,
[Great American] is only seeking recovery for fees and costs
totaling $9, 000.00.” Id. at ¶ 12. As
evidence, Dean attached to his affidavit a billing statement
reflecting $35, 664.50 in billable attorneys' fees and
$563.07 in expenses. Id. at 7-20.
American does not specify what portion of the requested $9,
000.00 is for fees and what portion is for other costs. An
examination of the billing statement submitted reveals that
the majority of the activities billed are unrelated to the
filing of the interpleader complaint, obtaining service of
process on the claimants to the funds, and Great
American's discharge from liability and dismissal from
the lawsuit. However, after considering the entries on the
billing statement which do concern such matters, in addition
to the expenses reflected for court costs, service of process
fees, legal research, and postage, the Court finds that the
$9, 000.00 requested is a reasonable amount to cover Great
American's fees and other costs.
reasons above, Great American's motion for $9, 000.00 for
attorneys' fees and other costs  is
GRANTED. The Clerk of the Court is
DIRECTED to pay Great American a total of