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Great American Life Insurance Co. v. Tanner

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

February 27, 2018

GREAT AMERICAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFF
v.
AVA MITCHELL TANNER, ALITA MARGARET MITCHELL, and CRAIG J. CHEATHAM DEFENDANTS

          ORDER GRANTING STAY

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This interpleader action is before the Court on Alita Margaret Mitchell and Craig J. Cheatham's motion to stay this Court's February 8, 2018, judgment in Ava Mitchell Tanner's favor pending their appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Doc. #175.

         I

         Procedural History

         On April 5, 2016, Great American Life Insurance Company filed an interpleader complaint in this Court to determine whether Ava, Alita, Craig, or anyone else, is the proper recipient of two annuities issued to Don Mitchell before his death. Doc. #1. On May 27, 2016, Alita and Craig answered the complaint and Alita filed a crossclaim against Ava. Doc. #9. In her crossclaim, Alita alleges that “[w]ithout a legal basis or right, Ava Mitchell Tanner has interfered with Alita Margaret Mitchell's right to the annuity death benefits by submitting a false and scandalous letter to [Great American]” and “[a]s a result of her malicious interference, ” Ava “is liable for the damage Alita Margaret Mitchell has incurred ….” Id. at 4.

         On June 9, 2016, Ava answered Great American's complaint and Alita's crossclaim. Doc. #13; Doc. #14. Three weeks later, on June 30, 2016, Ava filed an amended answer to Alita's crossclaim and asserted undue influence and conversion crossclaims against Alita and Craig. Doc. #24. On May 15, 2017, Alita and Craig filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #120. Ava filed a motion for summary judgment on May 21, 2017. Doc. #126. The next day, Ava filed a “Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment by Ava Tanner, ” which, in substance, supplements her May 21 motion for summary judgment with her declaration. Doc. #128; Doc. #128-1.

         On May 30, 2017, Ava filed a response opposing Alita and Craig's motion for summary judgment. Doc. #129. On June 5, 2017, Alita and Craig filed a response opposing Ava's motion for summary judgment. Doc. #132. The next day, Craig and Alita replied in support of their motion. Doc. #134. One week after that, Ava replied in support of her motion. Doc. #135. On August 7, 2017, the Court, on Great American's motion, issued a Rule 54(b) judgment dismissing Great American with prejudice. Doc. #137.

         With leave of the Court, the parties, on January 4, 2018, submitted supplemental briefs regarding their motions for summary judgment. Doc. #165; Doc. #166. On February 2, 2018, this Court entered an order granting summary judgment in Ava's favor on the underlying interpleader action, on her crossclaim for undue influence, [1] and on Alita's crossclaim for unlawful interference. Doc. #170. The Court based these rulings on a conclusion that Ava introduced sufficient evidence to raise a presumption that Craig exerted undue influence over Don with regard to changes in beneficiaries of the annuities and that Craig failed to rebut the presumption. Craig and Alita filed a notice of appeal four days later. Doc. #172.

         On February 8, 2018, this Court entered a final judgment in Ava's favor in accordance with its order granting summary judgment. Doc. #173. The same day, Craig and Alita filed a second notice of appeal and a motion to stay this Court's judgment pending appeal. Doc. #174; Doc. #175. Two weeks later, Ava filed a response to the motion to stay in which she represents that she does not oppose the requested relief. Doc. #177.

         II

         Analysis

         A district court has discretion to grant a stay pending appeal. Weingarten Realty Inv'rs v. Miller, 661 F.3d 904, 910 (5th Cir. 2011). Generally, when considering a motion to stay pending appeal, a court must consider four factors: (1) whether the party seeking the stay has shown a likelihood of success on the merits on appeal; (2) whether the party seeking the stay would suffer irreparable injury resulting from the denial of the requested stay; (3) whether the other parties would be substantially harmed by the grant of the requested stay; and (4) whether the public interest favors a stay. Id. However, if the case involves a “serious legal question … and the balance of equities heavily favors a stay[, ] … the movant only needs to present a substantial case on the merits.” Id.

         While this Court would not be inclined to grant a stay based on the relevant factors, [2] Ava has stated she does not oppose the requested stay. Accordingly, Craig and Alita's motion to stay [175] is GRANTED as unopposed. The final judgment issued in this action [173] is STAYED pending resolution of Craig and Alita's appeal.

         SO ...


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