United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Unum Life Insurance Company of America, Plaintiff/ Counter-Defendant,
Donna Brookshire, Bryant Weaver, and Jennifer Weaver, Defendants/ Cross-Defendants, and S.W., a minor, Defendant / Counter-Claimant / Cross-Claimant.
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.
interpleader action concerns the disbursement of proceeds
from a $170, 000 life insurance policy ("the
Policy") issued by Unum Life Insurance Company of
America ("Unum") to the decedent Clifford Weaver
and governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. The Policy
designated Cross-Defendant Donna Brookshire, Cross-Defendant
Bryant Weaver, and Cross-Claimant S.W;. as the primary
beneficiaries with respective interests of 50%, 25%, and 25%,
ECF No. 1-2. Unum filed this case seeking interpleader relief
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132 and Federal Rule of
Procedure 22. See ECF No. 1. Unum filed a motion
seeking (1) authorization to deposit the Policy proceeds into
the Court's registry, (2) an award of attorney's fees
in the amount of $2, 464.13, and (3) dismissal with prejudice
from this action. See ECF No. 22. The Court granted
Unum's motion in its entirety,  and Unum then deposited the
Policy proceeds into the Court's registry. SeeECFNos. 72,
75, 91, & 94.
20, 2016, the matter came before the Court for review of a
Report and Recommendation (R & R) issued by United States
Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West and made in accordance with
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the
District of South Carolina. See R & R, ECF No.
104. No parties filed objections to the R & R, and the
Court adopted the R & R as modified. See ECF No. 108.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f), the Court
sua sponte granted summary judgment in favor of
Cross-Defendant Donna Brookshire, Cross-Defendant Bryant
Weaver, and Cross-Claimant S.W. Id. The Court ruled
as follows in its May 20, 2016 order:
Court hereby ORDERS the following:
(1) The Court finds a special needs trust is appropriate for
S.W. and therefore ORDERS the Guardian ad Litem (Candy
Kern-Fuller) to assist Cross-Defendant Jennifer Weaver (S. W.
's mother) in the establishment of a special needs trust
that names S.W. as the sole beneficiary and uses S.W.'s
share of the Policy proceeds to fund the trust. Ms.
Kern-Fuller shall contact an attorney experienced with
creating special needs trusts and file a report with the
Court within thirty days of the date of filing of this
Order, at which time she shall also provide the Court a
statement of the fees and/or costs associated with her own
time in this case and a statement of the fees and/or costs
associated with the establishment of a special*needs trust
for S.W. Ms. Kern-Fuller shall further advise the Court as to
any particular procedure that may be necessary to establish
such a trust, such as whether the Policy proceeds should be
disbursed to her trust account or whether they should be
directly disbursed to S.W.'s special needs trust.
(2) Once the Court receives adequate proof that Ms. Weaver
and the Guardian ad Litem can establish a special needs trust
for S.W., the Clerk shall first PAY Unum attorney's fees
in the amount of $2, 464.13 and then DISTRIBUTE the remaining
Policy proceeds (and accrued interest) as follows: 50% to
Cross-Defendant Donna Brookshire, 25% to Cross-Defendant
Bryant Weaver, and 25% to Cross-Claimant S.W. S.W.'s
portion of the Policy proceeds is subject to the fees and/or
costs incurred by the Guardian ad Litem and the fees and/or
costs associated with the establishment of the special needs
ECF No. 108 at 3-4 (internal footnote omitted).
20, 2016, Ms. Kern-Fuller filed the required status report.
ECF No. 111. She stated her current fees and costs were $3,
018.50, and she included a detailed invoice itemizing those
fees and costs. See ECF No. 111-1. She further stated Daniel
C. Staggers, a West Virginia attorney, would be retained to
establish a special needs trust for S.W., and that Mr.
Staggers would charge a $1, 500.00 fee to establish the trust
along with a recommended reserve fund of $250.00 for any
additional costs that might arise. Additionally, Ms.
Kern-Fuller stated Mr. Staggers advised her that S.W.'s
mother (Cross-Defendant Jennifer Weaver) "is the best
candidate to set up the trust, " that Ms. Kern-Fuller
will need to provide Mr. Staggers the contact information for
Ms. Weaver, that Ms. Kern-Fuller will need to fund the trust
out of her escrow account, that Ms. Weaver must sign off on
the trust, and that Ms. Kern-Fuller will need to stay
involved until the trust is set up and operating properly.
Ms. Kern-Fuller stated, "No other special procedure
appears necessary." On June 24, 2016, the Court issued a
docket text order directing Ms. Kern-Fuller to contact Mr.
Staggers and determine whether, in addition to the special
needs trust, any conservatorship or guardianship (or other
similar legal mechanism) would need to be established under
West Virginia law for the supervision of S.W.'s portion
of the insurance policy proceeds; and if so, how much Mr.
Staggers estimated such a conservatorship or guardianship
would cost. See ECF No. 112.
30, 2016, Ms. Kern-Fuller filed the required status report.
ECF No. 116. She stated that after consulting with Mr.
Staggers, "[a] Conservator and Guardian established in
West Virginia would be appropriate, and likely a necessity.
This would enable a State Circuit Court to monitor the
financial activity and personal matters of the mother
concerning the child." Ms. Kern-Fuller indicated that
the court cost to file a guardian/conservator pleading is
usually $110.00 and that the service cost is approximately
$100.00 per person. She further stated Mr. Staggers would
charge $1, 000.00 to establish a
reviewed Ms. Kem-Fuller's status reports, the Court finds
Ms. Kern-Fuller has provided adequate proof that she and Ms.
Weaver can establish a special needs trust for S. W. with the
assistance of Mr. Staggers, who is a licensed West Virginia
attorney. Accordingly, the Court ORDERS that the Policy
proceeds be distributed as follows:
(1) Consistent with the Court's previous orders in this
case, see ECF Nos. 91 & 108, the Clerk shall
first PAY Unum attorney's fees in the amount of $2,
464.13, which is to be deducted from the total amount of the
Policy proceeds currently held in the Court's registry.
(2) The Clerk shall then DISTRIBUTE the remaining Policy
proceeds (and accrued interest) as follows: 50% to
Cross-Defendant Donna Brookshire, 25% to Cross- Defendant
Bryant Weaver, and 25% to the minor Cross-Claimant S.W.
(whose name __) and Attorney Candy Kern-Fuller Trust
Account. S.W.'s portion of the Policy proceeds is subject
to (1) the fees and costs incurred by Ms. Kern-Fuller and (2)
the fees and costs associated with the establishment of the
special needs trust and the related
guardianship/conservatorship by Mr. Staggers. Specifically, the
Court approves the sum of $3, -018.50 in fees and costs
incurred by Ms. Kem-Fuller for her representation in this
matter,  the sum of $ 1, 500.00 and a reserve fund
of up to $250.00 for the establishment of a special needs
trust by Mr. Staggers, the sum of $1000.00 for the
establishment of a guardianship/conservatorship by Mr.
Staggers, the sum of $110.00 for the court costs to file a
guardianship/conservatorship pleading, and the approximate
sum of $100.00 per person for the service costs regarding the
' guardianship/conservatorship. Ms. Kern-Fuller shall use
her trust account to distribute her approved fees and costs,
to distribute Mr. Staggers's approved legal fees and
costs, and to fund the special needs trust, Ms. Kem-Fuller
and Ms. Weaver shall promptly coordinate with Mr. Staggers to
ensure the proper establishment of the special needs trust.
Ms. Kern-Fuller shall promptly coordinate with Mr. Staggers
to ensure the proper establishment of the special
needs trust and any necessary guardianship/conservatorship.
Court DIRECTS the Clerk to CLOSE this case once the Policy