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Meyer v. Anderson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

May 14, 2019

PARKER MEYER, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY ANDERSON and JEFF ANDERSON & ASSOCIATES, P.A., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The following matter is before the court on plaintiff Parker Meyer's (“Meyer”) motion to deposit funds and restrain defendants, ECF No. 5, and defendants Jeffrey Anderson (“Anderson”) and Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A.'s (“JAA”) (collectively, “defendants”) motion for a more definite statement, ECF No. 8. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies the motion to deposit funds and restrain defendants and grants in part and denies in part the motion for a more definite statement.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendants formed an attorney-client relationship with Meyer in 2014. Anderson is an attorney who own and operates JAA. Without providing any additional context beyond her relationship with defendants, Meyer generally alleges that defendants “chose to invent, and chose to publicize, false and derogatory information about [Meyer], falsely purporting to claim intimate knowledge of [Meyer] to do so.” Compl. ¶ 12. Defendants allegedly did so without Meyer's permission and “without a proper investigation.” Id. Meyer explicitly states that the allegedly false information is not repeated in the complaint, but that defendants' statements containing the false information were made under oath and in public documents. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. Meyer then alleges that in 2017, she was publicly attacked based on the false information spread by defendants. Id. ¶ 20. Meyer does not allege in what way she was publicly attacked or by whom. When Meyer realized that the source of the information was defendants, she alleged asked defendants about their conduct, and defendants denied making any false or derogatory statements about Meyer. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Meyer “responded to [Anderson]'s blatant lying by confronting him about having lied to her” and sought more information from him about the statements, but defendants did not respond to Meyer. Id. ¶¶ 23-25. Meyer alleges that as a result of defendants' spreading false information about her, Meyer was forced to “compromise her cases at a deep discount rather than run the risk of trying her cases” when allegedly defendants had previously believed that Meyer's cases “were each seven-figure cases.” Id. ¶¶ 41-42.

         Meyer brought claims against defendants for breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence and against JAA for aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. Meyer also brought an interpleader claim against defendants. Pursuant to the interpleader claim, Meyer filed a motion to deposit funds and restrain defendants on March 5, 2019. ECF No. 5. Defendants responded to the motion on March 19, 2019, ECF No. 6, to which Meyer replied on March 26, 2019, ECF No. 12. Defendants also filed motion for a more definite statement on March 22, 2019. ECF No. 8. Meyer responded on April 5, 2019, ECF No. 14, and defendants replied on April 10, 2019, ECF No. 16. Both motions are now ripe for review.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Deposit Funds and Restrain Defendants

         According to Meyer, defendants are claiming a fee interest in Meyer's personal litigation to which they are not entitled based on the conduct alleged in this case. Meyer's current counsel holds in his trust account the fee to which defendants claim interest, and Meyer wants the court to hold these funds and prevent their distribution to defendants until this case is resolved. As such, Meyer asks the court to enter an order (1) authorizing the clerk of court to accept the contested funds that will be under control of the court pending the court's determination of the parties' rights and obligations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335, and (2) restraining defendants from instituting any proceeding affecting the funds involved in this suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2361.

         Defendants provide further context to Meyer's request in their response. They explain that when Meyer hired defendants to represent her, the parties entered into a contingency fee agreement. During Meyer's litigation, one of JAA's former attorneys, Gregg Meyers (“Meyers”), left JAA, and Meyer independently retained him as her counsel. Meyers is also Meyer's counsel in this case. Pursuant to Minnesota and South Carolina settlement agreements, defendants and Meyers allegedly agreed to equally split any fees earned during the representation of Meyer. However, Meyer has only paid legal fees to Meyers and not to defendants. Defendants argue that Meyer is simply seeking to avoid paying defendants and is not entitled to her requested interpleader relief because this is not a proper interpleader action. Specifically, they argue that this is not a proper interpleader action because: (1) there is no risk of inconsistent judgments or multiple litigation over the funds; (2) there are not two or more diverse, adverse claimants to the funds; and (3) Meyer is not in control of the funds. Defendants also argue that Meyer is not entitled to the injunctive relief under § 2361 because she has not brought a proper interpleader action.

         “Interpleader is a procedural device that allows a disinterested stakeholder to bring a single action joining two or more adverse claimants to a single fund.” Sec. Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Arcade Textiles, Inc., 40 Fed.Appx. 767, 769 (4th Cir. 2002). It “is an equitable remedy designed to protect the stakeholder from multiple, inconsistent judgments and to relieve it of the obligation of determining which claimant is entitled to the fund.” Id. Interpleaders are used when multiple parties claim stake in a single fund, and the party in control of the fund asks the court to retain control of the fund while the court determines which party is entitled to the fund. See, e.g., Tapp v. Minnesota Life Ins. Co., 2017 WL 2839636, at *2 (D.S.C. June 29, 2017) (ordering funds to be deposited with court pursuant to interpleader statute because the plaintiff and the decedent's estate both claimed to be the sole beneficiaries of the decedent's life insurance policy).

         There are two types of interpleader: statutory and rule-based. A statutory interpleader exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335, which provides that:

(a) The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action of interpleader or in the nature of interpleader filed by any person, firm, or corporation, association, or society having in his or its custody or possession money or property of the value of $500 or more . . . if
(1) Two or more adverse claimants, of diverse citizenship as defined in subsection (a) or (d) of section 1332 of this title, are claiming or may claim to be entitled to such money or property . . .; and if (2) the plaintiff has deposited such money or property . . . into the registry of the court, there to abide the judgment of the court, . . . conditioned upon the compliance by the plaintiff with the future order or judgment of the court with respect to the subject matter of the controversy.
(b) Such an action may be entertained although the titles or claims of the conflicting claimants do not have a common origin, or are not identical, but are adverse ...

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