United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
a case about the distribution of life insurance proceeds and
the allegation that interpleader defendant Carl D. Gathright
is disqualified from receiving the death benefit of his
deceased wife's life insurance policy because he murdered
her. On March 9, 2018, Plaintiff Farmers New World Life
Insurance Company filed this interpleader action pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22. Mr. Gathright has not
answered the complaint or otherwise defended this action, and
the Clerk of Court entered a default against him under
Federal Rule of Civil procedure 55(a). Before the Court is a
Motion for Default Judgment against Mr. Gathright, brought
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) by interpleader
defendants K.G. and C.G. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is granted.
S. Gathright was the owner of and insured under Farmers
Policy No. 008215459 (Farmers Policy) in the amount of $250,
000. Am. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 4. She named Carl D.
Gathright the primary beneficiary of the Farmers Policy, and
she named her four surviving children-K.G., C.G., Quantrel
Stewart, and Charles Stewart, III-the contingent
beneficiaries. Id. ¶¶ 10-11.
S. Gathright died on April 23, 2017. Id.
¶¶ 8, 25. After Ms. Gathright's death, Charles
Stewart, III submitted a claim for the proceeds of the
Farmers Policy. Id. ¶ 12. During its
investigation of the claim, Farmers obtained a copy of Ms.
Gathright's death certificate, which stated that the
cause of death was pending. Id. ¶ 13. Farmers
learned that Mr. Gathright was charged with the murder of Ms.
Gathright, and, at the time the Complaint was filed, the
murder charge was pending in the St. Joseph County Superior
Court. Id. ¶ 15.
Complaint filed on March 9, 2018, and the Amended Complaint
filed on March 20, 2018, Farmers alleges that, if Mr.
Gathright was involved in the death of Ms. Gathright, he may
not be entitled to receive benefits under the Farmers Policy
based on relevant Indiana statutory and common law, including
Indiana Code § 29-1-2-12.1. Id. ¶ 16.
Farmers further alleges that one or more of the contingent
beneficiaries may be entitled to receive benefits under the
policy. Id. Farmers alleges that it undertook a good
faith effort to investigate the claim and to determine to
whom to distribute the proceeds if the facts, circumstances,
or law were not in dispute. Id. ¶ 27. However,
because the murder charge was pending at the time, Farmers
was unable to determine the proper beneficiary, and Farmers
sought to interplead the funds due under the Farmers Policy.
Id. ¶ 28. On March 22, 2018, the Court granted
Farmers' Motion for Leave to Deposit Funds in the
Registry of the Court, and Farmers deposited $257, 982.50
(Deposited Funds) with the Clerk of Court on April 2, 2018.
6, 2018, the contingent beneficiaries filed a motion for
default judgment against Mr. Gathright, and, on July 12,
2018, the Plaintiff filed an agreed motion for the entry of
an agreed order that would result in the final resolution of
the interpleader complaint with distribution of the insurance
proceeds to the contingent beneficiaries. In a November 13,
2018 Opinion and Order, the Court denied the motion for
default judgment because the movants had not shown that Mr.
Gathright was properly served with the summons and complaint
and because the movants had not certified or otherwise
established that Mr. Gathright was not an incompetent person.
ECF No. 35. Consequently, the Court denied the motion for the
entry of an agreed order distributing the insurance proceeds
because the motion was contingent on a default judgment
against Mr. Gathright.
March 14, 2019, a summons was reissued as to Mr. Gathright,
and on March 29, 2019, Farmers effectuated service on Mr.
Gathright by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint
to him at the St. Joseph County Jail. ECF. Nos. 43, 45. On
May 17, 2019, Farmers filed an application for clerk's
entry of default against Mr. Gathright. ECF No. 49. And, on
May 21, 2019, the Clerk of Court entered a Clerk's Entry
of Default against Mr. Gathright pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 55(a). ECF No. 50.
16, 2019, Carl D. Gathright was convicted of Argusta S.
K.G. and C.G., minor children, represented herein by their
legal guardian Chirrikka Kirk, filed the instant motion for
default judgment, and the motion was served on Mr. Gathright.
The movants attach the Declaration of William Perry, their
attorney, which avers that Gathright is neither a minor,
incompetent, nor subject to the Servicemembers Civil Relief
Act (50 U.S.C. § 3931).
Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs the entry of defaults and
default judgments. See Lowe v. McGraw-Hill Cos.,
Inc., 361 F.3d 335, 339 (7th Cir. 2004). Prior to
obtaining a default judgment under Rule 55(b)(2), there must
be an entry of default as provided by Rule 55(a). See
Wolf Lake Terminals, Inc. v. Mut. Marine Ins. Co., 433
F.Supp.2d 933, 941 (N.D. Ind. 2005). Under Rule 55(a), the
clerk is to enter the default of a party against whom a
judgment is sought when that party has failed to plead or
otherwise defend. Yong-Qian Sun v. Bd. of Trs., 473
F.3d 799, 811 (7th Cir. 2007).
case, Mr. Gathright, who was imprisoned, was properly served
with the summons and complaint but has failed to plead or
otherwise defend. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow
a party to serve a summons on an individual pursuant to the
state law governing service in the state where the district
court is located. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1). Indiana Trial Rule
4.3 governs the service of summons upon institutionalized
Service of summons upon a person who is imprisoned or
restrained in an institution shall be made by delivering or
mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the official
in charge of the institution. It shall be the duty of said
official to immediately deliver the summons and complaint to
the person being served and allow him to make provisions for
adequate representation by counsel. The official shall