Interpleader Cases

Life Insurance claims are usually the type of claims that involve an interpleader action.  Here is a 2022, opinion from the El Paso Court of Appeals that involves an interpleader, however, the interpleader is related to the proceeds of an auto liability policy that involved a death.  Irregardless of the reason for the interpleader, this opinion points out some of the proper procedural aspects related to an interpleader case.

The style of the case is, Theresa Ruebbling, Individually and As Heir Of Victoria Rangel, Deceased v. Foremost County Mutual Insurance Company.

This case stems from a February 19, 2021 automobile accident that killed Victoria Rangel.  Foremost insured the vehicle Rangel was a passenger in at the time of the crash.  It agreed to pay Rangel’s heirs, her parents Theresa Ruebbling and Jorge Rangel, the $100,000 policy limit for bodily injury liability.  Foremost filed an interpleader petition under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 43 alleging a dispute between Ruebbling and Jorge Rangel regarding the division of the insurance proceeds had caused it “reasonable doubt about how to disburse the settlement proceeds.”  Ruebbling and Jorge Rangel were both named defendants.

Foremost filed a motion for summary judgment requesting the trial court to approve the interpleader action, order Foremost to deposit the $100,000 with the trial court, and discharge Foremost from the action.  After a hearing, the trial court denied Ruebbling’s plea to the jurisdiction, plea in abatement, and motion to transfer venue.  It also granted Foremost’s motion for summary judgment approving the interpleader action and discharging Foremost from any further liability.  The order granting summary judgment states it is an “interlocutory order that does not dispose of any claims to the settlement proceeds by Defendants, ….”

Unless otherwise permitted by statute, appeals may only be had from final orders or judgments.  The Texas Supreme Court defines a judgment as final and appealable “if and only if either it actually disposes of all claims and parties then before the court, regardless of its language, or it states with unmistakable clarity that it is a final judgment as to all claims and all parties.”  Here, the trial court’s orders denying Ruebbling’s plea to the jurisdiction, plea in abatement, and motion to transfer venue allow the lawsuit to proceed, so they are not a final order.  And the trial court’s order granting Foremost’s motion for summary judgment only disposed of one of the two stages necessary in an interpleader action.  Indeed, the order expressly held it was interlocutory and did “not dispose of any claims to the settlement proceeds” between Jorge Rangel and Ruebbling.  The Court then stated that because the trial court’s order granting summary judgment was not a final order, and because no statute permits an interlocutory appeal of orders approving interpleader, we lack jurisdiction over this appeal.

A few other arguments related to the appeal of this interpleader action were discussed and need to be read by those dealing with an interpleader needing to be appealed.

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