United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Haag, Amber Smith, and Kristie Hall, as parents and next
friends of minor children L.M.H., I.E.S., and J.H.,
respectively (collectively “Applicants”), move to
intervene as defendants in this action pursuant to Rule 24 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Doc. Nos. 33, 35].
Defendants Keisha Jones-Atchison, David Atchison, Sr. and
Fannie Atchison have not responded to the motion, but
Plaintiff Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company
(“Hartford”) has filed an objection to the extent
Applicants seek to assert a counterclaim against Hartford
[Doc. No. 43]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.
is the carrier of a group policy (the “Policy”)
with basic life insurance benefits (and other coverages not
relevant to this action) for its policy holder- Siemens
Corporation (“Siemens”). David Lamare Atchison II
(“Mr. Atchinson”) was employed by Siemens and was
a participant in the Policy. Mr. Atchison died after being
shot by an unknown assailant on January 8, 2017. His wife,
Keisha Jones-Atchison, submitted a claim for benefits payable
on Mr. Atchison's death. However, Mr. Atchison's
father, David Lamare Atchison, Sr., submitted a Preference
Beneficiary Affidavit (“PBA”). In the PBA, Mr.
Atchison, Sr. claimed entitlement to some or all of the
Policy's benefits, by way of the Policy's succession
date, there have been no arrests in connection with the death
of Mr. Atchison, although court filings in this case state
that Ms. Jones-Atchison has not been ruled out as a suspect
and the circumstances surrounding Mr. Atchison death remain
unclear. Citing the existence of competing claims to the
Policy proceeds, Hartford filed this interpleader action and
the Court granted Hartford permission to deposit the proceeds
into the Clerk's registry and be discharged from these
proceedings [Doc. No. 22]. On January 30, 2018, Ms.
Jones-Atchison filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No.
32] seeking an award of the Policy benefits.
to Hartford's discharge, Applicants filed the present
motion, claiming that Mr. Atchison was the biological father
of their children. They contend intervention is proper
because the minor children each claim an interest relating to
the proceeds at issue, and disposition of this action without
their participation may impair or impede their ability to
protect their interests. Applicants seek time to conduct
discovery and submit a response thereafter to Ms.
Jones-Atchison's Motion for Summary Judgment.
indicated above, Hartford objects to Applicants' motion
on the grounds that they intend to assert a counterclaim
against Hartford for proceeds that are not at issue in this
litigation, specifically, supplemental life insurance
benefits that were previously distributed under the terms of
a plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”).
states non-parties may intervene in a pending action as of
right if: (1) the application is timely; (2) the applicants
claim an interest relating to the property or transaction
which is the subject of the action; (3) the applicants'
interest may, as a practical matter, be impaired or impeded;
and (4) the applicants' interest is not adequately
represented by existing parties. Western Energy Alliance
v. Zinke, 877 F.3d 1157, 1164 (10th Cir. 2017). The
Tenth Circuit has historically taken a liberal approach to
intervention and favors the granting of motions to intervene.
See id. (citing Coal. of Ariz./N.M. Ctys. for
Stable Econ. Growth v. Dep't of Interior, 100 F.3d
837, 841 (10th Cir. 1996)).
review of the foregoing factors supports granting
Applicants' motion. First, under the present
circumstances,  the Court finds Applicants' motion is
timely. As set forth in their respective motions, Applicants
had no notice of this action until a few days before filing
their motion. Applicants were not notified by any party to
this action, but discovered it by conducting a search
regarding a related lawsuit before the Court. Moreover, the
Court finds that the existing parties would not be prejudiced
if Applicants were permitted to intervene. At the time of
Applicant's motion, the only pending matter was Ms.
Jones-Atchison's Motion for Summary Judgment, however
such motion was made without the benefit of any discovery and
rests on the simple assertion that Oklahoma's
“slayer statute” does not apply. See
Mot. for Summ. J. at 2 [Doc. No. 32].
as stated more fully below, Applicants would be prejudiced by
a denial of their motion since they have an interest in the
subject matter of this action and a denial of intervention
would leave them with the alternative of filing a separate
action to resolve an issue that is already before the Court.
Absent discovery or substantive legal progress, the Court
cannot say the present litigation is in any way at an
“advanced stage” as to result in prejudice and
prohibit intervention. Compare Geiger v. Foley Hoag LLP
Retirement Plan, 521 F.3d 60, 64 (1st Cir. 2008).
the second and third factors, Applicants have an asserted
interest in the insurance proceeds that are the subject in
this action. The disposition of this action would, as a
practical matter, impair Applicants' ability to protect
that interest. If the Court does not permit Applicants to
intervene in this action, as noted, their only realistic
alternative would be to file a separate declaratory action to
resolve an issue that is already before the Court-the
identity of the proper claimants/recipients regarding the
proceeds at issue. Resolution of this question by
Applicants' intervention would best promote judicial
economy, as well as preserve the resources of the parties
it is self-evident that no current party adequately protects
Applicants' interests. Permitting intervention, as
opposed to requiring a separate lawsuit, would promote the
public policies of conserving ...