United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER STAYING PROCEEDINGS
S. Lasnik United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on defendant Amelia
Besola's “Motion to Stay Proceedings” (Dkt.
#35) and Defendant Brandon Gunwall's “Motion for
Substitution of Parties and Continuance” (Dkt. #39).
New York Life Insurance Company (“NYLIC”) brought
this cause of action in interpleader pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 22 and 67, naming Brandon Gunwall
(“Mr. Gunwall”), Jeffrey Swenson (“Mr.
Swenson”), and Amelia Besola (“Ms. Besola”)
as defendants. See Dkt. #1. The action concerns
defendants' competing claims to proceeds from an NYLIC
life insurance policy, due following the January 1, 2019
death of Mark L. Besola. Id.; Dkt. #1-7 (Ex. G). On
September 20, 2019, the Court granted NYLIC's motion for
interpleader deposit of funds and dismissed NYLIC from the
action. Dkt. #34.
meantime, probate proceedings as to Mark Besola's estate
are pending in Pierce County Superior Court (“the
Superior Court”). On January 3, 2019, the Superior
Court appointed Ms. Besola as the administrator of Mark
Besola's estate under the laws of intestacy. See
Dkt. #40-1 (Ex. 1). In May 2019, a December 6, 2018
“Last Will and Testament of Mark Lester Besola”
(“the will”) was filed in the Superior Court.
Dkt. #40-2 (Ex. 2). On September 26, 2019, the Superior Court
admitted the will to probate and appointed Eric Pula
(“Mr. Pula”) to serve as the administrator of
Mark Besola's estate. Dkt. #40-3 (Ex. 3). Shortly
thereafter, Ms. Besola filed a motion for revision of the
Superior Court's order admitting the will, which was
denied “without prejudice to a will contest.” See
Dkt. #46 at 8-9 (Ex. 2). On October 25, 2019, Ms. Besola
filed a “Petition to Contest Will of Mark L. Besola,
” see Dkt. #54-1 (Ex. 1), which to this
Court's knowledge remains pending before the Superior
September 27, 2019, Ms. Besola moved the Court to stay these
federal interpleader proceedings “until the issue as to
the identity of the personal representative of the Estate of
Mark Besola is resolved in the pending will contest in [the]
Superior Court.” Dkt. #35 at 2. Mr. Gunwall asserts
that a stay of proceedings is inappropriate because the
“Superior Court has already decided who the proper
parties are in [the probate action] and unless Ms. Besola
prevails on her alleged [w]ill [c]ontest, that will not
change.” Dkt. #41 at 2. Instead, Mr. Gunwall urges this
Court to grant his motion to substitute Mr. Pula for Ms.
Besola and to continue all deadlines in these proceedings
until Mr. Pula can familiarize himself with Mark Besola's
estate and determine the appropriate course of action in the
interpleader proceedings. Dkt. #39 at 1.
Court's “power to stay proceedings is incidental to
the power inherent in every court to control the disposition
of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort
for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis
v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). The Court has
authority to stay proceedings “pending resolution of
independent proceedings which bear upon the case.”
Leyva v. Certified Grocers of California, Ltd., 593
F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979). The resolution of Ms.
Besola's pending will contest in the Superior Court will
certainly bear upon this Court's proceedings. Although
Ms. Besola concedes that she is no longer the administrator
of Mark Besola's estate, she asserts that “[t]he
result of the will contest in [the] Superior Court will
determine if [she] remains as one of the parties in this
matter.” Dkt. #35 at 3. Mr. Gunwall appears to concede
that Ms. Besola could remain a proper party to this
interpleader action if she prevails in her will contest. Dkt.
#41 at 2. There is no indication that the Superior Court will
contest proceedings will be protracted, and while Mr. Gunwall
has indicated his preferred outcome at this stage, he has not
shown that he will suffer any damage as a result of a stay.
Having considered the relevant circumstances, the Court finds
it appropriate to stay these interpleader proceedings pending
the outcome of the will contest in the Superior Court.
the foregoing reasons, Ms. Besola's “Motion to Stay
Proceedings” (Dkt. #35) is GRANTED. It is hereby
ORDERED that this action is stayed until further order of
this Court. The parties shall, within fifteen (15) days of
the Superior Court's resolution of the pending will
contest, submit a joint report in this case notifying the
Court of the outcome of the proceedings. At that time, Mr.
Gunwall may file a notice re-noting his pending “Motion
for Substitution of ...