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Wells Fargo Bank N.A. v. Wyo Tech Investment Group LLC

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 1, 2018

Wells Fargo Bank NA, Plaintiff,
Wyo Tech Investment Group LLC, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable John J. Tuchi United States District Judge

         At issue are Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s Motion to Interplead Funds and for Order of Discharge (Doc. 7, Mot. to Interplead), to which Defendant Wyo Tech Investment Group LLC filed a Response (Doc. 13, Resp. to Mot. to Interplead), and Wells Fargo filed a Reply (Doc. 14, Reply to Mot. to Interplead); and Wells Fargo's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims (Doc. 46, MTD), to which Wyo Tech filed a Response (Doc. 56, Resp. to MTD), and Wells Fargo filed a Reply (Doc. 59, Reply to MTD). The Court finds these Motions appropriate for resolution without oral argument. See LRCiv 7.2(f).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In the Complaint (Doc. 1, Compl.), Wells Fargo alleges the following facts. On September 7, 2016, a New York state court entered judgment in the amount of over seven million dollars in favor of three Defendants in this matter, CWT Canada II LP, Resources Recovery Corporation (“RRC”), and Jean Noelting (collectively, “Judgment Creditors”), and against Dennis M. Danzik and RDX Technologies Corporation, f/k/a Ridgeline Energy Services, Inc. (collectively, “Judgment Debtors”). (Compl. Ex. A.) On October 18, 2017, the Judgment Creditors issued a Restraining Notice and Information Subpoena to Wells Fargo pursuant to New York law. (Compl. Ex. B.) The Restraining Notice stated that Wells Fargo had custody of property in which the Judgment Debtors had an interest, including an account ending in -2809 containing $546, 282.55 in the name of another Defendant in this matter, Wyo Tech Investment Group LLC, a Wyoming LLC doing business in Arizona. After receiving the Restraining Notice, Wells Fargo froze the Wyo Tech account, which had been opened at a branch in Arizona.

         Subsequently, Wyo Tech contacted Wells Fargo and the Judgment Creditors to dispute the Judgment Creditors' assertion that the Judgment Debtors had an interest in Wyo Tech's account and to demand that Wells Fargo unfreeze the account by November 10, 2017. (Compl. Ex. C.) The Judgment Creditors responded that the Restraining Notice was proper, that Danzik's daughter Jovahna is listed as the owner of Wyo Tech on the account's signature card, that Jovahna directs payments to herself, her father, and her father's company from the account, and that Wyo Tech is liable for fraudulent transfer and conspiracy to commit fraudulent transfer. (Compl. Ex. D.) The Judgment Creditors also stated that Wells Fargo would be liable to them if it released the funds in the Wyo Tech account.

         On November 9, 2017, Wells Fargo filed the present interpleader action under 28 U.S.C. § 1335 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22, requesting that the Court resolve which of the adverse claimants, Wyo Tech or the Judgment Creditors, has the legal right to the account. (Compl. ¶¶ 27-34.) In its Answer to the Complaint (Doc. 37, Answer at 12-21, Countercl.), Wyo Tech has raised counterclaims against Wells Fargo for wrongful garnishment (Countercl. ¶¶ 20-25) and “aiding and abetting wrongful garnishment and tortious interference with contractual relations and business expectancies” (Countercl. ¶¶ 26-38). Wells Fargo now moves to dismiss Wyo Tech's counterclaims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. 46) as well as to interplead the funds in the account and for discharge (Doc. 7).


         A. Interpleader

         The interpleader statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1335, states that district courts have original jurisdiction over actions filed by a plaintiff that possesses money or property worth $500 or more to which two or more adverse claimants of diverse citizenship contend they are entitled, if the plaintiff has provided the money or property, or given an equivalent bond, to the court. Rule 22 provides, “Persons with claims that may expose a plaintiff to double or multiple liability may be joined as defendants and required to interplead.”

         The related process and procedure statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2361, provides that “a district court may issue its process for all claimants and enter its order restraining them from instituting or prosecuting any proceeding in any State or United States court affecting the property, instrument or obligation involved in the interpleader action until further order of the court.” The statute also states that the “district court shall hear and determine the case, and may discharge the plaintiff from further liability, make the injunction permanent, and make all appropriate orders to enforce its judgment.”

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A complaint must include “only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim can be based on either (1) the lack of a cognizable legal theory or (2) insufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint must thus contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that ‘recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. ...

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