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Appellate court cites claim-splitting, res judicata in rejecting appeal

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In a life insurance case that has spanned eight years, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that an appeal from a widow is without merit.

In Bonita G. Hilliard, in her capacity as Trustee of the H. David and Bonita G. Hilliard Living Trust v. Timothy E. Jacobs, No. 28A04-1106-CT-284, Bonita Hilliard appeals the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Timothy Jacobs.

Bonita Hilliard’s husband, David, and Jacobs were business partners from 1997 until they sold their company in 2002. In 1999, the two men executed a cross-purchase agreement that required each of them to take out a life insurance policy so that if one partner died, the other could use insurance policy proceeds to buy out the other’s interest in the company.

After the sale of the company, David Hilliard suggested that he and Jacobs swap policies; Jacobs declined and continued paying premiums, but David Hilliard stopped paying premiums for the policy on Jacobs.

David Hilliard filed suit in 2003, requesting the trial court to order Jacobs to terminate the policy or transfer it to David Hilliard. He allegedly feared for his life and did not assert all his claims of relief, hoping for a speedy trial. The court granted judgment in favor of David Hilliard, but the COA later reversed that decision, finding nothing in the cross-purchase agreement to warrant termination of the policy Jacobs owned. David Hilliard died in 2004. In this most recent appeal, his widow contends the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Jacobs.

The COA affirmed the trial court, holding that Bonita Hilliard’s claims are barred by res judicata. By withholding legal theories of relief and evidence, she has engaged in claim splitting in an effort to allow herself another chance to litigate her claims, the appellate court wrote.

 

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