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7th Circuit rejects ‘kitchen sink approach’ in widow’s insurance appeal

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A woman whose husband died of cancer as their purchase of several Terre Haute-based car dealerships was failing is not entitled to proceeds of his life insurance policy – a policy that had been assigned as an asset in the sale of the lots – the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The court affirmed rulings in favor of the insurer and third parties by Judge Larry J. McKinney of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Terre Haute. “Finding no merit in any of the issues appealed, we affirm the district court’s judgments,” Judge Michael S. Kanne wrote for the panel in Cincinnati Life Insurance Company v. Marjorie Beyrer,
12-2365.

The Beyrers managed and later began to purchase car dealerships owned by Mark Savoree. The 7th Circuit noted that the deal began to fall apart almost immediately and resulted in a series of lawsuits. In the instant case, the panel didn’t reserve criticism.

“Appellant’s complaint strikes us as exactly the type of ‘kitchen sink approach to pleading’ that we have previously found to violate the Federal Rules,” Kanne wrote. “At times, appellant’s convoluted language even renders it unclear precisely what fact she has attempted to allege.”

The opinion refers to an example paragraph and notes, “there are 27 different possible permutations of the allegation. … This was not appellant’s most complex sentence.” Judges expressed seeming exasperation with the appeal, noting, “The paragraph numbers restart at 119 after 150, which is yet one more example of how confusingly this complaint was constructed.”

The panel agreed with McKinney’s rulings dismissing the Beyrers’ cross-claims and third-party claims for failing to meet pleading standards; denial of motions for modification and reconsideration; and summary judgment on distribution of the life insurance proceeds.

Beyrer’s claims that asserted fraud or unjust enrichment against assignees of the policy failed to meet heightened pleading standards under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) that require such allegations be made with particularity. “That means describing the ‘who, what, when, where, and how’ of the fraud,” Kanne wrote. “As the district court observed, appellant failed at this task.”

“Appellant contends that she (or, more realistically, her counsel) has done ‘more than the usual,’ including ‘traveling to the remote reaches of Illinois,’” Kanne wrote. “We are sympathetic to the travel required to find far-off court reporters, and we do not wish to cast aspersions on the level of effort expended by appellant or her counsel. But Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) does more than simply mandate that attorneys show some increased amount of work.”


 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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