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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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