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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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