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Sommerfield v. Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

November 10, 2016

MICHAEL SOMMERFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIGROUP GLOBAL MARKETS INC., Defendant. MICHAEL SOMMERFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
ASSOCIATED TRUST CO., ATTORNEY DAVID TIMM, BEVERLY SOMMERFIELD, and THOMAS ALBERT, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Michael Sommerfield filed the above pro se complaints against Defendants Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CGMI), Associated Trust Co., Attorney David Timm, Beverly Sommerfield, and Thomas Albert alleging theft of his inheritance under a trust. Each defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Although Plaintiff has never submitted a response to the motions to dismiss, he has submitted an “unsigned motion to strike Associated Trust Co.'s motion to dismiss case and defendants motions to dismiss themselves from this case, ” (ECF No. 50), which the Court will construe as a response. Associated also filed a motion for sanctions against Plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. For the following reasons, the motions to dismiss are granted and Associated's motion for sanctions will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's self-prepared complaint and supplement are a disorganized, rambling tirade alleging that Defendants interfered with his inheritance from his grandparents, Clarence and Thelma Albert. Plaintiff alleges that his grandfather, Clarence Albert, created five trusts to control the distribution of his wealth. (Supp. at 11, ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff asserts that at the time of his grandfather's death, his estate was worth $30, 000, 000. (Id. at 6.) In 1993, Plaintiff alleges that his grandmother, Thelma Albert, was coerced into signing a Last Will and Testament through which Defendants were able to control her estate and steal his inheritance. (Compl. at 2-3, ECF No. 1.) Although Plaintiff claims his grandmother was coerced into signing the 1993 Last Will and Testament of Thelma Albert because she was “on her death bed, ” she did not pass away until October 29, 2006. (Compl. at 4, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff asserts that he is entitled to receive distributions under two trusts created by his grandparents: the 1968 Thelma Albert Irrevocable Trust (the 1968 Trust) and the Clarence Albert and Thelma Albert Trust No. 1 (Trust No. 1). His legal endeavors regarding this inheritance, however, neither began in federal court nor with this case.

         In 2014, Plaintiff brought numerous state court actions alleging claims related to his grandparents' estates. Plaintiff filed his first state court lawsuit in June 2014 with his uncle, Thomas Albert, alleging that Associated breached its fiduciary duty and committed fraud as a trustee of trusts created by Clarence Albert. (Dr. Thomas Albert & Michael Sommerfield vs. Associated Trust Co., Case No. 14-CV-918, ECF No. 60-1.) On January 22, 2015, the circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's claims with prejudice. (ECF No. 60-5.) The Wisconsin Court of Appeals dismissed Plaintiff's appeal on October 28, 2015, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff's petition for review on December 2, 2015. (ECF Nos. 60-6 & 60-7.)

         On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the court's order terminating a trust from Clarence Albert's will. (In the Matter of the Estate of Clarence E. Albert, Case No. 79-PR 534715, ECF No. 60-8.) The circuit court denied Plaintiff's motion to re-open the probate proceedings on July 20, 2015 because Plaintiff did not present any unique and extraordinary reasons to vacate the order terminating the trust. (ECF No. 60-9.)

         In November 2014, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Special Administration to commence probate proceedings for Thelma Albert. (In the Estate of Thelma Albert, Case No. 14-PR-113, ECF No. 10.) He also filed an Application for Informal Administration in August 2015 and a Petition for Formal Administration in June 2016. (ECF No. 60-12 & 60-14.) In each instance, the circuit court concluded Plaintiff did not have standing to pursue his claims because he was not a beneficiary of Thelma Albert's Will or intestate estate. (ECF Nos. 60-11, 60-13 & 60-15.) In dismissing Plaintiff's Petition for Formal Administration, the circuit court referred to Plaintiff as a “serial litigator.” (ECF No. 60-15.) On March 31, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint in Brown County, Wisconsin probate court requiring CitiCorp Trust South Dakota to provide an accounting of his mother's trust. (In the Trust of Beverly A. Sommerfield, Case No. 16-PR-46, ECF No. 60-16.) On August 11, 2016, the circuit court dismissed the case. (ECF No. 60-17.)

         Since then, Plaintiff has filed eight federal lawsuits arising out of his grandparents' estate plan and his state court litigation. See 16-CV-536; 16-CV-537; 16-CV-928; 16-CV-1169; 16-CV-1324; 16-CV-1375. His complaint in this case alleges that Defendants have engaged in “many multifaceted illegal actions of breach, fraud, embezzlement, concealment, withholding evidence, destruction of evidence, falsifying records, forgery, coercion, elderly abuse by financial exploitation, illegal wire transfers, and conspiracy all that that break many laws guarding the safety of one's inheritance from an Irrevocable Trust.” (Supp. at 4, ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff also alleges that CGMI is liable for his allegedly “stolen inheritance” because it is the institution where Beverly Sommerfield deposited a portion of the proceeds of her inheritance. (ECF No. 1.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. Motions to Dismiss

         Defendants have moved for dismissal asserting that Plaintiff's claim is barred by the statute of limitations, that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over his claim, that Plaintiff lacks standing, and that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Rule 8(a)(2) mandates that a complaint need only include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has held that a complaint must contain factual allegations that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007). While a plaintiff is not required to plead detailed factual allegations, he or she must plead “more than labels and conclusions.” Id. A simple, “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. The court is obliged to construe a plaintiff's pro se allegations liberally, “however inartfully pleaded.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must view the plaintiff's factual allegations and any inferences reasonably drawn from them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Yasak v. Retirement Bd. of the Policemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chi., 357 F.3d 677, 678 (7th Cir. 2004).

         Although motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) generally do not address affirmative defenses, “the statute of limitations may be raised in a motion to dismiss ‘if the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense.'” Brooks v. Ross, 579 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Lewis, 411 F.3d 838, 843 (7th Cir. 2005)). It is appropriate to consider the statute of limitations at this stage if the “relevant dates are set forth unambiguously in the complaint, ” id., and if the plaintiff effectively “pleads himself out of court” by providing enough facts in his pleading to establish a timing defect in his complaint. Cancer Found. v. Cerberus Capital Mgmt., 559 F.3d 61, 674-75 (7th Cir. 2009). In this case, Plaintiff has pleaded facts showing that his claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate.

         It appears Plaintiff primarily alleges that Defendants committed fraud, theft, and breach of fiduciary duty. The relevant statute of limitations for Plaintiff's breach of fiduciary duty claims is three years. See Wis. Stat. § 893.57. Moreover, the relevant statute of limitations for Plaintiff's theft and fraud claims is six years. See Wis. Stat. §§ 893.51, 893.43, 893.93. Wisconsin Statute § 893.43 advises that “an action upon any contract, obligation, or liability, express or implied, . . . shall be commenced within 6 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred.” This period begins to run either when the injury is discovered, or when it should have been discovered with “reasonable diligence.” Hanson v. A. H. Robins, Inc., 335 N.W.2d 578, 583 (Wis. 1983).

         Here, Plaintiff alleges that Associated terminated Trust No. 1 in a letter on or before May 5, 2008. (Supp. at 13, ECF No. 23.) He also asserts that the 1968 Trust was terminated on May 20, 2008 when $18, 754.80 was transferred into his Associated Bank checking account. (Supp. at 27, ECF No. 23; Compl. at 6, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that in 1981, he learned that his grandfather's estate was worth at least $5, 000, 000. (Supp. at 16, 29, ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff further alleges that CGMI's theft occurred at the time Beverly Sommerfield deposited her share of the distribution from the Thelma Albert estate into the Beverly Albert Sommerfield Brokerage Account. (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Throughout his submissions to the court, Plaintiff continually questions where all of the money from his grandfather's fortune went. (Supp. at 25, ECF No. 23.) An objectively reasonable and diligent person would have discovered Plaintiff's alleged injury in 2008 after he received the termination letter and trust distribution that he believes is short millions of dollars. But Plaintiff did not ...


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