Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lincoln Benefit Life Co. v. Grenfell

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 23, 2019

LINCOLN BENEFIT LIFE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Stakeholder,
v.
EILEEN MARIE GRENFELL and ROBERT PREUSSLER, Defendants/Claimants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS DEFENDANT PREUSSLER'S AMENDED CROSS-CLAIM (DKT. NO. 31)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         After dismissing his previous cross-claim for failing to state a claim, the court allowed defendant Robert Preussler to file an amended cross-claim. Dkt. No. 28. He did so, dkt. no. 29, and defendant Eileen Grenfell filed a motion to dismiss that amended cross-claim, dkt. no. 31. The court deeply regrets that due to its heavy calendar, it has taken an inexcusably long time to address that motion; this order resolves it, and hopefully will get the case back on track.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 13, 2016, plaintiff Lincoln Benefit Life Company filed a complaint for interpleader relief against Eileen Marie Grenfell and Robert Preussler. Dkt. No. 1. Grenfell filed an answer and cross-claim against Preussler on September 13, 2016, dkt. no. 7, and Preussler filed an answer and cross-claim against Grenfell on October 14, 2016. Dkt. No. 10. Once both claimants had answered, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to deposit funds and to be dismissed. Dkt. No. 11. On February 9, 2017 the court granted the motion and dismissed the plaintiff. Dkt. No. 14.

         On March 6, 2017, Grenfell filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. No. 15. After the twenty-one-day response period had lapsed, Preussler filed a letter request for extension of time to respond to the motion. Dkt. No. 17. He reiterated this request in an April 20, 2017 Civil L.R. 7(h) motion for leave to file paper and extension of time. Dkt. No. 20.

         The court set a hearing for May 24, 2017. Before that hearing could take place, Preussler filed another Civil L.R. 7(h) motion, this time seeking leave to file an amended cross-claim. Dkt. No. 23. The court addressed the pending motions at the May 24, 2017 hearing. Dkt. No. 28. It denied Grenfell's motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted Preussler's motion to file an amended cross-claim. Id. The court agreed with Grenfell that Preussler's original cross-claim did not state a claim, but allowed him to file an amended cross-claim by June 7, 2017. Id. On the day of the deadline, Preussler filed an amended crossclaim and sixteen exhibits. Dkt. No. 29. Two weeks later, Grenfell filed a motion to dismiss the amended cross-claim, asserting that Preussler did not adequately allege forgery and undue influence. Dkt. No. 32 at 4-8.

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED CROSS-CLAIM (Dkt. No. 31)

         A. Allegations of Preussler's Amended Cross-Claim

         The amended cross-claim alleged that on March 1, 2001, Harry C. Kaufmann (Kaufmann) applied for term life insurance coverage on his life in the amount of $150, 000. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶6. It alleged that the plaintiff issued a policy in that amount on April 12, 2001. Id. It asserted that Kaufmann's March 1, 2001 application designated Eileen Kaufmann-his wife at the time, now known as Eileen Grenfell-as the primary beneficiary of the policy. Id. at ¶7. Preussler asserted that on March 1, 2001, Kaufmann submitted a Change of Beneficiary (CBF) form. Id. at ¶8. Allegedly, the CBF form listed Robert Preussler as the primary beneficiary and named Preussler's wife as a contingent beneficiary. Id. at ¶8.

         The amended cross-claim explained that Preussler worked for Kaufmann in the automotive business. Id. at ¶9. It stated that prior to applying for the life insurance policy, Kaufmann had approached Preussler about a life insurance policy so that Preussler would have “seed money” to go into business for himself in the event of Kaufmann's death. Id. at ¶10. The amended cross-claim said that proposition did not surprise Preussler because Kaufmann already had applied for a similar life insurance policy with a different employee as beneficiary. Id. ¶11. Preussler alleged that he agreed to become the beneficiary and agreed to make all premium payments. Id. at ¶12. He asserted that he made all the premium payments on the policy from 2001 through Kaufmann's death. Id. at ¶13.

         The amended cross-claim alleged that Preussler observed Kaufmann's memory and recall ability declining from 2014 through early 2016. Id. at ¶15. Preussler stated that in late January 2016, Kaufmann was diagnosed with brain cancer. Id. at ¶ 17. Preussler alleged that in early February 2016, Kaufmann underwent exploratory brain surgery and nearly died; afterward, “Kaufmann was no longer expected to live very long, and was sent home on Hospice care.” Id. at ¶¶21-22. Preussler alleged his belief that after this surgery, Kaufmann was no longer capable of fully understanding or making decisions about his finances. Id. at ¶27. Preussler alleged that from the time Kaufmann was sent home form the hospital until his death on March 27, 2016, his son-Kurt Kaufmann (Kurt)-“handled Kaufmann's remaining business concerns and had an opportunity to influence Kaufmann.”[1] Id. at ¶38.

         The amended cross-claim stated that Kaufmann and Grenfell were divorced as of May 4, 2015, but that the divorce case continued until at least February 1, 2016 (the date on which Grenfell filed a motion for contempt in the divorce action). Id. at ¶¶29-30. Preussler stated that the divorce was contentious from the date filed through at least February 1, 2016. Id. at ¶31. He also asserted that he was not aware of Kurt visiting Kaufmann with regularity; “the two seemed to be estranged since Kaufmann's divorce.” Id. at ¶32. Preussler alleged that during Kaufmann's life and after his divorce from Grenfell, “Kaufmann was not particularly close to the children he had with Grenfell.” Id. at ¶33. He also said that Kaufmann began living with a woman- “his girlfriend”-after his divorce. Id. at ¶34.

         Preussler's amended cross-claim alleged that on February 22, 2016, the plaintiff received a Power of Attorney form (POA) from Kurt. Id. at ¶35. The POA indicated that Kaufmann had lost his ability to communicate as a result of a brain bleed. Id. The amended cross-claim stated that four days later, the plaintiff received a CBF form signed by Kurt as power of attorney; that form designated Grenfell as the primary beneficiary of the policy and Kurt as the contingent beneficiary. Id. at ¶36. Preussler averred that by February 22, 2016, Kaufmann could not communicate his wishes with any reliability and that from the date that the hospital sent Kaufmann home in February of 2016 until his death on March 27, 2016, Kurt had the opportunity to influence Kaufmann. Id. at ¶¶ 37-38.

         Preussler alleged that two weeks later, the plaintiff sent letters to Kaufmann denying acceptance of the February 22, 2016 POA form and the February 26, 2016 CBF form. Id. at ¶40. Preussler asserted that the plaintiff's letters asked for the written opinion of a Wisconsin licensed attorney attesting to the POA form. Id. at ¶41. Preussler alleged that the plaintiff never received its requested information and did not accept the February 2016 POA form or the February 2016 CBF form. Id. at ¶42.

         The amended cross-claim stated that on March 11, 2016, the plaintiff received a fully signed and witnessed POA form. Id. at ¶46. Preussler alleged that this POA form “was either not properly executed or was executed after improper influence by Grenfell or Kurt.” Id. at ¶47. Also on March 11, 2016, the amended cross-claim asserted that the plaintiff received a CBF form designating Grenfell as the primary beneficiary and Kurt as the contingent beneficiary. Id. at ¶48. Preussler alleged that the signature on the March 11, 2016 CBF form was “an unreadable signature purporting to be that of [Harry Kaufmann], ” and that “the signature on the Alleged CBF is not that of [Harry Kaufmann], as he lacked the manual dexterity to sign his name in March of 2016.” Id. at ¶¶48-49. Preussler said that the plaintiff sent two letters to Kaufmann on March 16 and March 17, 2016; the letters accepted the POA form and confirmed the beneficiary change. Id. at ¶¶50-51.

         The amended cross-claim stated that Kaufmann died on March 27, 2016. Id. at ¶52. Preussler alleged that in April 2016, he submitted a letter to the plaintiff stating the legal basis for his claim to the $150, 000 policy. Id. at ¶55. He alleged that Kurt also submitted a statement which asserted that “it had been the Decedent's intention to take care of his family and change the beneficiary to his ex-wife on March 10, 2016.” Id. at ¶56. Preussler alleged that on March 10, 2016, Kaufmann was not competent to make decision to change his estate plan. Id. at ¶57. On those facts, Preussler asked the court to declare him the rightful and lawful beneficiary of the policy and order that the policy's proceeds be disbursed to him. Id. at 10.

         B. Grenfell's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 31)

         Grenfell now moves to dismiss the amended cross-claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 32 at 2. Grenfell notes that-without the amended cross-claims specifically saying so-Preussler's claims sound in fraud, which means that he must satisfy the heightened pleading requirement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Id. at 3 (citing Wigod v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 673 F.3d 547, 569 (7th Cir. 2012)). Grenfell argues that Preussler failed to meet that heightened pleading standard, because he failed to identify the “who, what, where, when, and how” of his claims. Id. (citing Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., Inc., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         Grenfell contends that as to the forgery theory stated in the amended cross-claim, Preussler fails to allege who participated in the forgery, and when, where or how the alleged forgery occurred. Id. at 5. She says he needs to plead more facts about the alleged forgery in order to state the claim. Id. (citing Johnson v. Pushpin Holdings, LLC, 821 F.3d 871, 875 (7th Cir. 2016)). As to the undue influence allegation stated in the amended cross-claim, Grenfell asserts that there “is no allegation concerning how, when, or where the Decedent was influenced.” Id. at 7. She argues that Preussler has not plead facts showing undue influence under either of Wisconsin law's two methods of showing that claim. Id. Finally, she notes that Preussler's claim of undue influence concerns the POA form, but not the CBF form. Id. She argues that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.