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Board of Trustees Construction Workers Pension Trust Fund v. Jones Perteet

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

April 30, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Montel D. Perteet's and the Intervenor-Defendant The Estate of Lonnie James Perteet's Motion for Summary Judgment (Oral Argument not Requested) [DE 35], filed October 29, 2018, a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Sonja R. Jones-Perteet [DE 37], filed October 30, 2018, and a Motion of Sonja R. Jones-Perteet to Strike the Affidavit of Johnetta S. Cooper [DE 41], filed November 29, 2018.

         The parties have consented to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c).

         I. Procedural Background

         On March 6, 2018, Plaintiff Board of Trustees Construction Workers Pension Trust Fund -Lake County and Vicinity filed its Complaint for Interpleader seeking determination of the appropriate beneficiary for the pre-retirement death benefits of Lonnie James Perteet, listing Sonja R. Jones-Perteet, Lonnie's ex-wife, and Montel D. Perteet, Lonnie's adult son, as defendants and possible beneficiaries. On August 9, 2018, the Estate of Lonnie James by its representative Montel D. Perteet filed a motion to intervene, which was granted on August 28, 2018. On September 6, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff's request that it be permitted to deposit the funds at issue in the case, and on September 26, 2018, after the funds were deposited, the Court discharged Plaintiff from all further liability and ordered that it be reimbursed reasonable fees, costs, and expenses from the funds.

         Montel and the Estate filed their joint motion for summary judgment on October 29, 2018, and Sonja filed a response on November 29, 2018, along with the pending motion to strike. Sonja filed her motion for summary judgment on October 30, 2018, and on November 26, 2018, Montel and the Estate filed a response, although it is captioned as a reply brief. No reply briefs have been filed in support of either motion for summary judgment, and Montel and the Estate have not filed a response to the motion to strike.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate that motions for summary judgment be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Rule 56 further requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “[S]ummary judgment is appropriate - in fact, is mandated - where there are no disputed issues of material fact and the movant must prevail as a matter of law. In other words, the record must reveal that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party.” Dempsey v. Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 16 F.3d 832, 836 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations and quotations omitted).

         In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences in favor of that party. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255; Srail v. Vill. of Lisle, 588 F.3d 940, 948 (7th Cir. 2009); NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-Am., Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 234 (7th Cir. 1995). A court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

         III. Factual Background

         Before his death, Lonnie Perteet participated in the Construction Workers Pension Fund -Lake County and Vicinity Pension Plan, an employee benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. Lonnie died on April 27, 2017, with a benefit in the Plan in the amount of approximately $227, 840.38. He has one adult son, Montel D. Perteet, his heir and the personal representative of the Estate in Indiana.

         On February 2, 2007, Lonnie completed a Welfare Fund Beneficiary Designation Form that named Sonja, identified as his wife, as his beneficiary. No new beneficiary card has been filed or any other form completed identifying any other beneficiary. On December 12, 2011, a final divorce decree was issued in Texas dissolving the marriage between Lonnie and Sonja. As part of the divorce decree, Lonnie retained his employment benefits, including any pension plans. No qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) was filed with the Board of Trustees for the Plan.

         The Plan, as amended effective June 1, 2014, provides payment of benefits to the eligible spouse or, if the Participant “did not have an Eligible Spouse on the date of his death, the Participant's beneficiary shall be entitled to receive” payment of the benefits. The current beneficiary designation card includes the language: “If I have designated my spouse, this Designation shall be void upon the dissolution of my marriage to him or her.” That language is not included on the card completed by Lonnie in 2007, and no card including that language was executed by Lonnie.

         IV. ...

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