Donna J. Hamilton, Appellant-Petitioner,
Robert D. Hamilton, Appellee-Respondent
from the Monroe Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No.
53C08-1706-DN-263 The Honorable Valeri Haughton, Judge.
Attorneys for Appellant James G. Pittman Michelle L. Woodward
Pittman Law Firm Bedford, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Lonnie D. Johnson Stephanie A. Halsted
Clendening Johnson & Bohrer, P.C. Bloomington, Indiana
Donna J. Hamilton ("Wife") appeals a summary
judgment entered in favor of the estate ("the
Estate") of her deceased ex-husband, Robert D. Hamilton
("Husband"). The dispute concerns the ownership of
Husband's portion of his individual retirement account
("IRA") following a fifty-fifty split entered
pursuant to the couple's dissolution settlement
agreement. Wife asserts that the trial court erred in not
striking certain portions of two affidavits included in the
Estate's designated materials, in granting the
Estate's motion for summary judgment, and in denying her
motion for summary judgment. We affirm.
and Procedural History
Husband and Wife were married in 1986. In June 2017, Wife
filed a petition to dissolve the marriage. That summer,
Husband contacted his financial planner, Thomas Rillo,
seeking information regarding the steps necessary for
changing his designated IRA beneficiary from Wife to his two
daughters. Rillo informed Husband that he would need to bring
in a copy of his dissolution decree to accomplish the change.
On September 29, 2017, the parties executed a "Contract
and Agreement" ("the Agreement"), which was
incorporated into and attached to the October 2, 2017
dissolution decree. As it relates to Husband's IRA, the
Agreement specifies an "account balance of $389, 482.78
as of August 31, 2017" and states, "Wife shall be
entitled to 50% of Husband's retirement account as of
August 31, 2017 in the amount of $194, 741.39."
Appellant's App. Vol. 2 at 14-15. The Agreement ordered
that Husband take all necessary steps to separate out
Wife's portion within thirty days of the decree.
On October 9, 2017, Husband and his friend, Marsha Keith,
drove to Rillo's office with a copy of Husband's
dissolution decree, per Rillo's previous instructions.
The office was closed due to a Monday holiday, so they
returned the next day. Husband asked to see Rillo but learned
that Rillo was on vacation. He left a copy of the dissolution
decree with office personnel. The next day, he was critically
injured in an accident. He died of his injuries the following
day, October 12, 2017. Shortly thereafter, the Estate was
opened in a different county, and one of Husband's
daughters was appointed personal representative. In November
2017, Wife filed a claim against the Estate to preserve her
sum-certain share of the IRA in the event it was a probate
On December 21, 2017, Wife filed a motion for a temporary
restraining order ("TRO") and preliminary
injunction. She claimed that Husband had died before
separating out her share of the IRA, that she had
"learned on December 20, 2017 that [Husband] changed his
beneficiary designation on the above … IRA account
from [Wife] to [Husband's] daughters after the divorce
was filed," and that she had filed a claim with the
Estate and had not yet received her fifty-percent share of
Husband's IRA pursuant to the Agreement. Id. at
17-18. She asked that the trial court enjoin both the Estate
from submitting any claims regarding the IRA funds and
Rillo's office from processing or distributing any such
funds pending a hearing. The court granted her motion for a
TRO and emergency hearing.
On December 28, 2017, Wife filed a motion to compel
distribution of her $194, 741.39 of Husband's IRA funds.
She later filed a motion to extend the TRO and request for
hearing, which the trial court granted. After a hearing on
Wife's motions, the trial court issued an order granting
Wife's motion to compel the distribution of $194, 741.39
from the IRA. The court indicated that Wife had recently
learned and informed the court that Husband had never fully
executed his change of designated IRA beneficiary to his
daughters. As a result, Wife claimed that she was entitled to
the balance of Husband's IRA funds. The parties agreed to
freeze the IRA balance pending a declaratory judgment as to
the ownership of the funds. They also agreed that the trial
court would retain jurisdiction.
In February 2018, the Estate filed a motion for summary
judgment accompanied by a memorandum and designated
materials, which included affidavits executed by Rillo and
Keith. On April 2, 2018, Wife filed materials in opposition
to the Estate's motion as well as her own motion for
summary judgment, with a motion to strike portions of
Rillo's and Keith's affidavits. The Estate filed
materials in response, which included Keith's amended
On December 17, 2018, the trial court issued an order
granting summary judgment in favor of the Estate. Wife now
appeals. Additional facts will be provided as necessary.
1 - The trial court did not commit reversible error in
implicitly denying Wife's motion to strike portions of
Husband's designated affidavits.
We first address Wife's contention that the trial court
abused its discretion in not granting her motion to strike
certain portions of the Estate's designated affidavits.
The trial court has broad discretion in ruling on motions to
strike in the summary judgment context. Szamocki v.
Anonymous Doctor & Anonymous Grp., 70 N.E.3d 419,
429 n.7 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017), trans. denied. Its
decision will not be reversed unless prejudicial error is
clearly demonstrated. Devereux v. Love, 30 N.E.3d
754, 766 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015), trans. denied.
As a preliminary matter, we address Wife's assertion that
the trial court erred in not issuing a specific ruling on her
motion to strike. Although the trial court should have issued
a specific ruling on Wife's motion to strike, we do not
believe that its failure to do so amounts to reversible
error. See Palmer v. State, 173 Ind.App. 208, 213,
363 N.E.2d 1245, 1248 (1977) (court's failure to rule
specifically on party's motion to strike affidavits held
to be harmless error). A trial court is presumed to know and
follow the applicable law. Tharpe v. State, 955
N.E.2d 836, 842 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011), trans. denied.
This would include its duty to disregard any inadmissible
information included in an affidavit. Bankmark of
Florida, Inc. v. Star Fin. Card Servs., Inc., 679 N.E.2d
973, 980 (Ind.Ct.App. 1997). Thus, the trial court's
inaction on Wife's motion to strike operates as an
implied denial. See Palmer, 173 Ind.App. at 213, 363
N.E.2d at 1248 (grant of summary judgment absent specific
ruling on motion to strike held to amount to implied
overruling/denial of motion to strike).
- Thomas ...