Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Judge orders Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to release benefits to beneficiaries

By John Myers | Jul 15, 2017

Law money 08

BENTON – A federal court judge has granted summary judgment in a dispute over how to award death benefits to beneficiaries of a deceased individual.

The dispute at the heart of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. Janice K. Moomaw and Lisa J. Kennell, as co-trustees of the Donald D. Rauff Irrevocable Trusts began on Oct. 25, 2016, when the plaintiff filed a complaint for interpleader against the defendants in order to ensure that the $1,047,710.70 in death benefits entitled to the beneficiaries of Ruff would be paid to the correct individuals.  

The defendants responded to the request on Dec. 5, 2016, and the plaintiff was released from any liability in February.  A default judgment was issued on behalf of pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) against the defendants, leaving them the sole beneficiaries. 

Despite the defendants filing the request for summary judgment, the plaintiff had not filed a response as of July 5, and the court ruled that the refusal to reply to this request on behalf of the plaintiffs was an admission of the merits of the motion. 

However, according to the court, this alone is not enough to render a summary judgment.

As the court notes “summary judgment, however, is never automatic: it may only be granted when the undisputed material facts warrant judgment as a matter of law. Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012). When a party fails to address an assertion of fact at summary judgment, the court may 'consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.'"

Upon review of the facts in the case, the defendants maintained that there is no “genuine issue of material fact in this matter." For this reason the court granted the remaining trustees of the Donald D. Ruff Irrevocable Trust No. 1 the only such valid beneficiaries entitled to the benefits on deposit with the court and ordered the clerk to release all outstanding funds to the remaining defendants.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois