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Bainum v. Bakery

July 5, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Susan J. Dlott


This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union's ("International's") and Bakery and Confectionary Union and Industry International Pension Fund's ("Fund's") (collectively, "Defendants'") Motion to Correct Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Substitution ("Correction Motion") (doc. #65); this Court's Order Denying Without Prejudice Defendants' Motion and Ordering Briefing on Substitution ("Briefing Order") (doc. #66); and Defendants' brief in response to that Order ("Supplemental Brief") (doc. #67).

For the reasons below, the Court hereby JOINS Carol Sue Bainum to this action in her individual capacity pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a)(2)(i).


On November 1, 2005, Plaintiff Gary Bainum passed away. (See, e.g., doc. #51.) On February 8, 2005, Plaintiff's counsel filed a Motion to Substitute Carol Sue Bainum, Gary Bainum's surviving spouse, in her official or fiduciary capacity as executor for Gary Bainum's estate ("Plaintiff Estate"), for Gary Bainum pursuant to Rule 25 ("Substitution Motion"). (Doc. #63; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 25.) The Court notationally granted the Substitution Motion and substituted Carol Bainum, in her official or fiduciary capacity as executor of Plaintiff Estate, for Gary Bainum. (Doc. #64.)

Four days after the Court's Order granting Plaintiffs' Substitution Motion, Defendants filed their Correction Motion. (Doc. #65.) In said motion, Defendants argued that Carol Bainum, in her individual capacity, is also a proper party to substitute for Gary Bainum under the meaning of Rule 25. (Doc. #67.) Defendants asserted that Carol Bainum, as the surviving spouse of Gary Bainum, has an exclusive right to collect those pension benefits of Mr. Bainum's that were to be paid following his death, and is consequently the only party with standing to petition for any increase to those post-mortem pension payments. (Id.) Defendants argued that accordingly the "Court should amend" its February 2006 Order granting Plaintiffs' Substitution Motion "to also substitute Mr. Bainum's wife in her individual capacity" pursuant to Rule 25. (Id. at 1-2.) Defendants asserted that this additional substitution was both necessary and proper, but -- as the Court later noted in its Briefing Order -- did not submit "any applicable law or verified facts that would assist the Court in evaluating . . . this substitution" and did not indicate whether or not Plaintiffs agreed with their Correction Motion. (Doc. #66 at 3-4.)

The Court, requiring more information in order to properly evaluate the proposed substitution, then ordered all parties to file briefs on:

1. The appropriate allocation of any award of pension benefits in this case to or between Plaintiff Estate and Carol Bainum in her individual capacity as surviving spouse; and 2. The role of the state probate court presiding over distribution of Bainum's estate; if any, in determining the appropriate allocation or distribution of any award. (Id. at 5.) In anticipation of further briefing on these issues, the Court also denied Defendants' Correction Motion (doc. #65) without prejudice. (Doc. #66 at 1, 6.) Defendants submitted their Supplemental Brief in response to the Court's Order on March 14, 2006. (Doc. # 67.) No other party has submitted a brief in response to the Court's Briefing Order, and the sixty day time period in which to do so has expired.


A. Defendants' Arguments

In their Supplemental Brief, Defendants contend that under the applicable Fund terms, Mr. Bainum's authority (and consequently the authority of Plaintiff Estate and Carol Sue Bainum as executor) to pursue increases to his pension benefits is limited to those monthly payments made to Mr. Bainum before his death. (Id. at 2-5 (citing in part Rules and Regulations of the Pension Fund ("Defendants' Attachment 1") at 7, §8.02(a).)) Defendants submit a copy of Mr. Bainum's pension application, as well as the sworn statement of Fund Manager Lewis Davis ("Defendants' Attachment 2" and "Defendants' Attachment 3," respectively), as further evidence of Plaintiff Estate's limited claim on the benefits in question. (Id at 3.) Defendants then argue that authority to pursue increases to pension payments made in the months after Mr. Bainum's death is vested solely in Carol Bainum in her individual capacity as surviving spouse. (Id. at 2-5.) As proof, Defendants again cite the terms of Mr. Bainum's pension plan and the statement of Fund Manager Davis, as well as the general requirements for pension plans codified in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq.*fn2 (Id.; see also 29 U.S.C. § 1055(a)(1) and 29 U.S.C. § 1055(d)(1).) Defendants also assert that pursuant to the terms of Mr. Bainum's "Husband and Wife Pension" Plan, the Fund has been making post-mortem payments in the amount of 50% of Mr. Bainum's pre-death payments to Carol Sue Bainum and will continue to do so until Mrs. Bainum's death. (See doc. #67 at 4 and Defendants' Attachment 3 at 2.) Addressing the Court's second concern regarding the role of the probate courts, Defendants argue that ERISA, and its provisions for the distribution of pension benefits to surviving spouses, preempts any state law that might set up conflicting distributional standards. (Doc. #67 at 6-7.) Defendants cite ERISA's preemption clause as well as the Supreme Court's holding in Boggs v. Boggs, 520 U.S. 833 (1997). (Id; see also 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a).)

B. Substitution and Joinder of Parties Under Federal Rules 25 and 19

Rule 25 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure addresses the substitution of parties after death, ...

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