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Wood v. Hull

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

October 30, 2017

(1) SARA WOOD, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court are Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Join Indispensable Parties (Doc. 61) and Errata (Doc. 62); Plaintiff's Motion in Limine (Doc. 78); Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 79); Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 80); Defendant's Motion to Exclude Testimony (Doc. 81); and Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Brief in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 85).

         I. Factual Background and Allegations [1]

         Defendant Mary Byrd Hull has served since 2002 as the successor trustee of the Revocable Inter Vivos Trust of Betty L. Pettigrove (the “Betty Pettigrove Trust”) and the Revocable Inter Vivos Trust of John R. Pettigrove (the “John Pettigrove Trust”) (collectively, the “Trusts”). Plaintiff alleges that the res of the Trusts once included assets valued at more than $7 million. The Betty Pettigrove Trust was created in 1986 and amended in 1992 and 1994. The John Pettigrove Trust was created in 1992, and its terms are materially the same as the governing terms of the Betty Pettigrove Trust, as amended. The John Pettigrove Trust provided that the income and principal of the trust were to be used solely for the care and maintenance of Betty Pettigrove. The Betty Pettigrove Trust required the trustee to pay the net income and principal to Betty Pettigrove during her lifetime, and provided that if Betty Pettigrove became incapacitated, the trustee may apply all or any part of the net income or principal towards her support, care, and maintenance, or otherwise for her benefit.

         Both Trusts provided that upon the death of both John Pettigrove and Betty Pettigrove, the trustee must terminate the trust and distribute the assets in the trust to the beneficiaries “in equal shares, share and share alike.” (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 2 at p. 4, art. IV(A)-(B); id., Ex. 4 at p.1, art. IV(B).) Plaintiff alleges that if one of the Pettigroves' children predeceased his or her parents, the children of the predeceased beneficiary take their parent's beneficiary interest through representation.

         John Pettigrove died on March 1, 1998, and Betty Pettigrove died on December 21, 2012. The beneficiaries of both Trusts are the three children of John and Betty Pettigrove: John Pettigrove II; Mary Byrd Hull, the Defendant in this case; and Nancy Wood, Plaintiff's mother. Nancy Wood predeceased Betty Pettigrove in 2009 and was survived by four children: Sara Wood, the Plaintiff in this case; Donald Wood; William Wood; and Kathryn Wood. The John Pettigrove Trust has been closed and all of its assets distributed. The assets of the Betty Pettigrove Trust, except for certain mineral interests, were distributed after Betty Pettigrove's death.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in federal district court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(2). Plaintiff alleges that she is a beneficiary of the Trusts and that Defendant, in her role as Trustee of the Trusts, mismanaged assets of the Trusts, improperly diverted funds from the Trusts for her personal benefit, failed to maintain complete records of the Trusts, and failed to provide annual statements of account for the Trusts.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7) (“Rule 12(b)(7)”) for failure to join indispensable parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 (“Rule 19”). Defendant contends John Pettigrove II, Donald Wood, William Wood, and Kathryn Wood (collectively, the “Absent Beneficiaries”), who are not parties in this lawsuit, are indispensable parties whose joinder would destroy complete diversity in this case. Plaintiff is a resident of California, and Defendant is a resident of Oklahoma. Plaintiff's brother Donald Wood is a resident of Oklahoma, and it is undisputed that his joinder would destroy complete diversity.[2]

         A. Rule 12(b)(7) Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(7), a party may move for dismissal based on the failure to join an indispensable party under Rule 19. In the Tenth Circuit, “[a] finding of indispensability under Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b) has three parts.” Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Harnsberger, 697 F.3d 1272, 1278 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. Norton, 248 F.3d 993, 997 (10th Cir. 2001)). “First, the court must find that a prospective party is ‘required to be joined' under Rule 19(a).” Id. Rule 19(a) provides, in relevant part:

(1) Required Party. A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if:
(A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or
(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in ...

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