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BRDECKA v. GLEANER LIFE INSURANCE SOCIETY

June 6, 2005.

MICHAEL J. BRDECKA, Plaintiff,
v.
GLEANER LIFE INSURANCE SOCIETY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Michael J. Brdecka ("Brdecka"), filed an action against Gleaner Life Insurance Society ("Gleaner") for intentional misrepresentation, interference with prospective economic advantage and an accounting. The intentional misrepresentation claims were dismissed in 2002. Gleaner now moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Gleaner's motion for summary judgment is granted.

Background*fn1

  Gleaner is a tax-exempt fraternal benefits society. Gleaner offers life insurance and tax-deferred annuities to members and prospective members through a network of independent special representatives. Gleaner refers to purchasers of its deferred annuities as "members" due to the legal relationship between a fraternal benefits society and an insured individual.

  The special representatives who sell annuities and other products to Gleaner members act as agents for Gleaner. They are not party to the annuity agreement between Gleaner and the member. When a special representative sells a Gleaner product such as an annuity, Gleaner pays a commission directly to that special representative. Gleaner enters into a Special Representative Agreement with each of its special representatives. Under the terms of the Special Representative Agreement, Gleaner or the special representative can terminate the agreement, with or without cause, with ten days written notice.

  In addition to special representatives, Gleaner also has a network of managers or general agents who are given the right to establish their own agency and receive commissions on sales made by special representatives under their direction. Gleaner enters into a Manager's Agreement with each of its managers or general agents.

  On May 24, 1991 Brdecka, entered into a Special Representative Agreement and a Manager's Agreement with Gleaner. Pursuant to the Special Representative Agreement, Gleaner paid compensation in the form of commissions directly to Brdecka for sales he made of Gleaner products. In conjunction with the Manager's Agreement, Brdecka recruited special representatives for Gleaner who Gleaner then authorized to sell its products. Brdecka received override payments and trail income*fn2 from Gleaner on sales made by the special representatives in his agency pursuant to the Manager's Agreement. For example, if the total commission on a Gleaner product was 8.5%, 7% would be paid by Gleaner to the special representative who sold the Gleaner product and 1.5% would be paid by Gleaner to Brdecka in the form of an override payment. Brdecka was not entitled to receive commissions, renewals, overrides or trail income for sales made by Gleaner special representatives other than those within his agency.

  When Brdecka created his agency, among the special representatives he introduced to Gleaner was Norm Chiodras ("Chiodras"). Chiodras entered into a Special Representative Agreement with Gleaner. As with the other special representatives in Brdecka's agency, Brdecka did not have a written or oral contract directly with Chiodras, nor did Brdecka enter into a written or oral non-compete agreement with Chiodras. Additionally, no written agreement existed between Brdecka and Gleaner prohibiting Gleaner from promoting the special representatives in Brdecka's agency.*fn3

  From the beginning of his relationship with Gleaner, Chiodras was one of the top sellers among all of Gleaner's special representatives. On sales that Chiodras made between 1991 through October of 1999, Gleaner paid commissions directly to Chiodras and an override commission on such sales directly to Brdecka. In 1999, Gleaner promoted Chiodras and gave him his own agency, similar to that of Brdecka's, to reward Chiodras' performance and to insure his continued success and satisfaction with Gleaner. As a result of Chiodras' promotion, Brdecka no longer received the override commissions or trail income on Chiodras' sales.

  Gleaner members have no obligation to purchase Gleaner products from Brdecka or the special representatives in his agency. The members are free to purchase Gleaner products from any Gleaner special representative. Further, Gleaner members have the right to choose which Gleaner products to purchase. The members also have a right to rollover their Gleaner products into other Gleaner products or into products of other companies.

  In this action, Brdecka contends that: (1) Gleaner interfered with Brdecka's prospective business advantage of ongoing relationships with Gleaner members and (2) Gleaner interfered with his prospective business advantage of an ongoing relationship with Chiodras.

  Legal Analysis

  Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Alexander v. Dept. of Health and Family Services, 263 F.3d 673, 680 (7th Cir. 2001). When making this determination, we review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Id. However, once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for trial. Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 642 (7th Cir. 1987). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) "mandates summary judgment when the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to its case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Jefferson v. City of Chicago, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22081, *10 (N.D. Ill. 2000).

  The Local Rules for the Northern District of Illinois impose on a party contesting summary judgment an exacting obligation to highlight which factual averments are in conflict as well as what record evidence there is to confirm the dispute. Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921-22 (7th Cir. 1994). Brdecka properly responded to Gleaner's statement of facts by admitting the truth of each fact or controverting the facts with support from the record. However, Brdecka failed to submit his own statement of facts in accordance with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3). Brdecka's response to Gleaner's motion for summary judgment includes a background section which realleges the allegations in his ...


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