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Easterley v. Burgett

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 26, 2016

CAROL EASTERLEY as Guardian of the Estate and Person of MARY LOU KUSMANOFF, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL BURGETT & LYNDA BURGETT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          David R. Herndon, Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Carol Easterley (Mary Lou Kusmanoff's daughter), as Guardian of the Estate and person of Mary Lou Kusmanoff, filed this diversity suit[1] against Michael Burgett (Mary Lou Kusmanoff's son) and Lynda Burgett (Michael Burgett's wife) on March 18, 2016. The two-count complaint alleges the Burgetts fraudulently deprived Mary Lou Kusmanoff of access to funds belonging to her and converted said funds for their own benefit. Count I seeks an order directing the Burgetts to return to the Estate of Mary Lou Kusmanoff the sum of $160, 000.00 and the title to a 2014 Chrysler van. Count II seeks an order directing the Burgetts to return the person of Mary Lou Kusmanoff to the State of Illinois.

         Presently before the Court is the Burgetts' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Doc. 12). Also pending are two motions to supplement the record (Docs. 22 and 25) and a motion to quash subpoenas (Doc. 29). Based on the record and the following, the Court ORDERS as follows:

         The motions to supplement (Docs. 22 and 25) are GRANTED. The motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Doc. 12) is GRANTED. Further, in light of the dismissal, the motion to quash (Doc. 29) is GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         According to the complaint, between December 2014 and March 2015, the Burgetts entered the State of Illinois and fraudulently deprived Mary Lou Kusmanoff of access to funds belonging to her and wrongfully converted said funds for their own benefit. Additionally, the complaint alleges that in March of 2015, the Burgetts entered the State of Illinois under false pretenses and removed Mary Lou Kusmanoff to the State of Texas.

         Thereafter, on April 17, 2015, Carol Easterly filed a petition in the Probate Court in St. Clair County, Illinois, alleging Mary Lou Kusmanoff is a disabled adult and seeking the appointment of a Guardian of the Estate and Person. Lynda Burgett filed a cross-petition for Guardianship. Michael Burgett entered his appearance as an interested person and filed discovery responses identifying himself as a respondent.

         A bench trial commenced on December 2, 2015. Mary Lou Kusmanoff, represented by attorney Brian McCarthy, was present at the December 2, 2015 bench trial. Additionally, the Burgetts were present and represented by their attorney, Jack Cranley. Testimony was taken and, on December 3, 2015, the St. Clair County Probate Court continued the matter until March 1, 2016.

         On March 1, 2016, the bench trial resumed. The Burgetts' attorney was present. However, the Burgetts and Mary Lou Kusmanoff failed to appear.

         Additionally, on March 1, 2016, the Probate Court in St. Clair County, Illinois entered an order restraining the Burgetts from proceeding in any other court other than in St. Clair County on issues relating to probate and guardianship involving Mary Lou Kusmanoff.

         During the bench trial, the St. Clair County Probate Court heard the following evidence:

(1) Testimony from two physicians, both of whom opined Mary Lou Kusmanoff suffered from mild cognitive impairment, short term memory loss, and moderate dementia. Additionally, both physicians opined Mary Lou Kusmanoff was at an increased risk of manipulation and pressure from others.
(2) The oral report of Mary Lou Kusmanoff's Guardian ad litem.
(3) Evidence pertaining to Mary Lou Kusmanoff's moderate dementia, short term memory loss and confusion, and severe physical limitations
(4) Evidence pertaining to Michael Burgett removing funds in excess of $700, 000.00 from Mary Lou Kusmanoff's bank accounts and placing the same into bank accounts in his own name and Lynda Burgett's name, thereby converting the funds for the Burgetts' own benefit.

(Doc. 19-2 pp. 3-4).

         On March 6, 2016, the St. Clair County Probate Court issued an order adjudicating Mary Lou Kusmanoff a disabled person and appointing Carol Easterley Guardian of Mary Lou Kusmanoff's Estate and Person. Specifically, the Probate Court concluded Mary Lou Kusmanoff “was as of December, 2014 and continues to be a disabled person due to mental deterioration and physical incapacity who is not fully able to manage her person or estate, and further because of her disability she lacks sufficient understanding to make or ...


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