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Bilder v. Dykstra

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 6, 2019

REV. BARRY D. BILDER, Plaintiff,
v.
JANICE A. DYKSTRA and JANE/JOHN DOE, Individuals as discovery may reveal, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Charles P. Kocoras United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Janice A. Dykstra's (“Dykstra”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff Rev. Barry D. Bilder's (“Barry”) complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants Dykstra's motion for summary judgment.

         STATEMENT

         The following facts are taken from the record and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff Barry is an Oklahoma citizen and the brother of Defendant Dykstra, an Illinois citizen. The parties had a third sibling, Richard J. Bilder (“Richard”). Dykstra, Barry, and Richard were all the children of John Bilder (“John”).

         On August 10, 1995, John appointed Dykstra as the Executor of his Last Will and Testament. On November 27, 2001, Richard died. Four days later, John died. On June 5, 2002, Dykstra was appointed as the Independent Administrator of both Richard and John's estates. According to John's Last Will and Testament, all of his assets were to pour over into his inter vivos trust, of which Dykstra was the sole beneficiary at the time of John's death. Although Richard died intestate, he also created an inter vivos trust prior to his death that listed Dykstra as the sole beneficiary. As such, Dykstra came into possession of Richard and John's property.

         In July 2015, a civil matter arose between the parties in Oklahoma that involved real estate previously purchased by John. In the course of obtaining discovery for that matter in July 2016, Barry obtained the probate documents of Richard and John's estates. Upon reviewing the documents in July 2017, Barry discovered alleged forgeries on two probate documents: (1) a June 5, 2002 document titled “Waiver of Notice, ” which waived his right to notice regarding the probate hearing, the right to require formal proof of the will and to contest the will's admission to probate, and his rights in independent administration; and (2) an August 4, 2006 document titled “Receipt and Approval on Closing of Independent Administration, ” acknowledging that Barry received his distributive share of the estate in full. Barry alleges that Dykstra fraudulently prevented him from receiving his inheritance by forging his signature on these two documents, which prevented his involvement in the probate process and falsely acknowledged his receipt of inheritance when he had not received a share.

         Based on these events, Barry filed his complaint on July 25, 2019, alleging a claim for forgery.[1] On October 3, 2019, Dykstra filed the instant motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case.” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 694 F.3d 873, 878 (7th Cir. 2012). The allegations in the complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Plaintiffs need not provide detailed factual allegations, but they must provide enough factual support to raise their right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the pleadings must “allow…the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The claim must be described “in sufficient detail to give the defendant ‘fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient to withstand a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider documents “referred to in the plaintiff's complaint [that] are central to his claim.” 188 LLC v. Trinity Industries, Inc., 300 F.3d 730, 735 (7th Cir. 2002). However, if a moving party relies on additional materials, the motion must be converted to a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Given that the Court must rely on such materials to resolve this motion, we deem it appropriate to convert the motion to a motion for summary judgment.

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court considers the “record as a whole.” Morgan v. Harris Trust & Sav. Bank of Chi., 867 F.2d 1023, 1026 (7th Cir. 1989). In its consideration, the Court construes all facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact arises where a reasonable jury could find, based on the evidence of record, in favor of the non-movant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         Dykstra urges the Court to grant her motion on two grounds:[2] (1) Barry cannot state a claim because Dykstra was the sole beneficiary of Richard and John's estates, and (2) Barry released Dykstra from any and all claims he may have against her pursuant to the settlement agreement the parties entered on February 28, 2019. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         I. Barry's Damages and Expectation of Inheritance

         Dykstra asserts that Barry cannot state a claim for fraud or intentional interference with inheritance because he was not listed as a beneficiary of either Richard or John's trusts. To establish a claim for common-law fraud, Barry would have to plead sufficient facts to show damages. Giammanco v. Giammanco, 253 Ill.App.3d 750, 758 (1993). To allege intentional interference with inheritance under Illinois law, Barry would have to plead damages, as well as “the existence of an expectancy” and “defendant's intentional interference with the expectancy.” In re Estate of Ellis, 236 Ill.2d 45, 52 (2009). If Barry was not listed as ...


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