United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
LEILA C. SINCLAIR, Plaintiff,
CRAIG S. SAMPSON, ESQ., KATHLEEN J. ENNEN, WILLIAM E. JENKINS, THEODORE L. JENKINS JR., and AMERICAN NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.
asked a gentleman by us if he knew what cause was on. He told
us Jarndyce and Jarndyce. We asked him if he knew what was
doing in it. He said really, no he did not, nobody ever did,
but as well as he could make out, it was over. Over for the
day? we asked him, No, he said, over for good.
Dickens, Bleak House 911 (Signet Classics 2011)
the denouement the Court hopes here to hasten in this case.
It is - like Jarndyce and Jarndyce - a suit regarding
inheritance and with competing testaments, and also one
litigated through “trickery, evasion, procrastination,
spoliation, botheration, under false pretences of all
sorts.” Id. at 13. Fortunately, though, this
is not nineteenth-century Chancery Court applying
“[t]he one great principle of the English law . . . to
make business for itself, ” id. at 579, but a
court compelled “to secure the just, speedy, and
inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding,
” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1.
that “every difficulty, every contingency, every
masterly fiction, every form of procedure known . . . is
represented over and over again” in this case,
Dickens, supra, at 29, the material facts are
somewhat involved. But at bottom, this is a fight among
siblings about who should control the remaining balance of
their late mother's annuity.
Leila Sinclair and Defendants Kathleen Ennen, William
Jenkins, and Theodore Jenkins Jr. are all children of the
late Kathleen and Theodore Jenkins. (Sibling Defs.'
Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute
(“SSMF”) ¶¶ 1, 6, ECF No. 154;
see American National Insurance Company's
Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute
(“ASMF”) ¶¶ 5-6, ECF No. 152.) On
August 6, 2010, at the behest of Kathleen Jenkins, Defendant
American National Insurance Company (“ANICO”)
sold an annuity for $384, 993.92 to the Theodore Lock Jenkins
Trust (“TLJ Trust”). (ASMF ¶ 6; ASMF Ex. 2
at 6, 13, ECF No. 152-2.) The TLJ Trust had been born of
Theodore Jenkins's will when he passed in 1988, and had
Kathleen Jenkins and Sinclair for trustees. (ASMF ¶ 5;
ASMF Ex. 1 at 3, ECF No. 152-1.) The TLJ Trust directed that
income from its assets - including from the annuity - be paid
for Kathleen Jenkins's benefit. (See ASMF Ex. 1
at 22.) And indeed, the annuity itself required that Kathleen
Jenkins, as annuitant, receive periodic payments from its
corpus, (ASMF Ex. 2, at 5), and that upon her death her
children, as the annuity's beneficiaries, would each
receive a quarter of whatever remained, (id. at 15).
was the arrangement, anyway, before Kathleen Jenkins created
the Kathleen Ennis Jenkins Trust (“KEJ Trust”)
and appointed Sinclair her attorney-in-fact, in May 2013.
(ASMF ¶¶ 7, 10.) Sinclair was named trustee to the
KEJ Trust, a position that assumed an importance as to the
annuity when, in November 2014, Sinclair - using her newly
coined power-of-attorney - surreptitiously changed the
annuity's beneficiary designation from the four children
to the KEJ Trust. (Id. ¶ 8, 11.) A secret coup,
but one for whose fruits Sinclair was impatient. Because
rather than wait patiently for her mother to die and the
annuity to fall - naturally, so to speak - into the KEJ
Trust, Sinclair began in November 2014 to request withdrawals
from the annuity. (Id. ¶ 12.) Ten in all and
totaling $192, 750, the checks were made payable to the KEJ
Trust and sent to its trustee, Sinclair. (Id.)
Jenkins died November 18, 2015. (Id. ¶ 14.) On
December 28, 2015, eager to collect what was left of the
annuity, Sinclair submitted a claim on behalf of the KEJ
Trust to ANICO. (Id.) She sent paperwork including
Kathleen Jenkins's death certificate and a copy of the
deed to the KEJ Trust. (Id.) The next day Jenkins
Jr. - suddenly awake to at least some of Sinclair's
intrigues - phoned ANICO to say that he was contesting the
power-of-attorney that enabled Sinclair to change the annuity
beneficiary from the children to the KEJ Trust. (Id.
¶ 15.) ANICO informed Jenkins Jr. that Sinclair was one
step ahead of him, having already submitted a claim for the
days later, in a remarkable turn, ANICO received a letter
from Defendant Craig Sampson, a lawyer for Jenkins Jr.
(Id. ¶ 16.) The letter highlighted part of the
KEJ Trust deed Sinclair had overlooked: clause 7, which
created the office of Appointer. (ASMF Ex. 11 at 3-4, ECF No.
152-11; ASMF Ex. 3 at 9, ECF No. 152-3.) According to the
deed, the Appointer had nearly unfettered power to remove and
appoint trustees to the Trust. (ASMF Ex. 3 at 9.) And, the
letter continued, the deed had William Jenkins, Jenkins
Jr.'s brother, designated Appointer. (Id. at 20;
ASMF Ex. 11 at 3-4.) Attached to Sampson's letter was a
copy of a memorandum signed by William Jenkins and sent to
Sinclair, removing her as trustee of the KEJ Trust and
appointing Sampson in her stead. (ASMF Ex. 11 at 4.)
thereafter, on January 4, 2015, Sampson exercised his power
as trustee by submitting a claim to ANICO for the annuity.
(ASMF ¶ 17.) Sampson received the $215, 274.18 that
remained in the investment via check dated January 14, 2016.
(Id. ¶ 19.) Before doing so, however, ANICO
wrote and took a call from Sinclair as a courtesy, to tell
her she had been supplanted pursuant to clause 7 of the KEJ
Trust, and that the company was therefore sending the annuity
proceeds to the newly appointed trustee. (Id.
content to wonder at the irony of it all, Sinclair mailed
ANICO what she represented was a later version of the KEJ
Trust deed, purportedly executed in September 2013, several
months after the original. (Id. ¶ 21.) This
version was curious for its having a signature page identical
to that of the original, that is, the one submitted to ANICO
by both Sinclair and Jenkins Jr. in December 2015 as part of
their competing annuity claims. (Id.) Although
unlike the original, this new version - surprise, surprise -
had swapped William Jenkins out for another Appointor, and
limited the Appointer's power to install new trustees to
situations where the sitting trustee either died or expressly
consented to the appointment. (Id.; ASMF Ex. 17 at
9, 20, ECF No. 152-17.)
except Sinclair considered this second deed a dead letter:
ANICO had already disbursed the annuity's funds to
Sampson, and Sinclair's siblings had by then developed a
deep distrust of her handling of their mother's estate.
Struggling to breathe life into her piece of paper, and
recapture her siblings' attention, Sinclair filed suit.
(Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1.)
remaining “stages of an endless cause, ” the
Court first runs its “head against walls of
words” to do with the three pending summary-judgment
motions, (ECF Nos. 151, 153, 155). Dickens, supra,
at 10. The rest - the motions to strike (ECF No. 177), to
amend (ECF Nos. 182, 187), to supplement (ECF No. ...