Associates Inv. Co. v. Claeys

Citation533 N.E.2d 1248
Decision Date08 February 1989
Docket NumberNo. 71A04-8804-CV-131,71A04-8804-CV-131
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana
PartiesASSOCIATES INVESTMENT COMPANY, Associates Corporation of North America and Associates Management Corporation, Appellants (Defendants Below), v. Anne E. CLAEYS & Anne E. Claeys, Executrix of the Estate of Jack C. Claeys, Deceased, Appellees (Plaintiffs Below).

Mark D. Boveri, Lynn C. Tyler, Barnes & Thornburg, South Bend, for appellants.

Gerald A. Kamm, John J. Roggeman, Doran, Manion, Boynton, Kamm and Esmont, South Bend, for appellees.

CONOVER, Presiding Judge.

Defendants-appellants Associates Investment Company, Associates Corporation of North America, and Associates Management Corporation (Associates) appeal a judgment and award of $66,734.94 upon the claim of Plaintiff-appellee Ann E. Claeys, individually and as executor of the estate of Jack C. Claeys (Claeys).

We affirm.

Associates articulates three issues. We have rephrased them:

1. Whether the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Claeys's state law breach of contract claim.

2. Whether the trial court's judgment is contrary to law because there is no evidence from which to conclude Associates acted arbitrarily and capriciously under federal law.

3. Whether the trial court erred by denying Associates's motion to join additional parties.


Individually and as executrix of Jack Claeys's estate Ann Claeys sued Associates. She claimed Associates failed to pay money due the estate under the profit sharing and savings plans of Associates, Jack's employer. 1 (R. 17-18). The case was tried upon stipulated facts (R. 27-31; Supp.R. 10-13), stipulated exhibits (R. 32-68; Supp.R. 14-50), and argument.

The stipulations show Jack Claeys elected to participate in Associates' profit sharing and savings plans. He designated his five daughters as beneficiaries of the plans. At the time of relevant events Jack met age and other requirements to request funds from the plans.

On April 30, 1976, Jack wrote a note to the benefits supervisor of his employer. It said:

I would like to draw out all the money which I have coming to me under the profit sharing plan.

(R. 65; Supp.R. 47). On May 10, 1976, his employer's Vice President for Compensation and Benefits responded by letter to Jack's request. The letter advised Jack about the effect of withdrawal from the plans. It asked Jack to think about the matter. It said if Jack decided to cancel, his request would be honored. (R. 66; Supp.R. 48). Jack died May 15, 1976, without responding to the letter.

Under relevant terms of the plans, a participant was paid all amounts due after the calendar quarter in which the participant either (1) died or (2) attained the age of 55 and requested withdrawal from the plans. (R. 53). On August 9, 1976, the attorney for Jack's estate demanded the monies be paid to the estate. (R. 30, 67). Instead, in September, 1976, Associates paid the money to the named beneficiaries, Jack's daughters. (R. 30).

On February 8, 1977, Ann and the estate sued. They argued Jack, before his death, had substantially complied with the contractual requirements for distribution of plan proceeds to him and the money rightfully belonged to the estate. (R. 74-76). Associates argued the doctrine of substantial compliance did not entitle the estate to the funds and the funds had to be distributed in accord with the terms of the plan, that is to the named beneficiaries. (R. 80-85).

On February 6, 1979, Associates moved to join Jack's daughters as parties defendant. (R. 69-70; Supp.R. 6-7). The motion for joinder was denied February 26, 1979. (R. 69; Supp.R. 51). In a letter to the parties the Court cited, as a basis for denial of joinder, State ex rel. Public Service Co. of Indiana v. Pike Circuit Court (1963), 244 Ind. 481, 192 N.E.2d 149. (R. 70; Supp.R. 52).

Eight years later, on March 17, 1987, the estate moved for supplemental oral argument. (Supp.R. 54). It submitted a memorandum in support of the motion. The estate again argued before his death Jack substantially complied with all the requirements for distribution to him of plan assets. (Supp.R. 56-58). In response Associates filed a memorandum. Associates again argued substantial compliance was not an issue because the express terms of the agreements governed the parties' actions. (Supp.R. 62-67).

On January 7, 1988, nearly 11 years after the complaint was filed, the trial court entered judgment against Associates.

In its motion to correct errors Associates raised for the first time an allegation the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Associates asserted the claim related to terms and conditions of an employee benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. Sections 1001, et seq. (ERISA). (R. 1-14). Associates asserted ERISA preempted and superseded all state statutes or common law relating to the Claeys's claims. The motion also alleged the court erred when it denied Associates' motion to join additional parties.

The trial court denied the motion to correct errors. Associates appeals.


Associates argues the judgment in this case is void because the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Associates asserts ERISA preempts state law claims. Associates asserts ERISA preemption requires this court to review the claim in light of ERISA provisions. Associates analogizes to cases involving the Labor Relations Management Act and the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board in those cases.

The estate argues Associates has waived this argument by requesting the case be remanded with direction to proceed under ERISA and by requesting Jack's daughters be joined upon remand. The estate argues Associates has acknowledged state court subject matter jurisdiction under 29 U.S.C. Sec. 1132(e)(1). The estate asserts its claim is only peripherally and indirectly related to the pension plan and not preempted by ERISA, because Associates paid benefits contrary to the plan and because it paid money to the beneficiaries instead of to Jack or his estate. The estate notes federal cases have acknowledged concurrent state court jurisdiction. The estate otherwise distinguishes cases cited by Associates.

Generally, a party may not raise an issue for the first time in his motion to correct error or on appeal when that issue was not raised in the trial court. E.g. Rodgers v. Rodgers (1987), Ind.App., 503 N.E.2d 1255, 1257, trans. denied; Koop v. Bailey (1986), Ind.App., 502 N.E.2d 116, 118, n. 3; Thompson v. Daviess-Martin County REMC (1985), Ind.App., 486 N.E.2d 1102, 1104. Accord, Singleton v. Wulff (1976), 428 U.S. 106, 120, 98 S.Ct. 2868, 2877, 48 L.Ed.2d 826. However, a court without subject matter jurisdiction cannot render a valid judgment and the question of subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time. E.g. Matter of Adoption of H.S. (1985), Ind.App., 483 N.E.2d 777, 780, reh. denied.

In Adoption of H.S. Judge Neal, speaking for the First District, discussed jurisdiction and the application of state law. He said

Jurisdiction of the subject matter involves the power of the court to hear and determine a general class of cases to which the proceedings belong. But subject matter jurisdiction does not depend upon the sufficiency or correctness of the averments in the complaint, the stating of a good cause of action, the validity of the demand, or the plaintiff's right to relief. It does not depend upon the regularity of the proceedings or the correctness of the decision. It is only dependent upon the subject matter to which it relates. Myers v. Sell (1948), 226 Ind. 608, 81 N.E.2d 846, 82 N.E.2d 81; Brown [v. State], supra [ (1941), 219 Ind. 251, 37 N.E.2d 73]; Brendanwood Neighborhood Association v. Common Council of Lebanon (1975), 167 Ind.App. 253, 338 N.E.2d 695; Hirschman v. Marion County Plan Commission (1958), 128 Ind.App. 520, 146 N.E.2d 277, trans. denied.

* The only relevant inquiry in determining whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction is to ask whether this kind of claim the plaintiff advances falls within the general scope of authority conferred upon such court by the constitution or statute. State ex rel. Young v. Noble Circuit Court (1975), 263 Ind. 353, 332 N.E.2d 99.

Jurisdiction of the subject matter does not mean the jurisdiction of a particular case. A court can have jurisdiction over a particular class of cases to which the case belongs, but not jurisdiction over the particular case because of the existence of particular facts contained therein. Public Service Co. v. Decatur County REMC (1977), 173 Ind.App. 198, 363 N.E.2d 995. Failure to timely raise the issue of jurisdiction of a specific case effects a waiver thereof. Farley [v. Farley], supra [ (1973), 157 Ind.App. 385, 300 N.E.2d 375].

If a litigant does not follow a statutory remedy when one is provided, it is said that the court does not acquire subject matter jurisdiction. State Board of Tax Commissioners v. Oliverius (1973), 156 Ind.App. 46, 294 N.E.2d646; Cooper v. County Board of Review of Grant County (1971), 150 Ind.App. 232, 276 N.E.2d 533; Public Service Commission of City of Indianapolis (1956), 235 Ind. 70, 131 N.E.2d 308; Decatur County REMC v. Public Service Co. (1971), 150 Ind.App. 193, 275 N.E.2d 857. Though one who seeks the benefit of a statutory proceeding must comply with all procedural terms of the statute, failure to comply with such niceties will subject the complaint to dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Ind. Rules of Procedure, Trial Rule 12(B)(6), after which the plaintiff can amend. State ex rel. Young, supra. A court does not lose jurisdiction by committing prejudicial error or applying the wrong principle of law, or making an erroneous decision. (Citations omitted). (Our emphasis).

Adoption of H.S., 483 N.E.2d at 780-781.

Associates's argument the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction fails. ERISA...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • Gonzales v. Surgidev Corp.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • 25 Mayo 1995
    ...falls within the general scope of authority conferred upon such court by the constitution or statute." Associates Inv. Co. v. Claeys, 533 N.E.2d 1248, 1251 (Ind.Ct.App.1989). In considering whether federal preemption affects subject matter jurisdiction, the issue is not whether Congress int......
  • Elbert v. Elbert
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 30 Septiembre 1991 address the constitutionality of these statutes because Middy has waived the issue by inviting the error, Associates Investment Co. v. Claeys (1989), Ind.App., 533 N.E.2d 1248, and by failing to make an objection at trial, Azimow v. Stoker (1960), 131 Ind.App., 195, 166 N.E.2d 887. Const......
  • Midwest Sec. Life Ins. Co. v. Stroup
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 17 Febrero 1999
    ...or participant to recover benefits and to enforce or clarify rights under the plan. Id. at § 1132(e)(1); Associates Inv. Co. v. Claeys (1989) Ind.App., 533 N.E.2d 1248, 1251 ("ERISA specifically and unequivocally designates state courts as a proper forum for civil actions to recover benefit......
  • Curry v. Cincinnati Equitable Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • 31 Julio 1992 an affirmative defense involving a choice of law issue which must be raised as a defense prior to trial. Associates Investment v. Claeys, 533 N.E.2d 1248 (Ind.App.1989). II. Next, Curry argues that the trial court erred by adjudging that the group plan at issue is an "employee benefit pl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT