Martiradonna v. Rynberk, No. 45A03–1411–DR–411.

Docket NºNo. 45A03–1411–DR–411.
Citation37 N.E.3d 979
Case DateJuly 10, 2015
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

37 N.E.3d 979 (Table)

Rose A. MARTIRADONNA f/k/a Rose A. Rynberk, Appellant–Petitioner
Gilbert W. RYNBERK, Appellee–Respondent.

No. 45A03–1411–DR–411.

Court of Appeals of Indiana.

July 10, 2015.

D. Eric Neff, Crown Point, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

J. Douglas Angel, Law Offices of J. Douglas, Angel & Associates, Munster, IN, Attorney for Appellee.


CRONE, Judge.

Case Summary

[1] Rose A. Martiradonna f/k/a Rose A. Rynberk (“Wife”) appeals the trial court's order dissolving her marriage to Gilbert W. Rynberk (“Husband”). She argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motions to reopen discovery and clearly erred in finding that three bonuses Husband received during the pendency of the dissolution action were not marital assets subject to division. Finding no error, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[2] Wife and Husband were married in July 1998. They had two children. Wife and Husband agreed that Wife would stay at home to care for their children. In 1998, Wife quit her job as a senior clinical research assistant earning $51,000 per year. Husband was employed as the president of the First National Bank of Illinois (“the Bank”). On March 31, 2007, he signed an employment agreement with the Bank for an initial term of five years that would automatically extend for an additional year on March 31, 2012. The agreement provided that the Bank would pay Husband a yearly salary of $178,500, with annual reviews for merit increases and bonuses. Relevant to this appeal, the agreement provided that in the event of an acquisition or merger of the Bank with another financial institution, Husband could terminate his employment and continue to receive his salary for the remainder of the contract term. Appellant's App. at 447.

[3] Wife and Husband separated in November 2011. On March 30, 2012, Wife filed a petition for legal separation. On May 18, 2012, Husband filed a petition for marriage dissolution. Both Wife and Husband hired replacement counsel. The trial court scheduled an initial pretrial conference for October 17, 2012.

[4] In August 2012, Wintrust Financial Corporation (“Wintrust”) signed a letter of intent to purchase the Bank. In October 2012, the Bank and Husband agreed to a modification of the 2007 employment agreement. The modification consisted of deleting the provision allowing Husband to terminate his employment in the event of a merger or acquisition and continue to receive his salary for the remainder of the term. That provision was replaced with a new provision requiring the Bank to pay Husband a “Deal Bonus” of 2.99 multiplied by his base salary if he was still employed with the Bank on the date of an acquisition or merger with another financial institution. Id. at 449. The Deal Bonus was offered “[i]n consideration of [Husband's] long and dedicated service to the [Bank].” Id.

[5] On October 17, 2012, the date of the scheduled pretrial conference, Wife's attorney filed a motion to substitute counsel. The pretrial conference was continued to permit Wife's third attorney time to familiarize himself with the case.

[6] On November 30, 2012, the Bank paid Husband a bonus of $100,000 in recognition of a July 2012 regulatory finding that resulted in savings to the Bank.

[7] In January 2013, Wintrust made a public announcement of its intent to acquire the Bank, and the Bank and Wintrust executed a formal agreement for the acquisition. Husband signed an employment agreement with Wintrust that would become effective if Wintrust's acquisition of the Bank was completed.

[8] On January 4, 2013, Wife amended her petition for legal separation to marriage dissolution. Also in January, the initial pretrial conference was held, and the trial court issued an order directing the parties to proceed with discovery.

[9] On April 3, 2013, another pretrial conference was held, and the trial court issued an order stating, “All Discovery ... shall be closed and completed on [August 7, 2013].” Id. at 42. The order also stated that the failure to comply with the order and other orders in the case could result in the exclusion of evidence, sanction, dismissal, default, or delay. Id. at 40. In addition, the trial court ordered the parties to engage in mediation to be completed by August 30, 2013. Later in April, Wife hired her fourth attorney.

[10] On May 1, 2013, Wintrust closed on its acquisition of the Bank. On May 15, 2013, the Bank paid Husband a Deal Bonus of $759,238.19 as required under the October 2012 modification of the Bank and Husband's employment agreement.

[11] On August 2, 2013, less than a week before the discovery deadline, Wife served notice to take Husband's deposition. On August 14, 2013, Wife took Husband's deposition, which lasted six hours. Also in August 2013, the parties participated in court-ordered mediation, which was unsuccessful.

[12] On September 11, 2013, a pretrial conference was held. Wife's attorney told the trial court that Wife wished to initiate third-party discovery in Illinois regarding Wintrust's acquisition of the Bank. The trial court stated that discovery was closed and that Wife had not filed a motion to extend it. On October 7, 2013, Wife filed a motion to conduct further discovery to seek information from Wintrust regarding its acquisition of the Bank so that she could obtain evidence revealing whether Husband's bonuses were marital assets. The trial court set the motion to be heard during the final pretrial conference. That conference was held on November 1, 2013, and the trial court denied Wife's motion to conduct further discovery. The trial court set the final hearing for February 5 and 6, 2014.

[13] In January 2014, Wintrust paid bonuses to its senior managers for 2013. Husband's bonus of $51,000 was based on the time period of 2013 that he was employed by Wintrust.

[14] On January 28, 2014, Wife filed a request for ruling in advance of hearing, asking the trial court to order the parties to exchange up-to-date documentation on the valuation of marital assets. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Wife's request.

[15] On February 3, 2014, two days before the scheduled final hearing, Wife's attorney filed an emergency motion for leave of court to withdraw appearance, stating that Wife refused to communicate or cooperate in preparing for trial. The following morning, the trial court held a hearing. The trial court permitted Wife's counsel to withdraw, granted Wife's oral motion to continue the final hearing, granted her thirty days to obtain new counsel, and set a status hearing for March 7, 2014. The trial court affirmed its previous orders that discovery was closed and ordered that “there shall be no further discovery.” Id. at 140.

[16] On March 7, 2014, Wife's fifth attorney entered his appearance and was present at the status conference. He asked the trial court for time to review the case and if necessary conduct specific discovery on pre—and post-petition values of marital property. The trial court informed Wife's new counsel that at a previous hearing, it had determined that documentation regarding pre- and post-petition valuation had been provided. Husband objected to reopening discovery. The trial court informed Wife's attorney that discovery was closed “unless you find something very extraordinary in there.” March 7, 2014 Tr. at 8. The trial court gave Wife until April 18, 2014, to file a request for additional discovery. Another final pretrial conference was set for May 30, 2014, and the final hearing was reset for June 16 and 17, 2014.

[17] On May 20, 2014, Wife filed a motion to reopen discovery and continue trial. In relevant part, she requested additional discovery to obtain information regarding Wintrust's acquisition of the Bank. At the May 30, 2014 final pretrial conference, the trial court heard argument on Wife's motion and denied it. On June 16 and 17, 2014, the final hearing was held.

[18] In July 2014, the trial court issued the dissolution decree, which in relevant part found that Husband's November 2012, May 2013, and January 2014 bonuses were not part of the marital estate subject to division but were income for purposes of determining child support. The trial court ordered a 60/40 division of the marital estate in Wife's favor. Wife filed a motion to correct error, alleging in relevant part that the trial court erred in denying her motions to reopen discovery and in determining that Husband's bonuses were not part of the marital estate. Husband also filed a motion to correct error, alleging that the trial court erred in finding that his bonuses were income rather than assets for purposes of child support. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an order denying their motions. Wife appeals.

Discussion and Decision

Section 1—The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Wife's motion to reopen discovery.

[19] Wife contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motions to reopen discovery.1

The discovery rules are designed to allow a liberal discovery process, the purposes of which are to provide parties with information essential to litigation of the issues, to eliminate surprise, and to promote settlement.

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