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Jones v. Culver

Court of Appeals of Kansas

June 6, 2014

SHARALENE JONES, Administrator of the Estate of Byron J. Funk, Deceased, Appellant,
v.
GLENDA CULVER, Appellee

Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; JEFFREY SYRIOS, judge.

SYLLABUS

1. To demonstrate a breach of contract claim, a plaintiff must show a contract existed between the parties; there was sufficient consideration to support the contract; one party performed or was willing to perform the requirements of the contract; a party breached the contract; and there were damages to the plaintiff caused by the breach of the contract.

2. In Kansas, the elements of an unjust enrichment claim are a benefit conferred upon the defendant by the plaintiff; an appreciation or knowledge of the benefit by the defendant; and the acceptance or retention by the defendant of the benefit under such circumstances as to make it inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit without payment of its value.

3. A worker who allows his or her earnings to contribute to a 401(k) plan created by an employer is a settlor of a trust. Accordingly, to comply with K.S.A. 60-1610(b), a divorce decree must reflect any changes in a beneficiary.

Donald N. Peterson II and Sean M. McGivern, of Withers, Gough, Pike, Pfaff & Peterson, LLC, of Wichita, for appellant.

Michael L. Baumberger, of Klenda Austerman LLC, of Wichita, for appellee.

Before MALONE, P.J., HILL and ARNOLD-BURGER, JJ.

OPINION

Page 512

Hill, J.

When Byron Funk died intestate 14 years after his divorce from Glenda Funk (now known as Culver), his former employer paid the proceeds from his retirement account to Glenda because she was still the named beneficiary of the account. Contending Glenda had no proper claim to this retirement account because of their divorce, Byron's estate sued Glenda seeking return of the proceeds on theories of breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The district court granted summary judgment to Glenda, and the estate appeals. Because the estate has neither shown us an enforceable contract nor established all the required elements to prove unjust enrichment, we affirm the district court.

The factual background is simple.

Byron and Glenda were divorced in Sedgwick County in June 1998. The divorce decree indicated the court awarded Byron his 401(k) " as his sole and separate property, free and clear of any right, title, claim or interest" of Glenda. Glenda was awarded her vehicle, her IRAs, and other items. The divorce decree gave the parties the standard directions to finish the paper work:

" Each party shall promptly make, execute and deliver to the other party any and all deeds of conveyance, bills of sale, title of transfer, documents or any other instruments which may be necessary or convenient to carry out the terms of this Journal Entry. If either party fails to comply with the provisions of this paragraph, then this Journal Entry itself shall substitute as an actual grant, assignment, release and conveyance of the property and rights in such manner as shall be necessary or convenient to effectuate the terms hereof."

Byron died intestate on February 6, 2012. The proceeds of his 401(k) were distributed to Glenda, as she was still the named beneficiary on the account. The administrator of Byron's estate--his sister, Sharalene K. Jones--sued Glenda in the district court, alleging her retention of the proceeds constituted (1) unjust enrichment; (2) a breach of contract with ...


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