Federal court stays dispute over deceased pensioner's benefits from Anheuser-Busch

By Sam Knef | Jun 10, 2017

ST. LOUIS — A federal court judge has issued a stay in a dispute between an ex-wife and a widow involving Anheuser-Busch pension benefits.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry of the Eastern District of Missouri granted a petition from Beth Laenen, ex-wife of deceased pension plan participant Frank Laenen, to stay a federal court matter being pursued by widow Jennifer Laenen.

A Franklin County Circuit Court entered an order March 16, 2015, defining the terms of a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), whereafter Beth Laenen claimed she was entitled to half of her ex-husband's benefits, according to background information in the ruling.

Jennifer Laenen contended that Beth Laenen is entitled to no benefits.

Perry's order indicates that Anheuser-Busch Companies Pension Plan brought an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) interpleader action against Beth Laenen to resolve who is entitled to the benefits.

The order states that after Perry had been briefed by the parties in the Anheuser-Busch proceedings, she found that the Franklin County Circuit Court’s order did not qualify as a QDRO under ERISA.

Based on that finding, Jennifer Laenen then sought summary judgment in her favor in federal court

In the meantime, Beth Laenen filed a motion in Franklin County Circuit Court seeking to modify or amend the March 2015 order.

Perry wrote she would stay the action "in the interests of judicial economy and under the court's discretionary power to control its own docket."

“A final ruling in this federal case will serve no useful purpose nor terminate this controversy while Beth’s motion to modify in state court is pending,” she wrote. “So long as modification of the March 2015 Order is still possible, any judgment from this court would be uncertain and could result in unnecessary entanglement with the state court system. Out of deference to the state court’s jurisdiction over domestic relations issues and in the interests of judicial economy, I agree that Beth’s motion pending in state court case should proceed first.”

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