United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss and Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary
Restraining Order. For the following reasons, the Motions to
Dismiss are granted and the Motion for Temporary Restraining
Order is denied.
James R. Huntsman has tried for years to reduce or eliminate
the spousal maintenance obligations originally imposed in
2000, when Plaintiff and his wife, Defendant Zenith Annette
Huntsman, dissolved their 31-year marriage. He has brought no
fewer than 18 state-court appeals over the past 19 years, at
least one of which is still pending. This lawsuit seeks to
force his former employer, Defendant 3M Company, to stop
giving a portion of his pension proceeds to his ex-wife.
Mr. Huntsman is a restricted filer in state court because of
how often he has challenged the property divisions from the
divorce. Huntsman v. Huntsman, No. A12-2147, 2013 WL
5777908, at *8 (Minn.Ct.App. Oct. 28, 2013); see also
Huntsman v. Huntsman, No. A19-40, 2019 WL 3293806, at *3
(Minn.Ct.App. July 22, 2019) (“It is now almost two
decades since [Mr. Huntsman] began his protracted litigation
in opposition to [Mrs. Huntsman's] awards of maintenance
and attorney fees, and his tactics do not seem to have
changed from those rejected by this court in 2013.”).
This case represents Mr. Huntsman's second foray into
Huntsmans divorced in 2000 in Washington County. The divorce
decree provided that Mr. Huntsman would pay spousal
maintenance, and also specifically provided that a portion of
Mr. Huntsman's pension benefit in the Defendant 3M
Employee Retirement Income Plan (“ERIP”) would go
to Mrs. Huntsman. To that end, the Washington County court
issued a qualified domestic relations order under ERISA,
directing Defendant 3M Plan Administrator regarding the
division of the pension benefit. See 29 U.S.C.
§ 1056(d)(3)(G)(ii) (procedures for qualification of
domestic relations orders under ERISA).
Huntsman began receiving his monthly pension benefit of $3,
259.09 in 2007. Shortly thereafter, he moved the Washington
County court to reduce his spousal maintenance obligations,
but that motion was denied. And in fact, because of Mr.
Huntsman's recalcitrance in making spousal maintenance
payments and his attempts to litigate and re-litigate the
issue of his obligations, in 2010 the court amended the
previously issued qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).
The 2010 QDRO provided that Mr. Huntsman's spousal
maintenance payments be made directly to Mrs. Huntsman from
Mr. Huntsman's pension benefits. The 3M Plan
Administrator reviewed the QDRO and determined that it met
the statutory requirements, and after Mr. Huntsman appealed,
made the final determination that the QDRO was enforceable.
3M thus began directly paying Mrs. Huntsman a portion of Mr.
Huntsman's pension benefits.
Huntsman then filed a lawsuit in federal court. Huntsman
v. Angell, No. 11cv844 (D. Minn. filed Apr. 6, 2011).
The lawsuit was stayed pending Mr. Huntsman's appeal of
the 2010 QDRO to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and shortly
thereafter was dismissed without prejudice. (Docket Nos. 8,
9.) The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the 2010 QDRO.
Huntsman v. Huntsman, No. A10-930, 2011 WL 2119336
(Minn.Ct.App. May 31, 2011).
Washington County court twice more amended the QDROs to
increase the amounts Mrs. Huntsman was to be paid from the
pension benefits. In 2015, the court once again issued a new
QDRO, ordering the payment to Mrs. Huntsman not only of the
previously determined base amount of $1, 400 per month but an
additional $600 per month because Mr. Huntsman's spousal
maintenance obligations were in arrears and because of the
attorney's fees Mrs. Huntsman had been forced to expend
defending the QDROs in various fora.
2018, the state court once again modified the QDRO. The new
QDRO ordered the payment of an additional $1, 000 per month
out of Mr. Huntsman's pension benefits directly to Mrs.
Huntsman, for a total of $3, 000 per month. The Plan
Administrator overruled Mr. Huntman's appeal and found
that the 2018 QDRO was a qualified QDRO. Because of the
instant lawsuit, 3M has not paid the additional $1, 000 per
month to Mrs. Huntsman but has placed that amount in escrow
and has continued to pay her $2, 000 per month under the 2015
Amended Complaint raises eight claims. Count I contends that
3M is violating ERISA and the state and U.S. Constitution by
not escrowing the full $3, 000 per month but only escrowing
$1, 000 per month. He asserts that 3M's failure to
properly escrow the full amount will cause him
“irreparable financial harm.” (Am. Compl. ¶
131.) Count II claims that Mrs. Huntsman waived all rights to
Mr. Huntsman's pension benefits in the original divorce
decree, and that the decree is not subject to modification.
Count III contends that the state court lacked jurisdiction
to modify the original QDRO and thus that every QDRO issued
thereafter is void under ERISA. Count IV claims that Mrs.
Huntsman's failure to abide by the agreement she made in
the original divorce decree constitutes a breach of contract.
Count V raises ERISA fiduciary-duty violations against 3M
arising out of the failure to pay Mr. Huntsman the full
amount of his pension benefits. Count VI takes issue with the
state court's determination that the additional payments
ordered in 2018 were justified as payments in equity,
claiming that ERISA does not allow any equitable exceptions.
It's not clear against whom this Count is directed. Count
VII argues that ERISA does not allow the state court to order
Mr. Huntsman to pay Mrs. Huntsman's attorney's fees
out of his pension benefits. Count VIII contends that the
2018 QDRO violates Minnesota and federal withholding and
garnishment laws. Count IX claims that the 2018 QDRO does not
meet ERISA's requirements for a QDRO and thus is invalid.
The final three Counts are claims for relief: estoppel (Count
X), declaratory judgment (Count XI), and a claim for costs
and disbursements (Count XII).
and Mrs. Huntsman have moved to dismiss the claims against
them. Mr. Huntsman thereafter moved for a Temporary
Restraining Order seeking the same relief as in his