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Wolfgang Fuerst v. Wolfgang Fuerst

December 9, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.


Wolfgang Fuerst ("Wolfgang" or "the Plaintiff") commenced this action against his now former wife Hannelore Fuerst ("Hannelore" or "the Defendant") seeking economic and emotional damages based on her alleged misconduct during their divorce proceeding. The Defendant counterclaimed against Wolfgang for economic and emotional damages and filed a motion for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ. P.) 11 based on his commencement and continued prosecution of the instant action. After a judgment of divorce was entered, the Plaintiff withdrew his complaint in this action.

Presently before the Court are the following motions: (1) the Defendant's motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11; and (2) the Plaintiff's motion to restore his previously withdrawn complaint and to amend the complaint to add attorney Adrienne F. Hausch as a defendant. For the reasons set forth below, the Court sua sponte dismisses the counterclaims and denies the motion to restore and amend the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In addition, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Defendant's motion for sanctions.


The parties in this action are represented by the same attorneys who represented them in the underlying divorce proceeding, namely Delice F. Seligman, Esq. of Seligman & Seligman for Wolfgang, and Adrienne F. Hausch, Esq. of Carway & Flipse, Esqs for Hannelore. Both the parties and their attorneys have filed numerous and lengthy affidavits recounting their version of the facts of this case, including the past history of the case and opinions about matters that are not only not relevant to the instant proceeding, but are unnecessarily inflammatory. The Court will limit its summary of the facts to those allegations relating to the divorce proceeding and the instant case that are directly relevant.

On September 1, 1967, Wolfgang and Hannelore Fuerst were married in Germany. In 1974, the parties moved to New York, where they resided from 1974 until in or about 2008. At some point in 2008, the parties allegedly agreed that, for financial reasons, Wolfgang would move back to Germany, while Hannelore would stay in the United States for a few more years before eventually returning to Germany.

On November 7, 2008, Hannelore commenced a divorce proceeding against her husband by an order to show cause for pendente lite relief in the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County under Index Number 203114/08 (the "divorce proceeding"). The divorce proceeding was assigned to the Honorable Vito DeStefano. On November 12, 2008, Justice DeStefano signed the order to show cause making it returnable on November 24, 2008. In addition, ex parte, Justice DeStefano placed certain restraints on assets including "the proceeds of the marital residence, the proceeds of a mortgage issued to the parties' adult child and the proceedings of certain brokerage accounts". (Counterclaim Complaint ¶ 43; Order to Show Cause dated November 12, 2008, Ex. E to the Hausch Affidavit dated November 23, 2010 ("Hausch Aff.").) Although the parties dispute the circumstances involving Wolfgang's consent, there is no dispute that, on November 24, 2008, Wolfgang executed certain stipulations agreeing to continue or modify the restraints on marital and certain other property during the pendency of the divorce proceeding. (See Hausch Aff., Exs. F & G.)

In November 2009, an inquest was conducted as to the grounds of the divorce. Following the inquest, the court held the entry of judgment of divorce in abeyance pending the resolution of issues with regard to the equitable distribution of the parties' property. In particular, throughout the proceeding, the parties engaged in discovery involving the heavily contested issue of whether Wolfgang had undisclosed hidden assets. On November 19, 2009, during the trial with regard to the equitable distribution of the assets, the parties entered into an oral stipulation on the record regarding the distribution of the assets. At that time, Wolfgang's counsel, Ms. Seligman, stated on the record that she did not agree with the terms of the settlement and that Wolfgang had agreed to the proposed distribution against her advice. Justice DeStefano directed the parties to reduce the stipulation to writing. Hannelore's attorney, Ms. Hausch, stated that she would circulate the stipulation and have it signed by all parties by January 15, 2010, and that she would enter into a stipulation of discontinuance by November 20, 2009, the day after the hearing. (See November 19, 2009 Transcript, Seligman Aff., Ex. D.) Following the trial in November of 2009, Wolfgang moved back to Germany.

Although a form of the stipulation of settlement was reduced to writing, it was never signed by Wolfgang and Ms. Hausch never filed a stipulation of discontinuance. There is a significant dispute as to the circumstances surrounding the parties' failure to execute the stipulation of settlement and to discontinue the action. Ms. Hausch contends that Wolfgang moved back to Germany without signing the stipulation, while Ms. Seligman contends that she was never provided a copy of the stipulation of settlement for Wolfgang to sign. In addition, Ms. Seligman contends that although Ms. Hausch prepared a stipulation of discontinuance, which Ms. Seligman signed, Ms. Hausch chose not to file it with the court.

In or about March of 2010, Hannelore moved to have the divorce proceeding restored to the court's trial calendar. At an unspecified time, Justice DeStefano apparently recused himself from the case and the matter was reassigned to the Honorable Robert A. Bruno. By order dated June 4, 2010, Justice Bruno held that the parties November 19, 2009 stipulation was unenforceable. Justice Bruno scheduled a new trial on the equitable distribution issues to commence on September 1, 2010.

On August 25, 2010, Wolfgang filed an emergency application with the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department, seeking to stay the trial in the divorce proceeding. This application was denied. Subsequently, on August 27, 2010, Wolfgang commenced the instant action against Hannelore in federal court asserting claims for abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on Hannelore's conduct in the commencement and prosecution of the divorce proceeding. In the complaint, Wolfgang sought damages for emotional trauma, loss of income based on the restraints imposed on him by the ex parte orders, and the costs expended in litigating the divorce proceeding.

On September 1, 2010, the day the trial was set to begin in the divorce proceeding, the parties entered in to a Stipulation of Settlement (the "Settlement"). (See Counterclaim Complaint, Ex. A.) Article XIX, paragraphs two and three of the Settlement state in relevant part that:

2. Except for the obligations, promises and Stipulations herein set forth and to be performed by the parties hereto which are hereby expressly reserved, each of the parties hereto for himself and herself and for his or her legal representatives hereby forever releases and discharges the other, and his or her heirs and legal representatives, from any and all debts, sums of money, accounts, contracts, claims, causes or causes of action, suits dues, reckoning, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, controversies, Stipulations, promises, damages, judgments, extends, executions and demands whatsoever, in law or in equity which each of them had, now has or hereafter can, shall or may have, by reason of any matter from the beginning of the world to the execution of this Stipulation.

3. Except as otherwise expressly set forth herein, each party hereby remises, release and forever discharges the other from all causes of action, claims rights and demands whatsoever, in law or in equity, known or unknown, past, present or future, which either of the parties hereto ever had, or now or hereafter may have, against the other, including (without limitation) all claims with respect to all marital property as that term is used in Domestic Relations Law Section 236 and as interpreted or arising out of the marital relationship, except any cause of action for divorce, annulment or separation, and any defenses thereto in any pending or future action and except any cause of action arising out of or in connection with the breach of this Stipulation. (Id. at 34--35) Also on September 1, 2010, Wolfgang consented to the issuance of the divorce decree.

On September 2, 2010, Ms. Hausch sent a letter to Ms. Seligman asking whether "[i]n view of the settlement of the matrimonial action . . . [she] intend[ed] to withdraw [the] federal action". (Hausch Aff., Ex. K.) However, Ms. Seligman states that, to the ...

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