Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trusts & Estates
Genevieve J. Parmely Revocable Trust v. Magness
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of The Genevieve J. Parmely Revocable Trust asking the court to determine that an option agreement made with Brad Magness was invalid because of the absence of consideration, holding that the circuit court erred.In denying summary judgment for Magness and in granting the Trust's second motion for summary judgment the circuit court determined that the written option agreements at issue were not supported by independent consideration and were null and void. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Trust failed to rebut the presumption of consideration established by S.D. Codified Laws 53-6-3. View "Genevieve J. Parmely Revocable Trust v. Magness" on Justia Law
McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al.
Husband Steven McAnulty was married twice: once to Plaintiff Elizabeth McAnulty, and once to Defendant Melanie McAnulty. Husband's first marriage ended in divorce; the second ended with his death. Husband’s only life-insurance policy (the Policy) named Defendant as the beneficiary. But the Missouri divorce decree between Plaintiff and Husband required Husband to procure and maintain a $100,000 life-insurance policy with Plaintiff listed as sole beneficiary until his maintenance obligation to her was lawfully terminated (which never happened). Plaintiff sued Defendant and the issuer of the Policy, Standard Insurance Company (Standard), claiming unjust enrichment and seeking the imposition on her behalf of a constructive trust on $100,000 of the insurance proceeds. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff appealed. By stipulation of the parties, Standard was dismissed with respect to this appeal. The only question to be resolved was whether Plaintiff stated a claim. Resolving that issue required the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to predict whether the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26 in Comment g to § 48 of the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment (Am. L. Inst. 2011) (the Restatement (Third)), which would recognize a cause of action in essentially the same circumstances. Because the Tenth Circuit predicted the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26, the Court held Plaintiff has stated a claim of unjust enrichment, and accordingly reversed the previous dismissal of her case. View "McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al." on Justia Law
Piedmont Capital Management, L.L.C. v. McElfish
Defendant owned real property located at 3546 Multiview Drive in Los Angeles, California (the property). That year, he executed two deeds of trust against the property. Defendant obtained a HELOC from National City Bank, memorialized in an Equity Reserve Agreement and secured by a deed of trust against the property (collectively, the HELOC agreement). Piedmont Capital, L.L.C. (Piedmont)—a debt buyer—purchased the HELOC debt. Piedmont sued Defendant. Following a demurrer to the original complaint sustained with leave to amend, Piedmont filed the operative first amended complaint for (1) breach of contract, (2) money lent, (3) money had and received, and (4) declaratory relief. Although Piedmont alleged that the full amount of the HELOC debt Defendant owed totaled $186,587.26, Piedmont conceded that it was “not seeking to collect on any [amounts] that were already barred by the applicable statute of limitations at the time [the] action was filed.” The Second Appellate District reversed. At issue is whether the borrower’s duty to make a monthly payment under such a HELOC agreement indivisible from the borrower’s duty to pay the full amount such that the statute of limitations to recover the full amount begins to run upon the first missed monthly payment. The court held that the duties are divisible. The court explained that the HELOC agreement in this case—by setting a fixed maturity date for the full amount and leaving it to the discretion of the lender whether to accelerate that date—necessarily contemplates that a breach as to a monthly payment does not constitute a breach as to the full amount. View "Piedmont Capital Management, L.L.C. v. McElfish" on Justia Law
Alabama Somerby, LLC, et al. v. L.D.
Alabama Somerby, LLC, d/b/a Brookdale University Park IL/AL/MC; Brookdale Senior Living, Inc.; and Undrea Wright (collectively, Brookdale) appealed a circuit court's order denying their motion to compel arbitration of the claims asserted against them by plaintiff, L.D., as the next friend of her mother, E.D. Brookdale operated an assisted-living facility for seniors ("the nursing home") in Jefferson County, Alabama; Wright was the administrator of the nursing home. In March 2022, L.D. filed on E.D.'s behalf, a complaint against Brookdale and Wright and others, asserting various tort claims and seeking related damages premised on allegations that, following her admission to the nursing home, E.D. had been subjected to multiple sexual assaults both by other residents and by an employee of Brookdale. The Brookdale defendants jointly moved to compel arbitration of L.D.'s claims against them or, alternatively, to dismiss the action without prejudice to allow those claims to proceed via arbitration. Following a hearing, the trial court, denied the motion seeking to dismiss the action or to compel arbitration. The Brookdale defendants timely appealed, asserting that the trial court had erred by failing to order arbitration. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Brookdale defendants established that an agreement providing for arbitration existed and that the agreement affected interstate commerce. The trial court erred in denying the Brookdale defendants' request to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Alabama Somerby, LLC, et al. v. L.D." on Justia Law
In re Estate of Williams
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting petitions made by Lorri Williams to formally probate the estate of Gerry Williams, her ex-husband, and to remove Vicki Hofedlt as personal representative of Gerry's estate, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Gerry and Lorri had two daughters, Brittany Williams and Vicki, during their marriage and later divorced. After Gerry died, Lorri paid for his funeral expenses. Vicki then filed an application for informal probate. Lorri filed a creditor's claim claiming funeral expenses and then filed a petition for formal probate asserting that the divorce decree was a testamentary instrument that needed to be probated along with Gerry's will. Lorri also filed a petition to remove Vicki as personal representative of Gerry's estate. The district court granted both petitions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Vicki was not entitled to relief on her claims of error. View "In re Estate of Williams" on Justia Law
ROGER SILK V. BARON BOND, ET AL
Plaintiff provided tax- and estate-planning services. Plaintiff filed a claim in Baltimore County Orphans’ Court against Defendant’s Estate for fees allegedly due under contracts. After the Estate disallowed the claim, Plaintiff sued in federal court. After the Estate disallowed the claim, Plaintiff sued in federal court. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the suit was barred by the “probate exception” to federal court jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction Plaintiff’s suit alleging breach of contract. The panel held that none of the Goncalves categories applied to Plaintiff’s suit against the Estate. First, neither party contends that Plaintiff was seeking to annul or probate Bond’s will. Second, this suit does not require the federal courts to administer Defendant’s Estate. Valuing an estate to calculate contract damages is not administering an estate. Third, this suit does not require the federal courts to assume in rem jurisdiction over property in the custody of the probate court. If Plaintiff were to prevail at trial, he would be awarded an in personam judgment for money damages. The panel held that Plaintiff made out a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. The panel held that the district court erred in holding that Plaintiff’s suit was barred by the probate exception to federal jurisdiction. View "ROGER SILK V. BARON BOND, ET AL" on Justia Law
Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association
“Breathe” was previously known as the American Lung Association of Los Angeles County, affiliated with the national organization, ALA, and the American Lung Association in California (ALAC). Breathe’s predecessor entered into annual agreements with ALAC and the ALA that provided for “income sharing” between Breathe and ALAC, except for “funds restricted in writing by the donor, not later than the date of donation, to exclude or limit sharing, such restriction not having been invited by the donee association.” ALA sued ALAC and its affiliates, including Breathe, for trademark infringement and related causes of action. Under a 2006 Consent Judgment, Breathe disaffiliated from the ALA and ALAC and was renamed. The parties agreed to a process for settling their outstanding accounts.In 2015, ALAC moved to enforce the Consent Judgment by compelling Breathe to share three bequests that were created but not distributed before the Consent Judgment. The trial court ruled in favor of the ALA, concluding the restricted funds exception of the Affiliate Agreement was ambiguous and that the bequests were shareable. The court of appeal reversed. The plain language of the bequests indicates the testators' intentions to benefit only the organization now known as Breathe. Sharing the bequests with the ALA is incompatible with those intentions and is not required under the Affiliate Agreement. View "Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association" on Justia Law
Brettler v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America
Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (“Allianz”) in Plaintiff’s capacity as a trustee of the Zupnick Family Trust 2008A (“Trust”). Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that an Allianz life insurance policy (“Zupnick Policy”), which Plaintiff contends is owned by the Trust, remains in effect. The district court concluded that the Trust was not the actual owner of the Zupnick Policy under New York law because any assignment of the policy to the Trust failed to comply with the Zupnick Policy’s provision that assignment would be effective upon Allianz’s receipt of written notice of the assignment. The district court held that the Trust lacked contractual standing to sue on the Zupnick Policy, and granted Allianz’s motion to dismiss. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that failure to comply with the provisions of a life insurance policy requiring written notice of assignment cannot, under New York law, render an assignment ineffective. The Second Circuit certified the question to the Court of Appeals because the argument turns on a question of state law for which no controlling decision of the New York Court of Appeals exists. The court certified the following question: Where a life insurance policy provides that “assignment will be effective upon Notice” in writing to the insurer, does the failure to provide such written notice void the assignment so that the purported assignee does not have contractual standing to bring a claim under the Policy? View "Brettler v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America" on Justia Law
Drinkard, et al. v. Perry, et al.
Milton Turner died on July 25, 2018. On September 20, 2018, Mildred Williamson petitioned for letters of administration of Turner's estate in the probate court. In her petition, Williamson asserted that Turner had died intestate and that Williamson was Turner's only surviving heir. In 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of Turner's estate, entered into a contract agreeing to sell to Matthew Drinkard and Jefferson Dolbare ("the purchasers") real property belonging to the estate for $880,650. The real-estate sales contract specified that the closing of the sale was to occur on or before May 31, 2019. On February 7, 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as personal representative of Turner's estate, executed a deed conveying other real property that was part of Turner's estate to Marcus Hester. On February 13, 2019, Callway Sargent, alleging to be an heir of Turner's, filed a claim of heirship in Turner's estate. Sargent also moved for injunctive relief in which he acknowledged the February 7, 2019, deed, but asserted that Williamson had agreed to sell and had conveyed real property belonging to Turner's estate without the approval of the probate court, and requested that the probate court enjoin "Williamson from engaging in any further administration of [Turner's] estate until so ordered by [the probate court]." Williamson petitioned to have the case removed fro probate to the circuit court. From February 28, 2019, to March 18, 2019, a number of individuals came forward, all claiming to be Turner's heirs. Williamson moved to have the circuit court approve the pending property sales. Williamson and the purchasers did not close on the sale of the property that was the subject of their real-estate sales contract by May 31, 2019, as required by the contract. Some of the purported heirs petitioned the circuit court to stay or vacate the order approving the purchasers contact until matters regarding the heirs was resolved. Drinkard and Dolbare filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings regarding the administration of Turner's estate, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of the purchasers' motion to intervene in the administration of Turner's estate. View "Drinkard, et al. v. Perry, et al." on Justia Law
Ogle v. Morgan, et al
Appellant in his capacity as Litigation Trustee for the Erickson Litigation Trust, appeals the dismissal of his avoidance and recovery claims under the bankruptcy laws. In broad terms, these claims seek avoidance of settlement releases approved in Delaware state court, as well as two payments related to Erickson Air-Crane, Inc.’s acquisition of Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. (EHI) (the “Evergreen Transaction”). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims relating to the settlement releases and reversed in part the dismissal of the payments relating to the Evergreen Transaction itself. The court concluded that consistent with Besing and Erlewine, there was reasonable equivalence as a matter of law. The Delaware settlement “should not be unwound by the federal courts merely because of its unequal division of [settlement proceeds].” Further, the court wrote that Appellant’s attempt to attack the Delaware releases as actually fraudulent transfers also fails. The court wrote it saw no error in the lower court's conclusion that Appellant failed to adequately plead actual fraud, and his arguments on appeal do not convince the court otherwise. Moreover, the court found that acting in his specific capacity, Appellant is not enjoined by the Delaware settlement from asserting creditor claims that arose only under the Bankruptcy Code. View "Ogle v. Morgan, et al" on Justia Law