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Harvey Cohoon was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer and was residing at Victoria Healthcare Center while he underwent treatment and recovered from various injuries he had suffered. For 19 days, Cohoon did well at Victoria Center. On the 20th day, he was observed to have difficulty swallowing thin liquids, and after evaluation, his diet was changed. Plaintiff contended that change was not properly communicated to the kitchen, and that night he was served a dinner that did not comport with his new diet. Less than 20 minutes after being served dinner, a nurse found him in respiratory arrest. The paramedics had to remove large pieces of chicken from his throat before intubating him. More pieces of chicken were removed from his airway at the hospital. He died the following day due to complications from oxygen deprivation to his brain. Donna Cochrum, Cohoon’s niece, filed suit against Victoria Center, asserting causes of action for elder abuse and negligence. As personal representative of Cohoon’s estate, Cochrum asserted a wrongful death cause of action. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Cochrum on all causes of action. Subsequently, the trial court granted a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), finding insufficient evidence of recklessness to support the elder abuse cause of action. It also adjusted the remaining damages pursuant to Civil Code section 3333.2. Cochrum appealed the amended judgment, contending the evidence supported the elder abuse cause of action. Two of the defendants cross-appealed, contending the court improperly applied the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 cap. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the amended judgment. View "Cochrum v. Costa Victoria Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law

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Arthur Blech died and left an estate worth over $65 million. At issue on appeal was how to account for the sale of the 3,050-acre Blech Ranch, located in San Luis Obispo County, California. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal determined that the gift of Blech Ranch (and of its equivalent in cash as of the date of its sale) was a funding mechanism for Raymond Blech's 35% share of the remainder or residue of the estate rather than an additional specific gift to him. View "Blech v. Blech" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Michele Boulet appealed the trial court’s decision to dismiss her petition for modification of the guardianship of C.H. In 2017, petitioner petitioned for modification of the guardianship of C.H., a developmentally disabled adult who has had a guardian since 2009. C.H.’s first guardian, a member of her immediate family, was removed in 2015 after being substantiated for financial exploitation of C.H. The Commissioner of the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) was subsequently appointed as C.H.’s guardian. Petitioner was a friend of C.H.’s family. Shortly after petitioner filed her petition for modification of guardianship, C.H. moved to dismiss through counsel to dismiss on grounds that petitioner did not have standing to petition the court for modification of C.H.’s guardianship. In October 2017, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss, deciding, in accordance with C.H.’s argument, that petitioner lacked standing to petition for modification of the guardianship. The trial court did not hold an evidentiary hearing on either the petition for modification or the motion to dismiss. Petitioner raised several arguments in favor of reinstating her petition; as one of her arguments resolved this appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court addressed it alone. The Supreme Court held that the trial court’s interpretation of the statute defining who has standing to petition for a modification of guardianship was inconsistent with the plain language and purpose of Vermont’s guardianship provisions. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Guardianship of C.H." on Justia Law

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Lester and William Lee created LIA in 1974 as a public company. William’s sons (Lester's nephews) later joined the business. LIA subsequently bought out the public shareholders, leaving Lester owning 516 shares; William owned 484. William created the Trust to hold his shares. The nephews served as trustees. Lester encountered difficulties with another company he owned, Maxim. He proposed that Maxim merge with LIA; William rejected this idea. Lester told the nephews, “I will screw you at every opportunity,” and made other threats, then, as majority shareholder, approved a merger of LIA and another company. The Trust asserted its rights under Indiana’s Dissenters’ Rights Statute. Lester gutted LIA to prevent the Trust from collecting the value of its LIA shares. He bought property from LIA on terms favorable to him and realized substantial profits. LIA subsidiaries were transferred for little or no consideration to Lester’s immediate family. Lester also perpetrated a collusive lawsuit, resulting in an agreed judgment that all LIA assets should be transferred to him and his companies. Lester did not disclose these actions to the nephews. In 2008, the Jennings Circuit Court conducted an appraisal in the dissenters’ rights action. Between the trial and the judgment, Lester dissolved LIA. The court entered a $7,522,879.73 judgment for the Trust. In 2012, Lester petitioned for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Trust initiated a successful adversary proceeding to pierce LIA’s corporate veil and hold Lester personally liable for the judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the facts were undisputed. View "William R. Lee Irrevocable Trust v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The decedent, James Erwin, Sr., had six children from a previous marriage when he married appellee Maggie Erwin in 1968. James and Maggie had four children together, bringing James’s total number of children to 10. Several years after their wedding, James and Maggie bought a house in Saginaw. However, although remaining in Saginaw, Maggie moved out and established a separate residence in 1976. She subsequently petitioned James for financial assistance, and James consented to a support order that provided assistance for Maggie and for their children. But the two continued to live apart. There was no indication that they ever lived under the same roof again. Decades later, in 2010, James and Maggie joined together as plaintiffs and sued James’s employer to reinstate Maggie’s health insurance coverage in accordance with his retiree medical benefits. James made it clear that Maggie was still his wife and that they had an ongoing relationship. James died intestate in 2012. James and Maggie had never filed for divorce nor had they otherwise formally separated. In the eyes of the law, they remained married until the time of James’s passing. Dissatisfied with the communication and cooperation shown by Maggie and her four children, one of James’s children from his first marriage, Beatrice King, represented by her attorney-brother, L. Fallasha Erwin, petitioned the probate court to open formal proceedings and to be appointed as the estate’s personal representative. The probate court proceedings were contentious from the outset. Beatrice asked the probate court to determine whether Maggie was a surviving spouse in accordance with Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). Beatrice argued, in part, that Maggie was not a surviving spouse under MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i) because she was “willfully absent” from James in the years leading up to his death. If proved, because James died intestate, Maggie would not be an heir for the purposes of inheritance, and she would not be entitled to a share of James’s estate. The Court of Appeals concluded that “willful absence for the purposes of the EPIC was a factual question that may concern more than physical proximity,” and that a “trial court should determine whether a spouse is willfully absent . . . by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case.” The issues this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review were both ones of first impression: (1) whether the term “willfully absent” was defined exclusively by physical separation, or whether it included consideration of the emotional bonds and connections between spouses; and (2) whether MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i) required proof that a spouse intends to abandon his or her marital rights. The Supreme Court held the appellate court correctly concluded Maggie was not "willfully absent" from James in the years leading up to his death, and affirmed. View "In re Erwin Estate" on Justia Law

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Victoria H. Smith was nearly 100 years old when she died on September 11, 2013. During her life she married Vernon K. Smith Sr., a lawyer who died of a heart attack in 1966. The couple had three children: Joseph H. Smith, Vernon K. Smith Jr., and Victoria A. (Smith) Converse. This case centered on Victoria’s estate: the magistrate court ruled that Victoria died intestate after finding that her will was a product of the undue influence of her son, Appellant Vernon Smith Jr. Vernon appealed that ruling, as well as an earlier partial summary judgment ruling that invalidated a series of transactions that transferred all of Victoria’s assets to a limited liability company that Vernon owned and a corresponding judgment entered pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 70(b). After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the magistrate court’s judgment and affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute between Taylor Glaze, a surviving niece of Emil Kuhling, and Emil Kuhling’s Estate (Estate) over two agreements between Taylor and Emil: one concerning the transfer of Emil’s home and another about Emil’s life care. Following a bench trial, the court concluded that Taylor owed and breached a fiduciary duty to Emil regarding the sale of Emil’s home and awarded damages but concluded there was no breach of the life-care contract. Taylor appealed both decisions, arguing the Estate lacked standing to assert the breach-of-duty and breach-of-contract claims. The Estate cross-appealed the court’s determination regarding a contractual agreement for life care between Taylor and Emil. Because the Vermont Supreme Court concluded there was no breach of any fiduciary duty by Taylor regarding the sale of the house, it reversed the award to the Estate and remand to the trial court to enter judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s determination regarding the life-care contract. View "Estate of Emil Kuhling v. Glaze" on Justia Law

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The estate of Paul Robert Welch (Welch) appealed the grant of summary judgment to the estate of Barbara Sue Chitwood (Chitwood). Chitwood was murdered in August 2015, at which time a dispute arose over ownership of funds Chitwood and Welch held at Farmers Bank in two bank accounts designated as “JOINT - WITH SURVIVORSHIP (and not as tenants in common or community property)[.]” Farmers Bank interpled the funds with the district court and initiated this action to resolve the dispute. Law enforcement’s investigation into Chitwood’s death led to Welch being charged with murdering Chitwood. Accordingly, in the interpleader action, Chitwood asserted Idaho’s slayer statute precluded Welch from taking the funds. The district court ruled on summary judgment that the funds went to Chitwood, concluding Chitwood’s slayer statute defense was dispositive. Welch appealed the district court’s ruling concerning the funds. But finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hodge v. Waggoner" on Justia Law

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Defendants Aurora Healthcare, Inc., and Aurora Cares, LLC, d/b/a Tara Cares (referred to collectively as "Aurora"), and Birmingham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center East, LLC ("Birmingham East") appealed a circuit court denial of their motion to compel arbitration of an action filed against them by Sharon Ramsey, as administratrix of the estate of her mother, Mary Pettway, deceased. Ramsey cross-appealed the decision denying her motion for a partial summary judgment concerning the validity of the subject arbitration agreement. In 2003, Mary Pettway, then 75 years old, was discharged from the hospital at the University of Alabama at Birmingham ("UAB Hospital"). On the same day, Pettway was admitted to a nursing home owned and operated by the defendants. During Pettway's admission to the nursing home, Ramsey met with Faye Linard, an administrative assistant, who presented Ramsey with an admissions agreement that included several documents, including a "Resident and Facility Arbitration Agreement." Ramsey refused to sign the arbitration agreement; signing it was not a prerequisite to Pettway's admission to the nursing home. Pettway developed an infection, and, as a result, she was returned to UAB Hospital. Pettway was readmitted to the nursing home a few days later. Ramsey stated in an affidavit that late in the evening on November 26, 2003, she received a telephone call from the admissions office at the nursing home and was asked to return to the nursing home because "there were some documents that I had not signed the first time my mother was admitted and I needed to come in to sign them." An arbitration agreement containing a signature with the name "Sharon Ramsey" dated November 26, 2003, appeared in the record. Ramsey contended the signature was not authentic, and she asserted that, even if it was genuine, the signature was obtained by misrepresentation. After her appointment as administratrix of Pettway's estate, Ramsey filed a complaint against defendants alleging a variety of statutory and common-law claims allegedly arising from Pettway's death, including a wrongful-death claim. Defendants sought to compel arbitration. The Alabama Supreme Court discerned the parties' appeal and cross-appeal were premature because they sought review of a nonfinal judgment. As such, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals. View "Ramsey v. Aurora Healthcare, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Charlotte Harbin appealed a circuit court judgment in favor of defendants-appellees Glenn Estess, Jr., as personal representative of the estate of Lecil V. Thomas; Richard Thomas; and Roger Thomas. Lecil and Tommie Thomas were married and had three children, one of whom predeceased them. They had two surviving sons, Richard and Roger. Lecil executed a will in 1995, and executed a codicil to that will in 2003. Tommie died in 2005. Lecil executed a second codicil to his will in 2008. According to Harbin, she and Lecil started dating after Tommie's death. She also asserted that they lived together off and on until September 2009, when, she says, they started living together as husband and wife. Lecil died in 2013. On May 30, 2013, Estess filed a petition for probate of Lecil's will, listing Harbin as Lecil's "putative common-law wife." The probate court admitted the will to probate and granted Estess letters testamentary. In 2014, Harbin filed a petition seeking an omitted spouse's share of Lecil's estate, asserting she was Lecil's common-law wife at the time of his death and that she had become Lecil's common-law wife after he had executed the will that had been admitted to probate. Estess filed an objection to Harbin's petition, and later, after the matter was removed to circuit court, Estess filed a renewed objection to Harbin's petition seeking a share as an omitted spouse. Richard and Roger Thomas intervened, seeking a judgment to declare Harbin was not Lecil's common-law wife at the time of his death, thus not making her an omitted spouse entitled to a share of Lecil's estate. The circuit found Harbin's claim time barred; she appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred in its interpretation of the statute controlling Harbin's omitted spouse's share of the estate, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Harbin v. Estess" on Justia Law