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Patricia Campbell appeals from an order of the Mobile Circuit Court adjudicating J.R.C., J.L.C., R.L.C., and J.H.S., minor children, as the heirs of the estate of her son, Remano Campbell. Remano died intestate in October 2011, the victim of a homicide perpetrated by his wife, Eugenia Campbell. At the time of his death, Remano was the insured under a $200,000 life-insurance policy issued by United of Omaha Life Insurance Company ("Omaha"). Because Eugenia was not considered to be Remano's surviving spouse, the proceeds of the insurance policy would pass to Remano's issue; if there was no surviving issue, then to his parent or parents equally. Remano and Eugenia were legally married in June 2002. During their marriage, Remano and Eugenia had three children, J.R.C., J.L.C., and R.L.C. Eugenia also had another child, J.H.S., who was born approximately 18 months before her marriage to Remano and who lived with Remano and Eugenia throughout their marriage. In January 2017, the administrator ad litem of Remano's estate filed a complaint in the interpleader action, seeking a judgment declaring that the Campbell children and J.H.S. were Remano's heirs and thus were entitled to the life insurance proceeds. After a hearing, the circuit court entered an order adjudicating the Campbell children and J.H.S. to be Remano's heirs and further finding that Patricia lacked standing to challenge the paternity of the children. Accordingly, the circuit court ordered disbursement of the insurance proceeds in the interpleader action and directed that the estate administration be remanded to the probate court. Patricia filed a postjudgment motion, which was denied. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court’s judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed adjudication of the children as Remano’s heirs. View "Campbell v. J.R.C." on Justia Law

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William Norvell appealed the grant of summary judgment in an action he filed against his brothers Carter and Samuel Norvell. This case arose from a dispute concerning a transaction in which their mother, Martha, sold Carter a certain house on lakefront property ("the lake house"). Martha established a revocable trust ("the trust") and executed a deed transferring title to the lake house to the trust. Carter was both the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust. Martha also executed a will that, because her husband has preceded her in death, divided her estate in equal shares among three of her four sons, Carter, Samuel, and Neal Norvell, expressly excluding William. A few years later, Martha executed a "revocation of trust agreement" pursuant to which she revoked the trust and expressed her desire to transfer title to the lake house from the trust to herself; shortly thereafter, Carter, as the trustee, executed a deed transferring title to the lake house to Martha. Martha also executed a codicil to her will to devise and bequeath her assets to Carter, Samuel, Neal, and William in equal shares and to appoint Carter and William co-personal representatives of her estate. The Alabama Supreme Court determined William failed to demonstrate the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in the defendants' favor on his "interference-with-inheritance-expectancy" and undue influence claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment with respect to those claims. However, the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in the defendants' favor based on William's lack of "standing" to prosecute his declaratory-judgment, breach-of-fiduciary-duty, and conspiracy claims. Accordingly, the Court reversed summary judgment with respect to those claims and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Norvell v. Norvell" on Justia Law

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Acting under Probate Code section 16440(b), the trial court denied a petition brought by Orange Catholic Foundation and Kevin Vann, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange (collectively, the Church) to remove Rosie Mary Arvizu from her position as trustee of the Josephine Kennedy Trust (Trust) and for damages. The Trust gave a life estate in Kennedy’s house (the Residence) to Paul Senez, her very dear family friend of over 60 years, provided that he pay for certain expenses related to the Residence. The Trust further provided that upon Senez’s death, the Residence was to be sold and the proceeds were to be given to the Church for the benefit of the needy elderly and abused children. The Church alleged that Arvizu (Kennedy’s niece and the successor trustee) breached her duties as trustee by: (1) improperly using Trust funds to pay expenses that should have been borne by Senez (who was elderly, destitute, suffering from dementia, and unable to cover the expenses himself); (2) failing to evict Senez when he could not pay those expenses; and (3) not promptly renting out or selling the Residence after Senez’s death (a delay which occurred in part due to Arvizu’s cancer treatment and other health issues, and which fortuitously benefited the Church because the Residence appreciated by $136,000 during the period of Arvizu’s inaction). Finding no abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Orange Catholic Foundation v. Arvizu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s dismissal of this challenge to a decedent’s pre-death conveyance, holding that Plaintiff may have an unjust enrichment claim against one of the defendants in this case. Plaintiff’s father, the decedent in this case, promised Plaintiff he would leave her half of his estate if Plaintiff conveyed considerable amounts of land to her father and nephew. The decedent, however, left Plaintiff only $30,000 in his will after conveying the vast majority of his multi-million-dollar estate to Plaintiff’s nephew. Plaintiff sued her nephew and the estate alleging fraud, contract, and unjust enrichment. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the denial of the breach of contract claim, holding that this claim failed under S.D. Codified Laws 29A-2-514 because it was not evidenced in writing; (2) affirmed the denial of Plaintiff’s fraud claim, holding that S.D. Codified Laws 29A-3-803 barred this claim; and (3) reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim against her nephew, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed precluding summary judgment on this claim. View "Huston v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Rhonda Stephan as the personal representative of the Estate of Bobby Gene Hicks, appealed an order granting a motion to compel arbitration filed by Millennium Nursing and Rehab Center, Inc. Stephan contends that Hicks, her father, died in 2015 while he was a resident at Millennium Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled-nursing facility owned and operated by Millennium ("the Rehab Center"). During Hicks's hospitalization at Crestwood Medical Center ("Crestwood"), Stephan signed all the paperwork arranging for her father to be discharged from the hospital and transferred to the Rehab Center; however, she did not hold a power of attorney or other actual legal authority to act on Hicks's behalf or to contract in his name. Hicks did not sign any of the paperwork, but he is named as a party to the contracts included within that paperwork. On October 26, 2015, Hicks was transferred from Crestwood to the Rehab Center. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Stephan could not be bound to the arbitration provision in her capacity as personal representative to Hicks' estate when she signed the agreement at issue here in her capacity, in what amounted to, Hicks' relative or next friend. View "Stephan v. Millennium Nursing and Rehab Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether Appellant Marilyn Newsome's claims could survive summary judgment against Appellees, People’s Bank and Chris Dunn. The claims addressed the issuance of cashier’s checks by People’s Bank and Chris Dunn without Newsome's signature or approval, the conservatorship account holder. Victoria Newsome had settled a medical malpractice case, but she was unable to manage her affairs. The trial court appointed Newsome, Victoria's mother, as conservator. A trial court denied a request to purchase a home for Victoria, and instead, ordered that a house be built for her. In the interim, the trial court ordered a mobile home to be purchased. With the help of Dunn, a Bank employee, Newsome opened a checking account for the conservatorship with the Bank. When Newsome opened the conservatorship account, she signed a Deposit Agreement as the sole authorized signor on the account. Newsome testified that she did not have any discussions with the Bank about who would be authorized to sign on the account. The Deposit Agreement also provided that Newsome had thirty days to review her statements for errors or unauthorized activity. The estate attorneys prepared court orders for release of funds to pay for construction of the house; the trial court would in turn approve the orders, and the attorney would deliver the orders to the Bank for release of funds. The Orders did not provide any guidance, particularly whether cashier's checks could be issued to disburse the money. Despite frequent visits to the bank herself, Newsome allegedly never sought monthly accounting of the conservator account. Newsome filed suit, alleging the Bank and Dunn were liable for failing to require Newsome's signature on any checks negotiated on the conservatorship account. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Newsome's case could indeed survive summary judgment, reversed the trial court in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Newsome v. Peoples Bancshares" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of theft from an elder or dependent adult in 2010 (the criminal action). After the victim died before the end of the criminal action, plaintiff, the conservator and the co-administrator, filed two actions against defendant under Probate Code section 850, seeking civil damages (the probate action) and another action that resulted in a restitution award (restitution judgment). The Court of Appeal held that, pursuant to the terms of a stipulation concerning the amount of restitution in the criminal action, defendant's prejudgment restitution payments should have been credited against principal rather than interest. The court held, however, that even after adjusting the remaining principal on the restitution judgment to account for prejudgment payments, defendant still owed a substantial sum. Therefore, the court remanded for recalculation of the amount remaining due on the restitution judgment. The court rejected defendant's remaining arguments. The court affirmed the judgment in the probate action. View "Kerley v. Weber" on Justia Law

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Shane Dockter appealed the denial of his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate a default judgment, arguing the judgment was either void or should have been vacated for excusable neglect. Brandon and Shane Dockter were brothers. In 2007, the brothers formed a partnership to facilitate a joint farming operation. In conjunction with the formation of the partnership, the brothers also created a trust, the Dockter Brothers Irrevocable Trust, to hold farmland. The brothers were co-trustees of the trust. Shane had mental health and chemical dependency problems. By 2012, Shane's mental health and chemical dependency had escalated and caused him to be absent from the farm. In 2015, Shane was detained by law enforcement after he was found walking down a public road carrying a Bible while wearing a church robe and claiming to be Jesus. The incident resulted in Shane's admission to the North Dakota State Hospital for about a month. Around the same time, Shane developed an addiction to opioids and methamphetamine. He was readmitted to the State Hospital in late 2016 after threatening his mother. In February 2017, Shane was arrested for various offenses and was readmitted to the State Hospital. Brandon commenced a lawsuit against Shane seeking "dissolution" of the partnership and "dissolution" of the trust. Brandon alleged that "Shane's mental health and chemical dependency problems" made him unable to participate in partnership activities and made it impossible to achieve the purpose of the trust. Shane was served while in custody at the sheriff's office. Shane did not answer the complaint, and he was readmitted to the State Hospital for another month. While Shane was at the Hospital, Brandon moved for default judgment. Shane was served with the motion for default judgment at the State Hospital, but did not respond. The district court ultimately granted the default judgment "expell[ing]" Shane from the partnership and removing him as co-trustee of the trust. On appeal, Shane argued: (1) the default judgment was void and should have been vacated under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4); and (2) the court abused its discretion by denying relief as provided in N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), which allowed relief from a final judgment for mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. Applying the limited standard for reviewing denial of motions to vacate default judgments, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion and affirmed the orders denying the motion. View "Dockter v. Dockter" on Justia Law

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A jury entered a verdict against defendant HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Gadsden, LLC in a medical malpractice case brought by plaintiff Regina Honts, as personal representative of the estate of Doris Green. HealthSouth Gadsden then filed a postjudgment motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law ("a JML"), a new trial, or a remittitur of the damages award. After an evidentiary hearing as to the request for a remittitur, the trial court denied the postjudgment motion. HealthSouth Gadsden appealed; Honts cross-appealed, challenging rulings on discovery issues. As to HealthSouth Gadsden's appeal, case no. 1160045, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remand the case for a new trial. As to Honts' cross-appeal, case no. 1160068, the Court affirmed. Honts' complaint pinpointed the start of Green's decline at a time during her residency at HealthSouth Gadsen, a nurse administered medication to Green that Green later had an adverse reaction to. Honts sought discovery of the nurse's personnel file; the trial court determined Honts failed to show what would have been in the personnel file that could establish a breach of the standard of care by HealthSouth Gasden with respect to Green. The Supreme Court determined the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the hospital standard of care, reversed the jury verdict as to that issue, and remanded for a new trial. View "HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Gadsden, LLC v. Honts" on Justia Law

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William Barrett ("Bill") appealed a circuit court order entering summary judgment in favor of George Harvey Barrett ("George") and the trustees of the George Harvey Barrett Trust--Gail Ledbetter Cole Kaphan, Curtis L. Barrett, Jr., and Charles Ledbetter (collectively, "the trustees"). He also challenged the denial of his motion for a partial summary judgment on the basis that the circuit court lacked the authority to modify the trust. In 1999, Ben and Janet Barrett died in a plane crash. The Barretts' wills, the applicable provisions of which were identical, established the "Children's Trust" for the benefit of George and his two younger siblings and provided that each child would receive his or her portion of the trust proceeds upon reaching age 25 and that the trust would terminate when the youngest child reached age 25. In June 2000, the circuit court, on the petition of the trustees, modified the Children's Trust to establish separate trusts for each Barrett child and to provide that the trustees "are required to pay 40% of the trust assets to each Barrett child upon his or her attainment of 25 years of age and the remaining 60% of said trust assets upon the attainment of 35, at which time said Trust shall terminate." The trust assets were largely Central Alabama Bancshares, Inc. stock. In August 2014, George offered to sell a share of his bank stock to his cousin Bill because the trustees refused to give him enough money from the trust to meet his financial needs. While George was an inpatient at a rehabilitation center, Bill's attorney wrote a letter to Curtis informing Curtis that George would be turning 35, and requested the trustees transfer either to Bill or to George the bank stock and all dividends that had been paid on the stock since August 22, 2014. The trustees informed Bill that they would not turn over the bank stock to him absent a court order. George was discharged with instructions that he have a conservator, due to his memory and attention impairments. The trustees thereafter petitioned to modify the trust because George was unable to manage his financial affairs. The trustees did not name Bill as a necessary party to the trust-modification proceeding despite knowing that he had a claim against the trust assets. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the circuit court erred in finding the agreement between Bill and George void ab initio, thereby precluding Bill from enforcing his rights under that agreement. "The circuit court's interpretation of the shareholders agreement does not comport with the plain language of the agreement, and, in fact, dictates an inequitable result." View "Barrett v. Barrett" on Justia Law