Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Dahlton v. Kyser
Relator—the decedent’s personal representative—brought a wrongful death claim under ORS 30.020 that sought, among other things, damages on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries for their loss of decedent’s society and companionship. The trial court entered an order under ORCP 44 C requiring the beneficiaries to produce records of their medical and psychological care that was relevant to those alleged damages. Relator filed a petition for an alternative writ of mandamus, which the Oregon Supreme Court allowed, arguing that the beneficiaries’ records were privileged, and that ORCP 44 C could not require disclosure because that rule applied to claims made for “damages for injuries to the party,” and the beneficiaries were not parties. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court’s ruling was in error. As a matter of law, the Court held that statutory beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim were not, by virtue of that status, “parties” who could be compelled under ORCP 44 C to provide privileged records. View "Dahlton v. Kyser" on Justia Law
Estate of Evans v. Dept. of Rev.
The estate of Helene Evans, a deceased Oregon resident, challenged the Oregon Tax Court’s determination that the Department of Revenue lawfully included in Evans’s taxable Oregon estate the principal assets of a Montana trust, of which Evans had been the income beneficiary. Although Evans had a right to receive income generated by those assets during her lifetime and potentially had the right to tap the assets themselves, the estate claimed she had not owned, and did not have control over the assets. Under those circumstances, plaintiff argued, Oregon did not have the kind of connection to the trust assets that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution required for a state to impose a tax on a person, property, or transaction. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that Oregon’s imposition of its estate tax on the trust assets in this case comported with the requirements of due process. It, therefore, affirmed the judgment of the Tax Court. View "Estate of Evans v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Wadsworth v. Talmage
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oregon Supreme Court on whether a constructive trust arises at the moment of purchase of a property using fraudulently- obtained funds, or if it arises when a court orders that a constructive trust be imposed as a remedy. Ronald Talmage ran a Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs were victims of that scheme. Much of the money Plaintiffs invested with Talmage went to pay for a property he and his wife acquired, “RiverCliff.” When the Talmages divorced, a portion of moneys Plaintiffs invested with Ronald. Talmage failed to pay his taxes one year, and the IRS recorded tax liens on the property, leading to the underlying suit involving the constructive trust. The Oregon Supreme Court answered the first part of the Ninth Circuit’s question by clarifying that a constructive trust arises when a court imposes it as a remedy, but that the party for whose benefit the constructive trust is imposed has an equitable ownership interest in specific property that predates the imposition of the constructive trust. The Court answered the second part of the question by explaining that, in the circumstances of this case, plaintiffs had a viable subrogation theory that allowed them to seek a constructive trust based on equitable interests that predate all tax liens on the property. View "Wadsworth v. Talmage" on Justia Law
Larisa’s Home Care, LLC v. Nichols-Shields
The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether an adult foster care provider claiming unjust enrichment may recover the reasonable value of its services from a defendant who, through fraud, obtained a lower rate from the provider for the services. Plaintiff owned two adult foster homes for the elderly. Plaintiff had contracted with the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide services in a home-like setting to patients who qualified for Medicaid. For those patients, the rates charged would be those set by the department. Isabel Pritchard resided and received care in one of plaintiff’s adult foster homes until her death in November 2008. Because Prichard had been approved to receive Medicaid benefits, plaintiff charged Prichard the rate for Medicaid-qualified patients: approximately $2,000 per month, with approximately $1,200 of that being paid by the department. Plaintiff’s Medicaid rates were substantially below the rates paid by plaintiff’s “private pay” patients. Prichard’s application for Medicaid benefits, as with her other affairs, was handled by her son, Richard Gardner. Gardner had for years been transferring Prichard’s assets, mostly to himself (or using those funds for his personal benefit). Gardner’s misconduct was discovered by another of Prichard’s children: defendant Karen Nichols-Shields, who was appointed the personal representative for Prichard’s estate. In 2009, defendant contacted the police and reported her brother for theft. Ultimately, Gardner pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree. Gardner’s sentence included an obligation to pay a compensatory fine to Prichard’s estate, to which he complied. After defendant, in her capacity as personal representative, denied plaintiff Larisa’s Home Care, LLC’s claim against Prichard’s estate, plaintiff filed this action, essentially asserting Prichard had been qualified for Medicaid through fraud and that Prichard should have been charged as a private pay patient. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, generally, a defendant who obtains discounted services as a result of fraud is unjustly enriched to the extent of the reasonable value of the services. The Court therefore reversed the contrary holding by the Court of Appeals. Because the fraud here occurred in the context of a person being certified as eligible for Medicaid benefits, however, the Court remanded for the Court of Appeals to consider whether certain provisions of Medicaid law may specifically prohibit plaintiff from recovering in this action. View "Larisa's Home Care, LLC v. Nichols-Shields" on Justia Law
Rice v. Rabb
Lois McIntyre was the 1930 "Queen of the Pendleton Round-Up." As queen, she was given a "Queen Outfit" that consisted of a white satin shirt, a white leather vest and riding skirt with black and white fringe, and a black scarf. In 1964, McIntyre's son and plaintiff's husband, inherited the outfit from McIntyre. Shortly after inheriting the outfit, plaintiff and her husband were approached by Lieuallen, who requested that she be given the outfit. However, plaintiff and her husband refused to give it to her. Plaintiff and her husband later decided to display the outfit at the Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame. They delivered the outfit to Lieuallen for her to deliver to the Hall of Fame for that purpose, but did not gift or transfer ownership of the outfit to Lieuallen. Lieuallen delivered the outfit to the Hall of Fame as directed. In 1972, while the outfit was still on display at the Hall of Fame, plaintiff's husband passed away, and plaintiff inherited the outfit. In 2000, defendant, an heir of Lieuallen, went to the Hall of Fame and demanded return of the outfit on behalf of Lieuallen. The Hall of Fame promptly complied with defendant's request, and defendant gained possession of the outfit. Plaintiff, who is legally blind, was unaware that the outfit had been removed from the Hall of Fame. Plaintiff did not learn of the transfer until June 2007, when the Hall of Fame displays were moved to a new building. Plaintiff then demanded that defendant return the outfit, and defendant refused. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court was whether the six-year statute of limitations applicable to conversion and replevin claims under ORS 12.080(4) incorporated a "discovery rule" to determine when such claims "accrue." The Court of Appeals concluded that the limitation prescribed by ORS 12.080(4) begins to run at the time of the wrongful taking of personal property and that the provision does not incorporate a discovery rule. Thus, it affirmed the trial court's judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint as time-barred. On review, the Supreme Court held that plaintiff's allegations adequately invoked a discovery rule as recognized in "Berry v. Branner," (421 P2d 996 (1966)), and reversed. View "Rice v. Rabb" on Justia Law
Bell v. Tri-Met
In 2007, the decedent allegedly sustained personal injuries while disembarking from a bus operated by [defendant]. Decedent died a year later from causes unrelated to the bus accident. In 2009, more than two years, but less than three years, after the bus incident -- plaintiff, decedent's personal representative, filed a complaint alleging that [defendant] had negligently injured decedent and sought damages for the alleged personal injuries. The question before the Supreme Court in this case was whether plaintiff's survival action against a public body should have been brought within two years or three years of the alleged injury. One of two statutes provided the applicable statute of limitations. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that ORS 30.075(1) was the governing statute that triggered a two-year limitation period of ORS 30.275(9). View "Bell v. Tri-Met" on Justia Law
Hope Presbyerian v. Presbyterian Church
The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court in this case was whether a local church or the national church from which it sought to separate owned certain church property. Hope Presbyterian Church of Rogue River (Hope Presbyterian) had been affiliated with the national Presbyterian Church organization since its founding in 1901, most recently affiliating with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA), and its regional presbytery, the Presbytery of the Cascades. In 2007, the congregation voted to disaffiliate from PCUSA. The corporation then initiated this lawsuit, seeking to quiet title to certain church property and to obtain a declaration that PCUSA and the Presbytery of the Cascades had no claim or interest in any of the real and personal property in Hope Presbyterian's possession. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court quieted title in favor of Hope Presbyterian and declared that PCUSA and the Presbytery of the Cascades had no beneficial interest in any of Hope Presbyterian's property. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Hope Presbyterian held the property in trust for PCUSA. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed its decision. View "Hope Presbyerian v. Presbyterian Church" on Justia Law
Lasley v. Combined Transport, Inc.
The issues presented to the Supreme Court in this case concerned evidentiary and pleading questions that arose in the trial of a multi-defendant negligence case. Plaintiff Clarence Lasley (the decedent's father) brought this case against defendants Combined Transport, Inc. (Combined Transport) and Judy Clemmer (Clemmer). On the day that decedent died, a truck owned and operated by Combined Transport lost part of its load of large panes of glass on the freeway. During the clean-up, traffic backed up and decedent was stopped. Clemmer drove into decedent's pickup, causing leaks in its fuel system. The ensuing fire killed decedent. Combined Transport denied that it was negligent and that its conduct foreseeably resulted in decedent's death. Clemmer admitted that she was negligent in driving at an unreasonable speed and in failing to maintain a proper lookout and control. Clemmer also admitted that her negligence was a cause of decedent's death. Based on the pleadings, the trial court granted Plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude evidence that Clemmer was intoxicated at the time of the collision. The jury rendered a verdict against both defendants, finding Combined Transport 22 percent at fault and Clemmer 78 percent at fault for plaintiff's damages. Combined Transport appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court had erred in excluding the evidence of Clemmer's intoxication. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that evidence of Clemmer's intoxication was not relevant to the issue of whether Combined Transport's negligence was a cause of decedent's death but was relevant to the issue of apportionment of fault. The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, reversed the judgment of the circuit court, and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings.