Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
Newman v. Krintzman
Defendant and his company (Defendants) borrowed money from Trust by executing promissory notes in favor of Trust. One note said it was governed by Massachusetts law, and the others said they were governed by New York law. The Trust's trustees (Plaintiffs) subsequently sued Defendants in New York state court for breach of contract. The New York trial court eventually granted Defendants' motion to dismiss based on the expiration of the New York statute of limitations. Plaintiffs subsequently sued Defendant in Massachusetts federal court to recover on the note controlled by Massachusetts law. Although Plaintiffs filed suit within the Massachusetts statute of limitations, the district judge concluded that the dismissal of the New York lawsuit barred Plaintiffs' current claim because the dismissal was on the merits and claim preclusive. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the limitations dismissal under New York law was a judgment on the merits, and thus, the current claim was barred. View "Newman v. Krintzman" on Justia Law
Pruco Life Ins. Co. v. Wilmington Trust Co.
Pruco Life Insurance Company sought rescission of a life insurance policy, owned by the Paul E. L'Archevesque Special Revocable Trust on the life of Paul L'Archevesque, after it discovered that the policy application contained material misrepresentations about the health of Paul. Pruco tendered to Wilmington Trust Company, a co-trustee of the trust, a check in the amount of the policy premiums paid along with a letter stating Pruco was rescinding the policy. Wilmington cashed the check. Pruco subsequently filed a complaint seeking a rescission of the policy and a declaration that the policy was void ab initio. The district court granted summary judgment to Pruco, concluding that, under the circumstances, a mutual rescission had taken place as a matter of law. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly interpreted Rhode Island law regarding the standard for mutual rescission; (2) there were no genuine issues of material fact concerning whether Pruco made material misrepresentations in its rescission letter that could have prevented summary judgment; and (3) the district court did not err in finding that the issue of whether Pruco acted in bad faith was irrelevant to the rescission analysis. View "Pruco Life Ins. Co. v. Wilmington Trust Co." on Justia Law
PHL Variable Ins. Co. v. Bowie 2008 Irrevocable Trust
Plaintiff, an insurance company, filed an equitable action in the U.S. district court for Rhode Island seeking a declaratory judgment that a life insurance policy was rescinded ab initio due to the fraudulent misrepresentations of Defendant, an irrevocable trust. Plaintiff also sought to retain the premium paid by the trust as an offset against the damages it had suffered in connection with the policy. The district court (1) found that Defendant, by and through its trustee, had made false representations to induce Plaintiff to issue the policy and that this fraud caused Plaintiff damages that would not be fully compensated by rescission alone; and (2) allowed Plaintiff to retain the policy premium paid by Defendant. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err, under Rhode Island law, in allowing Plaintiff to both rescind the policy and retain the premium; (2) did not err in finding that Plaintiff was a victim of a fraudulent insurance scheme; and (3) appropriately exercised its equity powers. View "PHL Variable Ins. Co. v. Bowie 2008 Irrevocable Trust " on Justia Law
Frank Sawyer Trust of May 1992 v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue
Four corporations acknowledged they owed the federal government more than $24 million in taxes and penalties, but before the IRS could collect its dues, the corporations transferred all of their assets to other entities. At issue was whether the previous owner of the four corporations, a trust (Trust), was liable to the IRS for the corporations' unpaid taxes and penalties. The tax court looked to state substantive law to determine the Trust's liability and concluded that the Trust could not be held liable because the IRS (1) failed to prove the Trust had knowledge of the new shareholders' asset-stripping scheme, and (2) did not show that any of the corporation's assets were transferred directly to the Trust. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the tax court correctly looked to Massachusetts law to determine whether the Trust could be held liable for the corporations' taxes and penalties; but (2) the tax court misconstrued Massachusetts fraudulent transfer law in making its decision. Remanded for a determination of whether the conditions for liability were met in this case. View "Frank Sawyer Trust of May 1992 v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
Jakobiec v. Merrill Lynch Life Ins. Co.
Brothers Thomas and Michael Tessier allegedly swindled brothers Frederick and Thaddeus Jakobiec and the estate of their mother out of millions of dollars. This lawsuit covered the Tessiers' theft of almost $100,000 in life insurance proceeds due to a trust benefitting Thaddeus. Thaddeus and various persons affiliated with the trust and estate (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed this action against Merrill Lynch, the company that issued the life insurance policy, claiming that Merrill Lynch made out the insurance proceeds check to the wrong trust entity in breach of the insurance contract, thus allowing the Tessiers to steal the money. The First Circuit Court of Appeals granted summary judgment for Merrill Lynch, concluding that even if Merrill Lynch did breach the contract, its breach was not the cause of Plaintiffs' losses because the Tessiers would have stolen the money even if the check had been made out correctly. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the extensive groundwork laid by the Tessiers for their criminal scheme, they could have and would have stolen the insurance money regardless of how Merrill Lynch made out the check; and (2) therefore, the district court correctly granted summary judgment for Merrill Lynch. View "Jakobiec v. Merrill Lynch Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Nystedt v. Nigro
This case required the First Circuit Court of Appeals to explore the parameters of the doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity. The underlying litigation was a will contest turned conspiracy case. The plaintiff prevailed in probate court after two and a half years of legal wrangling. By the time Plaintiff was found to be the sole lawful heir of the decedent, the estate's assets were depleted. Seeking retribution, the plaintiff sued several persons involved in the will contest, alleging a wide-ranging conspiracy. In a preliminary ruling, the district court concluded that two of the defendants, a lawyer who had served as a court-appointed discovery master and the lawyer's firm, were immune from suit by reason of quasi-judicial immunity. The court certified this ruling as a partial final judgment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in certifying the ruling; and (2) the court-appointed discovery master was entitled to share in the judge's immunity from suit, and the law firm whose partner enjoyed quasi-judicial immunity was entitled to share in that immunity for helping the partner to perform his judicial tasks. View "Nystedt v. Nigro" on Justia Law
Vazquez-Rijos v. Anhang
In 2005 husband and wife were attacked outside a restaurant; husband died, wife was seriously injured. Six months after the attack, wife sued husband's parents, seeking part of husband's large estate. Wife was indicted under 18 U.S.C. 1958(a), for use of interstate facilities in murder-for-hire about 26 months after filing the civil suit. The district court dismissed, based on wife's failure to appear at a deposition, delays, and failure to comply with court orders.The First Circuit affirmed, noting repeated and flagrant abuses in the record and the failure of alternative approaches. None of wife's excuses for her extreme misconduct were sufficient to save the case.