Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

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This case addressed the effect of a pooled special-needs trust created by an over-65-year-old beneficiary on his medicaid benefits. The Center for Special Needs Trust Administration appealed a summary judgment in favor of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. Invoking 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, the Center alleged that North Dakota's demand for reimbursement and its state regulations violated a paragraph of the Medicaid Act, 42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(4)(C). The court held that the district court properly determined that section 1396p(d)(4)(C) afforded the Center a right of action under section 1983; that North Dakota did not waive its claim to recover for reimbursements and should not be estopped from making that claim; that the Center's claim was without merit; and that preemption did not apply. View "Center for Special Needs, etc. v. Olson, etc." on Justia Law

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This case arose when the Yankton Sioux Tribe requested that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) acquire 39 acres of land located in Charles Mix County in trust for the tribe pursuant to section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. 465. The court held that the Secretary's decision to acquire the land was neither arbitrary nor capricious where the administrative record indicated that contrary to the county's assertions, the Secretary thoroughly considered all of the necessary factors when deciding to acquire the travel plaza in trust. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "County of Charles Mix v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, et al." on Justia Law

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Debtors appeal the judgment of the bankruptcy court denying in part their motion under 11 U.S.C. 522(f)(1) to avoid certain liens held by the Estate of Leon Jerome Heimer. The court held that the amount the Heimer estate advanced to pay off the loans secured by the bank's lien against debtors' vehicles was not secured by a judicial lien. Accordingly, the court affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment. View "Carter, et al. v. Estate of Leon J. Heimer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, as trustee for a creditors' trust, held a $56 million stipulated judgment against Paul Yarrick, a former officer of Interstate Bakeries. Interstate emerged from a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the Trust obtained the right to bring the action that later resulted in the judgment against Yarrick. The Trust received this right in exchange for certain concessions, including an agreement to execute only against potentially liable insurers. After the Trust obtained the judgment against Yarrick, the Trust brought the present action against defendants in an attempt to collect against several director and officer policies that named Yarrick as an insured. The court held that, because the Assignment Agreement that transferred to the Trust the limited right to sue Yarrick for insurance proceeds "absolved" Yarrick from "payment," the $56 million judgment was not a "Loss" as required by the plain language of the policy. The court also rejected the abandoned-insurance argument and held that Missouri law did not allow estoppel to extend coverage over otherwise uncovered claims. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court finding no coverage and granting summary judgment in favor of the insurers was affirmed. View "U.S. Bank Nat'l Assoc. v. Federal Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law

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SMF appealed from a bankruptcy court order finding that three payments totaling $54,778.46 received by SMF from IBC in the 90-day preference period preceding IBC's chapter 11 filing were preferential payments under 11 U.S.C. 547(b) and were thus subject to avoidance by U.S. Bank in its capacity as trustee for the IBC Creditors Trust. The court affirmed the order and held that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion by extending the time for service of process. View "US Bank National Assoc. v. SMF Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed from an order and judgment of the bankruptcy court granting summary judgment on plaintiff's complaint to determine dischargeability pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(B). The court held that plaintiff failed to show that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law under the plain language of the statute where plaintiff had not met several statutory requirements. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for defendants.

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In this appeal concerning the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), 2674, the court determined whether a purported personal representative could invoke the adjudicatory capacity, that is, the subject-matter jurisdiction of a United States District Court on behalf of statutory beneficiaries if, under section 2675(a), the representative failed or refused to first present to the appropriate federal agency evidence of her authority to act on behalf of such beneficiaries. As a preliminary matter, the court held that when faced with conflicting panel opinions, the earliest opinion must be followed "as it should have controlled the subsequent panels that created the conflict." The court held that a properly "presented" claim under section 2675(a) must include evidence of a representative's authority to act on behalf of the claim's beneficiaries under state law. The court also held that conformity with section 2675(a) was a jurisdictional term of the FTCA's limited waiver of sovereign immunity. Since there was no such compliance in this case, the district court properly dismissed the suit for want of subject-matter jurisdiction. The court further held that the personal representative did not have standing to assert the wrongful death claim at issue. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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Appellee sued the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), seeking review of the SSA's denial of benefits to her daughter. At issue was whether a child conceived through artificial insemination more than a year after her father's death qualified for benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 402, 416. The Commissioner interpreted the Act to provide that a natural child of the decedent was not entitled to benefits unless she had inheritance rights under state law or could satisfy certain additional statutory requirements. The court held that the Commissioner's interpretation was, at a minimum, reasonable and entitled to deference, and that the relevant state law did not entitle the applicant in this case to benefits. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgments.

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The Minch Family sued the Estate of the Norbys in diversity, seeking injunctive relief and damages for flooding of the Minch Family's property, allegedly caused by a field dike built on the Norbys' land. At issue was whether the district court erred in concluding that the Minch Family's claims were time-barred and whether the magistrate judge abused its discretion by denying the Minch Family's motion to amend its complaint to allege a claim for punitive damages and the Minch Family's motion to amend the scheduling order. The court held that the Minch Family had failed to meet its burden of showing that the applicable two year-statute of limitations should be tolled and its claims were untimely. The court held that because it had affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Minch Family's claims as time-barred, the issue of punitive damages was moot. The court further held that because the Minch Family's motion only related to its claim for punitive damages, the court need not address the issue of whether the magistrate judge abused its discretion in denying its motion to amend the court's scheduling order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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LCI Equipments, Inc. (LLC) was a Texas corporation that imported and sold the tractor that killed Rudy Slater in a roll-over accident. Wanda Slater, an Arkansas resident and Rudy's wife, commenced a wrongful death action in state court, asserting negligence and strict product liability claims against LCI, and others, focusing primarily on the tractor's lack of a roll-over protection system (ROPS). LCI's insurer, also a Texas corporation, denied coverage and refused to defend LCI under its Commercial General Liability policy. With the wrongful death suit pending, LCI assigned its rights in the policy to Slater who then commenced this action against the insurer in Arkansas state court. On appeal, Slater asserted for the first time the absence of diversity jurisdiction and further argued that the district court erred in construing the policy exclusion. The court held that, as here, where Slater structured the case, naming LCI as a nominal plaintiff, the district court had, and properly exercised, diversity jurisdiction. The court also noted that the partial assignment of the $100 interest retained by LCI did not defeat jurisdiction. The court held that Slater's argument that the insurer had a duty to defend because of LCI's failure to install ROPS safety equipment was not properly preserved in the district court and therefore, the court declined to consider it further. The court also agreed with the district court's conclusion that LaBatt Co. v. Hartford Lloyd's Ins. Co., reflected Texas law. Moreover, the definition of "Your product" in the insurer's policy expressly excluded the "providing of or failure to provide warnings or instructions," unlike the exclusion at issue in LaBatt. Therefore, the insurer's contention was more consistent with the plain language of the policy and Slater had failed to show plain error. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed.