Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Noble Prestige Limited v. Craig Thomas Galle, et al
Noble Prestige Limited lent Paul Thomas Horn $500,000 to pursue litigation against a telecommunications company. While the litigation was pending, a conservatorship over Horn’s assets was commenced in a probate court in Denver, Colorado (the “Denver Probate Court”). The case was settled, and the proceeds were placed in the conservatorship estate, subject to Galle’s management and the ultimate custody and control of the Denver Probate Court. Noble ultimately obtained arbitral awards that required Horn to pay Noble the debt owed under the loan agreement and Galle to pay Noble costs associated with the arbitration. Noble moved to confirm the awards and sought a temporary restraining order prohibiting Galle, Horn, and Galle’s law firm. Galle and GLG (together, “Respondents”) opposed Noble’s request and moved to dismiss the action. The district court granted Noble’s request, entering what it termed a “temporary restraining order” that prohibited Galle from dissipating or transferring $10,000,000 “notwithstanding any order(s) entered by the [Denver] Probate Court.” The district court also entered an order granting Respondents’ motion to dismiss in part and denying it in part. Respondents appealed both orders. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed Respondents’ appeal to the extent it challenged the district court’s denial of their motion to dismiss, vacated the district court’s entry of preliminary injunctive relief, and remanded the case. The court explained that Noble’s petition fails to invoke the equitable jurisdiction of the district court and, therefore, the issuance of a preliminary injunction under Rule 65 was improper. Further, the court explained that district court lacked the power to issue an order freezing the AT&T settlement funds pending judgment. View "Noble Prestige Limited v. Craig Thomas Galle, et al" on Justia Law
Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr.
Plaintiff brought a diversity suit against his former stepfather, Defendant, alleging that Defendant owed him a fiduciary duty to disclose the existence of certain Settlement Funds arising from the wrongful death of Plaintiff’s biological father. The Eleventh Circuit previously certified three questions to the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding breach of fiduciary duty for failure to disclose a claim. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendant on the failure to disclose claim and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court explained that the district court should only have granted Defendant summary judgment if there was no genuine dispute as to any material fact regarding the tort claim and Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, viewing all evidence and making all inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Here, a reasonable jury could find the following facts at trial:4 (1) Plaintiff and Defendant were in a confidential or fiduciary relationship such that, under Georgia law, the statute of limitations could be tolled, and a claim for breach of fiduciary duty could be supported; (2) at the time Plaintiff turned 18, at least $50,000 of the Settlement Funds remained in the Charles Schwab account; (3) Plaintiff had a right to take control of the Settlement Funds when he turned 18; (4) Defendant had a duty to disclose the existence of the Settlement Funds and turn over control of those funds to Plaintiff when he turned 18; (5) Defendant failed to do so, and (6) Plaintiff would have taken control of the funds when he turned 18. View "Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr." on Justia Law
Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr.
The Eleventh Circuit certified the following three questions to the Georgia Supreme Court regarding Georgia’s fiduciary duty to disclose.(1) If a confidential relationship creates a duty to disclose which, if breached, would constitute fraud sufficient to toll the statute of limitations, would that duty to disclose also support a breach of fiduciary duty tort claim under Georgia law?(2) If so, may an adult fiduciary in a confidential relationship with a minor beneficiary without a written agreement discharge his duty to disclose by disclosing solely to the minor’s parents or guardians?(3) If the adult fiduciary does have an obligation to disclose to the minor beneficiary directly without a written agreement, when must the adult fiduciary disclose or redisclose to the minor beneficiary? View "Elkin King v. Forrest King, Jr." on Justia Law
Acheron Capital, Ltd. v. Mukamal
Mutual sold fractional investment interests in viatical settlements in which a terminally ill insured sold his life insurance policy to a third party for a lump-sum cash payment--a percentage of the policy’s face value. In 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Mutual for falsely representing that its life expectancy figures, “of paramount importance” for valuing the settlements, had been produced by independent physicians. The Mutual policies were put into receivership; investors were given the option of retaining their investments or directing the receiver to sell. Some of the "Keep" investors did not pay their share of premiums, leaving the policies at risk of lapse and the non-defaulting investors at risk of losing their investments. Acheron purchased fractional interests of defaulting investors from the receiver.In 2009, the district court approved the transfer and management of the Keep Policies—including some policies in which Acheron held fractional interests—from the receiver to a trustee. The trustee obtained court approval to sell the policies in the trust, including those in which Acheron held an interest. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed Acheron’s appeal, finding that it lacked jurisdiction. The order is not a final decision, 28 U.S.C. 1291, and did not involve the refusal to wind up a receivership, section 1292(a)(2). View "Acheron Capital, Ltd. v. Mukamal" on Justia Law
Fisher v. PNC Bank, N.A.
Plaintiff filed suit against PNC Bank and PNC Investments for mishandling an investment account that belonged to plaintiff and her deceased mother. The district court sua sponte ordered briefing on the probate exception to federal diversity jurisdiction, concluded that plaintiff was "attempting to circumvent the normal probate process by bringing an individual claim against PNC Bank," and dismissed the case. The district court also held that plaintiff had no standing to sue.The Eleventh Circuit reversed, concluding that neither the probate exception nor standing doctrine divests the district court of jurisdiction over this lawsuit. The court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing the case under the probate exception because it can adjudicate her claims for damages against PNC without probating her mother's will, administering the estate, or disposing of the estate's property. The court also concluded that plaintiff is the real party in interest and has standing to bring her claims. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Fisher v. PNC Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas, LLC
In a case involving an alleged multi-billion-dollar conspiracy to defraud the Venezuelan state-owned oil company known as PDVSA, the Trust filed suit alleging that it had authority to do so as an assignee of PDVSA pursuant to a trust agreement which, through a choice-of-law clause, is governed by New York law. The district court adopted in part the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge and dismissed the action without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of Article III standing. The district court determined that the Trust did not properly authenticate the trust agreement and, even if the trust agreement were authenticated and admissible, it was void as champertous under New York law.The Eleventh Circuit assumed without deciding that the Trust made out a prima facie case of authenticity for the trust agreement at the Rule 12(b)(1) proceedings and that the district court erred by ruling that the trust agreement was inadmissible. The court concluded that, based on its review of the record, the district court may have erred procedurally in definitively resolving the question of champerty at the Rule 12(b)(1) stage because that question likely implicated the merits of the Trust's claims. However, the court concluded that the Trust does not make this procedural argument on appeal and therefore has abandoned any procedural obligations to the champerty ruling. On the merits, the court applied the champerty bar to the trust agreement under New York law in light of Justinian Capital SPC v. WestLB AG, 65 N.E.3d 1253, 1255 (N.Y. 2016), and concluded that the Trust's primary purpose in acquiring PDVSA's claims was to bring this action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. View "PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas, LLC" on Justia Law
M & M Realty Partners at Hagen Ranch, LLC v. Mazzoni
M&M Realty entered into a contract with the William Mazzoni Trust in 2011 for the purchase of a plot of land in Boynton Beach, Florida. M&M subsequently filed suit seeking specific performance of the land sale contract and damages from the Mazzoni Trust, as well as damages from William Mazzoni, as co-trustee and agent of the Trust, for tortious interference with the land sale contract.The Eleventh Circuit held that M&M failed to make out a prima facie claim for specific performance or for damages for breach of contract because M&M did not provide evidence that it was ready, willing, and able to perform under the contract -- specifically, that it had the necessary funds to make the purchase. The court also held that William Mazzoni, as a co-trustee of the Defendant trust and signatory as its agent on the contract, is not liable for tortious interference. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment granting summary judgment in favor of William Mazzoni and the Mazzoni Trust. View "M & M Realty Partners at Hagen Ranch, LLC v. Mazzoni" on Justia Law
Estate of David Bass v. Regions Bank, Inc.
The administrator brought separate actions against Regions and Fidelity, alleging claims arising from the decedent's transfer of his entire retirement savings account to his sister before his death.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court properly granted Fidelity's Rule 12(b)(6) motion regarding the Count III breach of contract and Count IV breach of fiduciary duty claims; vacated the district court's Rule 12(b)(1) dismissals of the Count II Georgia UCC claims in both complaints because those rulings were incapable of meaningful review; and affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Count I common law conversion and Count II common law negligence claims because they were preempted by Georgia Code 11-3-420. View "Estate of David Bass v. Regions Bank, Inc." on Justia Law
Pictet Overseas Inc. v. Helvetia Trust
The Trusts initiated before FINRA an arbitration proceeding against the eight individuals who had owned Banque Pictet as partners and others, including Pictet Overseas, seeking to recover losses from custodial accounts with Banque Pictet. Pictet Overseas and the Partners then filed an action in federal district court, seeking to enjoin the arbitration, contending that, even if Rule 12200 of the FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure for Customer Disputes required Pictet Overseas to arbitrate certain claims before FINRA, it did not require Pictet Overseas or the Partners to arbitrate the Trusts' claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the Trusts' claims were non-arbitrable and held that FINRA Rule 12200 did not require arbitration. In this case, the Trusts' claims did not arise in connection with Pictet Overseas' or the Partners' business activities. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's order permanently enjoining the Trusts from arbitrating in a FINRA forum their claims against Pictet Overseas and the Partners. View "Pictet Overseas Inc. v. Helvetia Trust" on Justia Law
NE 32nd Street, LLC v. United States
At issue in this appeal was whether a conservation restriction imposed in 2013 on a property owned by the Frank Sawyer Revocable Trust restarted the 12-year statute of limitations of the Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. 2409a, so that NE 32nd Street, LLC, as agent for the trust, can sue to extinguish a spoilage easement granted to the federal government in 1938. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that the statute of limitations barred a challenge to the 80 year old easement and the 2013 permit did not change the terms of that easement to the detriment of the trust. View "NE 32nd Street, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law