Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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This appeal arose when the estates of several deceased nursing home patients filed a series of wrongful death suits against a network of nursing homes, which resulted in $1 billion in empty chair judgments against the network. In this case, the Estates appealed the dismissal of claims against Rubin Schron and the bankruptcy court's issuance of a permanent injunction with respect to Schron. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction to enjoin future claims arising from the 2006 Transaction at issue and that it acted within the scope of its authority under the All Writs Act and the Anti-Injunction Act in issuing the Permanent Injunction; the Permanent Injunction was broad, but its breadth was justified; the court found various claims against Schron implausible as alleged in the Second Amended Complaint; and, given the Estates' inability or unwillingness to remedy the deficiencies in their pleadings, the bankruptcy court exercised proper discretion in dismissing the Second Amended Complaint with prejudice. View "Estate of Juanita Jackson v. Schron" on Justia Law