Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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A district court dismissed Plaintiff–Appellant Lawrence Smallen and Laura Smallen Revocable Living Trust’s securities-fraud class action against Defendant–Appellee The Western Union Company and several of its current and former executive officers (collectively, “Defendants”). Following the announcements of Western Union’s settlements with regulators in January 2017 and the subsequent drop in the price of the company’s stock shares, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on behalf of itself and other similarly situated shareholders. In its complaint, Plaintiff alleged Defendants committed securities fraud by making false or materially misleading public statements between February 24, 2012, and May 2, 2017 regarding, among other things, Western Union’s compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-fraud laws. The district court dismissed the complaint because Plaintiff failed to adequately plead scienter under the heightened standard imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”). While the Tenth Circuit found the complaint may have given rise to some plausible inference of culpability on Defendants' part, the Court concurred Plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts giving rise to the strong inference of scienter required to state a claim under the PSLRA, thus affirming dismissal. View "Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company" on Justia Law

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Keshia Porter appeals the district court’s dismissal of her complaint as time barred. Porter’s husband, Delandis Richardson, was killed in an auto accident in Campbell County, Wyoming, on November 25, 2014. Within two years, on November 21, 2016, Vance Countryman filed a “Petition/Action for the Appointment of Wrongful Death Representative” in the District Court of Campbell County, Wyoming. Countryman requested appointment as Richardson’s WDR under Wyo. Stat. Secs. 1-38-101 to 105. The state court judge expressed concern that appointing Countryman, who would be acting as an attorney in the wrongful death suit, could pose ethical problems. On April 27, 2017, Porter filed an “Amended Petition/Action for the Appointment of Wrongful Death Representative” asking the court to appoint her as Richardson’s WDR. It stated that “[t]his petition is ‘made in a separate action brought solely for appointing the wrongful death representative’ pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-38-103(b).” The document was filed in the existing state court action. On July 10, 2017, the court appointed Porter the WDR for Richardson. Porter then filed this action against Ford Motor Company on August 7, 2017, as Richardson’s WDR. Ford moved to dismiss, arguing that Porter’s claims were barred by Wyoming’s two-year limitations period for wrongful death actions. The district court agreed and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Porter timely appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined that a WDR petition was filed by another putative representative within two years and Porter was appointed WDR in that state court action. She then filed the present suit within thirty days of her appointment. On these facts, the Court concluded Porter’s complaint was timely under Wyo. Stat. 1-38-103(b)(ii). Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Porter v. Ford Motor Company" on Justia Law

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Gregory and Andrea Chernushin owned a second home in Colorado in joint tenancy with right of survivorship. Eventually, Mr. Chernushin (not Ms. Chernushin) filed for bankruptcy. During the bankruptcy proceedings, Mr. Chernushin died. The bankruptcy trustee, Robertson Cohen, then filed an adversary complaint against Ms. Chernushin, seeking to sell the home. Ms. Chernushin argued the bankruptcy estate no longer included any interest in the home because Mr. Chernushin’s joint tenancy interest ended at his death. The bankruptcy court agreed with Ms. Chernushin, as did the district court on appeal. The trustee appealed, but the Tenth Circuit concurred the bankruptcy estate had no more interest in the home than Mr. Chernushin and Mr. Chernushin’s interest extinguished when he died. View "Cohen v. Chernushin" on Justia Law

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Two years after the district court denied class certification, the parties settled the individual claims. After settling, the parties jointly asked the court to enter a stipulated judgment dismissing with prejudice the Trusts’ individual claims, and the court did so. In the judgment, the Trusts reserved any right they may have to appeal the district court’s class-certification denial. The Trusts now appealed that denial, contending that the class-certification order merged with the stipulated judgment dismissing their individual claims, resulting in a final, appealable order under 28 U.S.C. 1291. Relying on Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, 137 S. Ct. 1702 (2017), the Tenth Circuit held that it lacked statutory appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s order denying class certification. "Voluntarily dismissing the Trusts’ individual claims with prejudice after settling them doesn’t convert the class-certification denial—an inherently interlocutory order—into a final decision under 28 U.S.C. 1291." The Court dismissed this appeal. View "Anderson Living Trust v. WPX Energy Production" on Justia Law

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The first appeal in this case involved claims by the estate of Vera Cummings (the Estate) against Community Health Systems, Inc. (CHSI) under New Mexico state law, against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and against Mountain View Regional Medical Center (Mountain View) under state law. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals disposed of the appeal by: (1) entering an order approving the stipulated dismissal with prejudice of the appeal of the district court’s dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of the claims against CHSI; (2) affirming the district court’s dismissal of the claims under the FTCA for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; and (3) directing the district court to vacate its judgment in favor of Mountain View and to remand the claims against Mountain View (but not the claims against CHSI) to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On remand to the district court, however, it went beyond the Tenth Circuit’s mandate by vacating its dismissal of the claims against CHSI and remanding those claims to state court. CHSI appealed. The Tenth Circuit reversed the order vacating the dismissal of the claims against CHSI and remanded those claims to state court. The Tenth Circuit also rejected the Estate’s motion to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Estate of Vera Cummings v. Community Health Systems" on Justia Law

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The first appeal in this case involved claims by the estate of Vera Cummings (the Estate) against Community Health Systems, Inc. (CHSI) under New Mexico state law, against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and against Mountain View Regional Medical Center (Mountain View) under state law. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals disposed of the appeal by: (1) entering an order approving the stipulated dismissal with prejudice of the appeal of the district court’s dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of the claims against CHSI; (2) affirming the district court’s dismissal of the claims under the FTCA for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; and (3) directing the district court to vacate its judgment in favor of Mountain View and to remand the claims against Mountain View (but not the claims against CHSI) to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On remand to the district court, however, it went beyond the Tenth Circuit’s mandate by vacating its dismissal of the claims against CHSI and remanding those claims to state court. CHSI appealed. The Tenth Circuit reversed the order vacating the dismissal of the claims against CHSI and remanded those claims to state court. The Tenth Circuit also rejected the Estate’s motion to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Estate of Vera Cummings v. Community Health Systems" on Justia Law