Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates
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Decedent was an unnamed class member in an action involving alleged misrepresentations made by Defendants while marketing, selling, administering, and servicing various life insurance and annuity products. After the class member died her Estate commenced an action asserting various contract, fraud, and elder abuse claims pertaining to Decedent’s 1989 purchase of a purported “single-premium universal life insurance policy.” The district court granted Defendants’ motion to enforce the settlement agreement and enjoined the Estate from pursuing the Oregon claims.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained to effectuate service under Rule 4, a party may either follow state law where service is made or fulfill one of the following: (a) deliver a copy to the individual personally; (b) leave a copy at the individual’s dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age and discretion who resides there; or (c) deliver a copy to an authorized agent. Here, the personal representative (a nonparty) was served with the motion to substitute in a manner provided by Rule 4, received notice in compliance with Rule 25(a), and was properly brought within the jurisdiction of the Minnesota district court.Further, beyond the Estate’s self-serving statements, there is no evidence suggesting Defendants did not follow the approved procedures. Finally, the court held that upon careful review of the record, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the doctrines of laches and unclean hands were inapplicable under the facts and circumstances of this case. View "Marjory Thomas Osborn-Vincent v. American Express Financial" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's award of damages after a bench trial that resulted in a judgment in favor of appellees and a group of state guaranty associations where the district court ruled that Allegiant Bank breached its fiduciary duties in administering seven trusts, and that PNC was liable for the breach as the successor-in-interest to National City Bank, which in turn had acquired Allegiant.The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in calculating the compensatory damages award; even assuming for the sake of analysis that Missouri law does require damages to be readily ascertainable to award prejudgment interest, the court still found no basis for reversal of the award of prejudgment interest; assuming that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a) was not the proper source of authority for the district court's correction of a clerical mistake, any error was harmless; considered in its entirety, the evidence supports an award of punitive damages; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees and PNC's claims to the contrary are unavailing. View "Jo Ann Howard & Assoc., PC v. National City Bank" on Justia Law

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Employer-appointed trustees filed a complaint in the district court seeking the appointment of an impartial umpire to resolve a deadlock on a motion, pursuant to Section 302(c)(5) of the Labor Management Relations Act, brought by one of the employer-appointed trustees. The district court dismissed the complaint and declined to appoint an umpire.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, based on the entirety of the Trust Agreement, the delegation proposed by the employer trustees' motion is beyond the trustees' authority to implement. The court explained that because the proposed delegation and amendment to the Trust Agreement are beyond the trustees' authority to implement, the deadlocked motion is not a matter arising in connection with the administration of the plan or a matter within the trustees' jurisdiction. Therefore, the Trust Agreement does not authorize the appointment of a neutral umpire to resolve the deadlocked motion. Furthermore, because the court found that adopting the employer trustees' proposed motion would require amending the Trust Agreement, the court also necessarily concluded that the deadlocked motion does not concern trust fund "administration" under section 302(c)(5). Accordingly, the deadlocked motion is not a matter of trust "administration" under either the Trust Agreement or section 302(c)(5), and thus the district court did not err in declining to appoint an umpire. View "Gillick v. Elliott" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff's suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that the VA provided negligent psychiatric care that resulted in her son's death. In this case, plaintiff concedes she was not the appointed trustee under Minnesota law and was only the next-of-kin at the time she filed a claim with the VA. Therefore, plaintiff failed to present the VA with her authority to act as the trustee as required by the FTCA. Because this was a jurisdictional requirement under the FTCA, the court held that the complaint was properly dismissed. View "Rollo-Carlson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Northport in a wrongful death action brought by plaintiff, Mark, as the representative of the estate of his deceased father. Another son, Matt, signed the admission agreement, which included an arbitration agreement, at the residential rehabilitation center owned by Northport. Northport sought to compel arbitration and the district court granted the motion. Mark appealed, asserting that the district court misused the third-party beneficiary theory when no underlying agreement was present between the Poseys and Northport.Arkansas courts have repeatedly declined to find that individuals like Matt—relatives without power-of-attorney or other legal authority who admit a family member to a nursing home—possess valid authority to bind their relatives to arbitration under a third-party beneficiary theory. In this case, because Matt was undisputedly not his father's legal guardian or attorney-in-fact, he lacked the capacity to sign the contract as his father's representative. Accordingly, the court reversed the order compelling arbitration and remanded for further proceedings. View "Northport Health Services of Arkansas, LLC v. Posey" on Justia Law

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This consolidated appeal stemmed from the trusts' motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining the use of Phyllis Schafly's intellectual property. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of preliminary injunctive relief under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1) and held that the trusts would not be entitled to the traditional presumption of irreparable harm in trademark cases because they did not promptly seek preliminary injunctive relief concerning the trademark infringement, regardless of whether the presumption survived recent Supreme Court decisions emphasizing the movant's burden to show that irreparable injury was likely in the absence of an injunction. The court dismissed the appeal of the order staying litigation for lack of appellate jurisdiction, because the order was temporary and did not effectively end the litigation. View "Phyllis Schlafly Revocable Trust v. Cori" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment orders in an action where creditors were attempting to collect on judgments against Vertical and Defendant Reuter by levying assets now belonging to Reuter's wife. Leaving aside the question whether creditors have made a sufficient showing to justify piercing the corporate veil, the court held that creditors' tenancy-by-the-entirety theory failed under Missouri law. In this case, no reasonable jury could conclude that there was clear, cogent and convincing evidence that Reuter and his wife participated in the tortfeasor partnership as a married couple, and thus summary judgment in their favor for the claims seeking to pierce the corporate veil and reach the assets that once belonged to them as a married couple was proper. In regard to plaintiff's alternative theory, the court held that the bankruptcy court correctly determined that Reuter did not own 50 percent of the Trust as a settlor, and thus creditors' allegation that he fraudulently transferred his share to his wife necessarily failed. View "Cutcliff v. Reuter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in an action seeking funds from her husband's trust that was transferred from an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461, plan. The husband had requested the "Accrued Benefit" amount from his ERISA employee-benefit plan be transferred to his trust days before he passed away. Applying an abuse of discretion standard to this case, the court held that the plan administrative committee reasonably explained its interpretation and relied on substantial evidence to deny plaintiff's claim. Therefore, the committee did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the relevant inquiry was not when funds were received by a participant, but rather when funds were transferred out of the plan. View "Wengert v. Rajendran" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in an action seeking funds from her husband's trust that was transferred from an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461, plan. The husband had requested the "Accrued Benefit" amount from his ERISA employee-benefit plan be transferred to his trust days before he passed away. Applying an abuse of discretion standard to this case, the court held that the plan administrative committee reasonably explained its interpretation and relied on substantial evidence to deny plaintiff's claim. Therefore, the committee did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the relevant inquiry was not when funds were received by a participant, but rather when funds were transferred out of the plan. View "Wengert v. Rajendran" on Justia Law

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FCR filed suit against numerous defendants associated with the Life Investors Owners Participation Trust, alleging breaches of fiduciary duties and conversion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that Trust section 11.9 authorized the Trustees to deduct funds from the Trust accounts to reimburse Life Investors for the money it advanced to pay for the defense in the Maryland litigation; the Trustees did indeed incur "cost" in the form of attorney's fees in defending the Maryland action unsuccessfully brought by Corrado and FCR; the Trustees did not breach their fiduciary duties; there was no material dispute as to the reasonableness of the attorney's fees because plaintiffs failed to challenge the fees; and the conversion claim failed because plaintiffs were unable to prove the first element of conversion, that their interests were subject to the terms of the Trust. View "Corrado v. Life Investors Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates