Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting a motion to approve a settlement agreement reached in mediation involving siblings Lily Smith and Sam, Dan, and Vernon Lindemulder, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their claims of error.The agreement at issue resolved claims involving the Alice M. Lindemulder Trust, established by the parties' mother, which held more than 2,000 acres of land in Stillwater County. Sam appealed the district court's decision to approve the settlement agreement, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable because he lacked the capacity to enter it and had been subjected to undue influence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that Sam validly consented to the agreement; and (2) did not err in holding that the agreement was valid and enforceable. View "Smith v. Lindemulder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Virginia Uniform Arbitration Act, Va. Code 8.01-581.01 to -.016 (VUAA), and the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1-16 (FAA), do not compel enforcement of an arbitration clause in a trust.The decedent created an inter vivos irrevocable trust that was divided into three shares for his children and grandchildren. The trust contained an unambiguous arbitration clause. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, the trust's trustee, alleging breach of duty. Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a trust is neither a contract nor an agreement that can be enforced against a beneficiary; and (2) therefore, neither the VUAA nor the FAA compel arbitration. View "Boyle v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Robert was admitted to a nursing home multiple times. During his final stay, he fell out of bed, sustained a head injury, and later died. His estate sued in state court, alleging negligence, negligence per se, violations of Kentucky’s Residents’ Rights Act, KRS 216.515(26), corporate negligence, medical negligence, wrongful death, and loss of consortium. The nursing home sought to enforce an arbitration agreement in federal court. The district court held that no valid agreement covering the final visit existed. An Agreement dated January 5, 2015 displays a mark of some kind in the “Signature of Resident” block, but it is difficult to read. Bramer’s estate alleges that this scrawl is a forgery; Robert's widow stated in an affidavit that neither she nor Robert signed that form. On an Agreement dated January 26, 2015, the widow signed in the “Signature of Resident” block. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreements are identical, bind successors and assigns, and require arbitration of a wide range of disputes. They purport to remain in effect through discharge and subsequent readmission. Although signing the Agreement was not a condition of admission, it was presented as part of the admissions packet. The estate presented evidence that the staff implied that signing the Agreement was required. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. By requesting a second agreement on January 26, the nursing home effectively abandoned the first agreement. Lacking Robert’s consent, there was no valid agreement to arbitrate. View "GGNSC Louisville Hillcreek v. Estate of Bramer" 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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Rhonda Stephan as the personal representative of the Estate of Bobby Gene Hicks, appealed an order granting a motion to compel arbitration filed by Millennium Nursing and Rehab Center, Inc. Stephan contends that Hicks, her father, died in 2015 while he was a resident at Millennium Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled-nursing facility owned and operated by Millennium ("the Rehab Center"). During Hicks's hospitalization at Crestwood Medical Center ("Crestwood"), Stephan signed all the paperwork arranging for her father to be discharged from the hospital and transferred to the Rehab Center; however, she did not hold a power of attorney or other actual legal authority to act on Hicks's behalf or to contract in his name. Hicks did not sign any of the paperwork, but he is named as a party to the contracts included within that paperwork. On October 26, 2015, Hicks was transferred from Crestwood to the Rehab Center. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Stephan could not be bound to the arbitration provision in her capacity as personal representative to Hicks' estate when she signed the agreement at issue here in her capacity, in what amounted to, Hicks' relative or next friend. View "Stephan v. Millennium Nursing and Rehab Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Following mediation, a trust beneficiary and a trustee signed a document purporting to settle a bitter family litigation and referring future disputes to the mediator for resolution. The beneficiary subsequently denied that she settled and asked the mediator to resolve the issue, but the mediator concluded that the parties had reached a binding settlement. The beneficiary tried to resurrect this issue in the superior court, but the court concluded that the mediator’s decision was within the scope of the authority conferred by the parties. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not err by confirming the mediator’s decision. Furthermore, the court did not err by denying the beneficiary’s petition to review the trustee’s compensation, or by awarding Alaska Civil Rule 82 attorney’s fees to the trustee. View "Lee v. Sheldon" on Justia Law

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Candy Parkhurst ("Parkhurst"), personal representative of the estate of her husband, Andrew P. Parkhurst ("Andrew"), deceased, file suit to compel Carter C. Norvell and Parkhurst & Norvell, an accounting firm Norvell had operated as a partnership with Andrew ("the partnership"), to arbitrate a dispute regarding the dissolution of the partnership. Pursuant to an arbitration provision in a dissolution agreement Norvell and Andrew had executed before Andrew's death, the trial court ultimately ordered arbitration and stayed further proceedings until arbitration was complete. Subsequently, however, Parkhurst moved the trial court to lift the stay and to enter a partial summary judgment resolving certain aspects of the dispute in her favor. After the trial court lifted the stay and scheduled a hearing on Parkhurst's motion, Norvell and the partnership appealed, arguing that the trial court was effectively failing to enforce the terms of a valid arbitration agreement in violation of the Federal Arbitration Act. The Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no evidence in the record indicating that Norvell made such an agreement and he, in fact, denied doing so. In the absence of any evidence that would establish such an agreement, as well as any other evidence that would conclusively establish that Norvell clearly and unequivocally expressed an intent to waive his right to have the arbitrator resolve this dispute. As such, Parkhurst failed to meet her burden of showing that the arbitration provision in the dissolution agreement should not have been enforced. Accordingly, the trial court erred by lifting the arbitral stay in order to consider Parkhurst's motion for a partial summary judgment, and its judgment doing so was reversed and remanded. View "Norvell v. Parkhurst" on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Uniform Trust Code is intended to give trustees broad authority to fulfill their duties as trustee and gives trustees the power to enter into predispute arbitration agreements, so long as doing so is not prohibited under the operative trust instrument.At issue in this interlocutory appeal was whether the signature of the trustee of a trust on an investment/brokerage account agreement that included a provision requiring the arbitration of disputes bound the beneficiary of the trust to the predispute arbitration provision. The Supreme Court held (1) under both the Tennessee Uniform Trust Code and the operative trust instrument, the trustee had authority to enter into the arbitration agreement contained within the account agreement; and (2) applying the principle that a third party who seeks the benefit of a contract must also bear its burdens, the trust beneficiary in this case may be bound to arbitrate claims against the investment broker that sought to enforce the account agreement. The court vacated the trial court order compelling arbitration of all claims and remanded the case to the trial court for a determination as to which, if any, of the claims asserted by the trust beneficiary seek to enforce the account agreement. View "Harvey ex rel. Gladden v. Cumberland Trust & Investment Co." on Justia Law

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Bernard Norton, by and through Kim Norton, brought a wrongful death action against a number of defendants who were affiliated with a nursing home in which his wife, Lola Norton, died. Bernard claimed that negligent treatment caused Lola’s death. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration of all claims in accordance with an agreement entered into by Lola at the time she was admitted to the nursing home. The trial court granted the motion to stay and compel arbitration, and Bernard appealed, contending that, as a wrongful death beneficiary, he could not be bound to Lola’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found that Lola’s beneficiaries were not required to arbitrate their wrongful death claims against the defendants. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether an arbitration agreement governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and entered into by a decedent and/or her power of attorney, which bound the decedent and her estate to arbitration, was also enforceable against the decedent’s beneficiaries in a wrongful death action. The Court found that such an arbitration agreement did bind the decedent’s beneficiaries with respect to their wrongful death claims, and, accordingly, reversed the Court of Appeals. View "United Health Services of Georgia, Inc. v. Norton" on Justia Law

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FMR Corp. n/k/a FMR LLC, Fidelity Management Trust Company, and Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC (collectively, "Fidelity") appealed a circuit court order denying their motion asking the court to compel Elizabeth Howard n/k/a Elizabeth Hart ("Hart") to arbitrate Fidelity's dispute with her regarding her responsibility to indemnify Fidelity for losses it might suffer if Hart's stepchildren prevailed on claims they asserted against Fidelity that were the subject of a separate pending arbitration proceeding. In 2006, Hart's husband, Frederick Howard, opened an individual retirement account with Fidelity ("the Fidelity IRA"), funding it with money previously been held in a retirement account administered by Howard's former employer. Although Howard had previously designated his three children from a prior marriage as beneficiaries of the employer's retirement account, he did not designate any beneficiary for the Fidelity IRA at the time it was opened or at anytime thereafter. Howard died in 2011. His will left all his personal property to the children, explaining that Hart "has a sizeable separate estate of her own." However, because Howard never designated a beneficiary for the Fidelity IRA, Fidelity distributed the money held in that account to Hart in accordance with the terms of the Fidelity IRA, which provided that any assets in the account would become the property of a surviving spouse when the account holder died if no beneficiary had been named. The Howard children unsuccessfully challenged that distribution in Probate Court. Then the Howard children sued Fidelity and Hart, asserting claims of undue influence, fraud, and conversion against Hart and a claim of negligence against Fidelity, contending their father was incompetent at the time the Fidelity IRA was opened and that Hart was the impetus behind the opening of the Fidelity IRA, Fidelity was negligent for failing to implement adequate procedures governing its online-account-opening process that would prevent either fraudulent activity or invalid actions by incompetent individuals. Fidelity moved the Circuit Court to compel arbitration, noting in its motion that Howard, Hart, and the Howard children had all executed documents related to accounts with Fidelity that contained arbitration provisions. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the circuit court denied Fidelity's motion notwithstanding the submission of competent evidence establishing Fidelity had a right to arbitrate these claims. View "FMR Corp. n/k/a FMR LLC, et al. v. Howard n/k/a Hart" on Justia Law