Google Review

Appellate Team Victory: Fifth District Court Upholds Summary Judgment in High-Stakes Bank Account Dispute

The appellate team of Tiffany Ann Jones, John M. Frazier, Jr., and Eric Hostetler secured a per curiam affirmation at the Fifth District Court of Appeals on an appeal of a Final Summary Judgment.

This case involved a dispute between an estate and an heir over a bank account with rights of survivorship. The estate brought three claims against the heir: (1) Constructive Trust Because of Breach of Fiduciary Duty, (2) Converting Funds from a Convenience Account, and (3) Conversion. The three ultimate questions were (1) whether terms of an account agreement, as to express right of survivorship, were inapplicable; (2) whether the heir exerted any undue influence over the decedent to secure rights of survivorship to the account; and (3) whether the heir breached any fiduciary duty owed to the decedent in receipt of rights of survivorship to the account. The trial court, in its grant of the summary judgment argued by John M. Frazier, Jr., found there had been no evidence to avoid summary judgment in favor of our client as to all three claims brought by the estate.

The estate filed an appeal with the Fifth District Court of Appeals arguing the trial court erred in finding for the heir.

In our answer brief we presented several key arguments in support of affirming the trial court’s decision:

  1. Lack of Evidence: We contended the estate failed to provide competent or sufficient evidence to support its claims and the evidence we presented on behalf of the heir contradicted evidence presented by the estate.
  2. Explicit Rights of Survivorship: We emphasized the bank account was, by its explicit terms, a joint account with the right of survivorship; the account document clearly detailed the rights of survivorship; and the presumption associated with joint accounts did not apply due to the facts this case.
  3. Decedent’s Legal Competency: We illustrated the estate failed to present any evidence to support its claim the other account owner lacked the mental capacity to make decisions prior to her passing. No medical professional had declared Decedent incompetent and the evidence demonstrated Decedent remained competent and actively managed her affairs through her final days.
  4. Absence of Breach of Fiduciary Duty or Conversion: There was no competent or substantial evidence to support the estate’s claims the heir exerted undue influence over the decedent nor breached any existing fiduciary duty.

Ultimately the Fifth District Court of Appeal affirmed the summary judgment of the trial court without further opinion.

The case was Kathleen M. Day, as Executor of the Estate of Gertrude K. Lyons v. Cecile Saltalamacchia, Case No. 5D22-3006 and L.T. Case No. 05-2021-CA-018822.

If you need to appeal your case in Florida or Federal Court, learn more about our appellate law services and schedule a consultation with one of our experienced appellate attorneys.