Master Denies Motion to Dismiss Counts Relating to Alleged Breaches by Decedent’s Attorney-In-Fact

Delaware Fiduciary Litigation Blog

Posted June 19, 2020

Jerita Hill, et al. v. Judy L. Myers, et al., C.A. No. 2018-0160-SEM (June 15, 2020)

       In this case, family members (“Plaintiffs”) of decedent filed an action against decedent’s attorney-in-fact (“Defendant”) for breach of fiduciary duty and undue influence, among other things, stemming from the sale of property owned by decedent. Especially pertinent to the Master’s final report are Counts I, II, and III of Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint which allege breach of fiduciary duty, undue influence, and declaratory judgment.  Defendant filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Count I for lack of standing and failure to state a claim, and Counts II and III for failure to state a claim.

       As to Count I, because the Master found that Defendant owed a fiduciary duty to decedent and that Plaintiffs had adequately pleaded facts alleging a breach of that duty, the Master concluded that Plaintiffs had alleged a cognizable claim. Further, the Master held that because the Plaintiffs were either intended beneficiaries of decedent’s will or, at the very least, intestate heirs, they had legal standing to pursue their claims against the Defendant. Thus, Count I survived the motion to dismiss.

       On Count II, the Master found that although the Defendant may be able to show that the sale of the property was appropriate, Plaintiffs had adequately pleaded that decedent had consistently refused pre-hospitalization sale of the property, and Defendant effectuated a previously rejected sale. As such, Count II also survived the motion to dismiss.

       Plaintiffs’ Count III requested that the court declare that the lack of a residuary clause in the will should be interpreted such that the residuary would pass via intestate succession to Plaintiffs.  Defendant argued that a paragraph in decedent’s will should be interpreted as a residuary clause. But the Master found that either conflicting interpretation of that ambiguous section could be reasonable and, thus, she deemed dismissal of Count III inappropriate.

Author(s)

William M. Kelleher, Director
Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.
David T. White – Law Clerk