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New Grant of Petition for Certiorari in a Civil Case

March 7, 2013

Since our last review of petitions for certiorari, the Supreme Court has granted one new petition for certiorari in a civil case. A brief summary of the case and issues is below.

S12G1390. RELIANCE TRUST COMPANY, TRUSTEE v. CANDLER et al.

This case involves the proper allocation of funds from a trust. Buddy and Claire Chandler were married in 1951 and had four children and eight grandchildren. The year before Claire’s death, she created a marital trust with Buddy as the lifetime beneficiary of income from the trust, giving only limited rights to access the corpus of the trust. Reliance became the trustee in 2001 when the trust contained $2.1 million. Reliance authorized over $1 million worth of distributions to Buddy from the corpus prior to his death in 2005. When he died, the trust contained $838,762. The eight grandchildren were appointed remainder beneficiaries and sued Reliance in 2007, alleging Reliance improperly invaded the corpus of the trust. After the trial court denied Reliance’s motion for summary judgment, the case went to trial and the grandchildren won a verdict of over $1.1 million. Reliance moved for a new trial and after the trial court denied that motion, appealed the ruling.

The Court of Appeals (Miller, Ellington, Doyle) unanimously affirmed the decision of the trial court, finding there was evidence to support the jury’s verdict, including that there was a fiduciary duty to the grandchildren and that it was violated. The Court of Appeals also found the trial court properly excluded evidence of prior litigation between Buddy and his children and did not err in charging the jury. Finally, the Court of Appeals found that the grandchildren were entitled to interest from the date of Reliance’s encroachments.

On March 4, 2013, the Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari in a 5-2 vote (Hunstein and Hines dissenting) to consider the following question:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err when it upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of Respondents/Appellees and when it affirmed the trial court’s award of interest?

The case has been assigned to the May 2013 oral argument calendar.

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