Friday, May 13, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 80

Summary of Decision May 13, 2011

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Lindsey v. Harriet

Citation: 2011 WY 80

Docket Number: S-10-0046


Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, Honorable Dan Spangler (Retired), Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Ann M. Rochelle of Rochelle Law Offices, Casper, Wyoming

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Timothy J. Kirven of Kirven and Kirven, P.C., Buffalo, Wyoming

Date of Decision: May 13, 2011

Facts: Appellant, owner of sixty-seven shares of corporate stock appeals the district court’s summary judgment that imposed a constructive trust upon those sixty-seven shares for the benefit of several of her relatives, including Appellees, in accordance with the provisions of a document entitled Agreement for Disposition of Rental and/or Royalty Income signed by Appellant’s mother and grandmother.

Issues: Whether the claim of Appellees for a constructive trust barred because they failed to file a creditor’s claim in the Appellant’s mother. Whether the transfer of the 67 shares of stock by Appellant’s grandmother to her mother was a completed gift. Whether the transfer of the 67 shares of stock by Appellant’s mother to Appellant was a completed gift. Whether the Agreement for Disposition of Rental and/or Royalty Income constituted a promise by which Appellant’s mother induced her grandmother to transfer the 67 shares to her and by which transfer she was unjustly enriched so as to support a constructive trust. If the the Agreement was a promise to induce Appellant’s grandmother to transfer the 67 shares of BLC stock to her mother, what were the terms of that promise.

Holdings: A constructive trust is an equitable remedy imposed to compel a person who unfairly possesses a property interest to hold that property interest in trust for the person for whom, in equity and in good conscience, it should be held. The elements of a constructive trust are: (1) a promise, either express or implied; (2) a transfer made in reliance upon that promise; and (3) unjust enrichment. According to the district court’s decision letter, the governing document is the unambiguous 1989 Agreement between the Appellant’s grandmother and mother. The district court read that agreement to mean that Appellant’s grandmother transferred her ownership of her sixty-seven shares of stock to Appellant’s mother with the agreement that she would distribute the dividends to various people, including the Appellees and that that agreement gave them legally protected interests as third-party beneficiaries in a constructive trust. The problem with this reasoning that is that Appellant’s grandmother did not transfer her sixty-seven shares to Appellant’s mother in this 1989 Agreement. She had actually transferred those shares to her almost eighteen months earlier with no conditions or obligations attached. There is no genuine issue of material fact on that important point. There is no evidence that at that time Appellant’s mother promised Appellant’s grandmother that she would distribute dividends to their several relatives. There is no evidence that Appellant’s grandmother transferred her shares on that date in reliance of such a promise. For these reasons, the district court’s summary judgment in Appellees’ favor cannot stand.

Reversed and remanded.

J. Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

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