Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 165

Summary of Decision December 20, 2011

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

Case Name:  In re: Matter of Graves, Beit Hanina Enterprises, Inc. v. Moffett

Citation:  2011 WY 165

Docket Number: S-11-0126

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=464935

Appeal from the District Court of Teton County, The Honorable Timothy C. Day, Judge

Representing Appellant (Claimant):  Leonard R. Carlman of Hess Carlman & D’Amours, LLC, Jackson, WY.

Representing Appellee (Respondent): Clay D. Geittmann of Mullikin, Larson & Swift, LLC, Jackson, WY.

Date of Decision: December 20, 2011

Facts:  In 2008, the decedent, as CEO of a corporation, purchased a cell phone retail outlet from Appellant.  As part of the purchase, Appellant accepted a promissory note from the corporation.  The decedent signed the note as personal guarantor, but he died one day before the first installment payment was due on the note.  Two closely related legal actions followed – a California breach of contract action and this Wyoming probate action.  In the California suit, Appellant anticipated naming decedent’s estate as a defendant, so Appellant named “Does 1-10” as co-defendants.

In accordance with statutory requirements, Appellant filed a timely claim with the Estate.  On September 21, 2010 the Estate’s attorney mailed a “Notice of Rejection of the Claim.”  After correcting a procedural flaw in the first claim, Appellant filed a second claim with the Estate on October 4, 2010.  The Estate did not issue a separate rejection for the second claim.  The 30-day period for bringing suit expired on October 21, 2010, 30 days after the rejection of the claim.

Meanwhile in California, on October 15, 2010, Appellant sought to amend its complaint by replacing the fictitious name of “Doe 1” with the decedent’s estate.  Due to a procedural error in the pleading however, the California court did not sign the proposed order until after a hearing, on November 12, 2010.

The Estate, on December 30, 2010, filed a “Notice of Claim Dispositions.”  The Estate persisted in its denial of Appellant’s claim.  The same day, the Estate also filed a “Motion for Hearing on Creditor’s Capacity to Challenge Denial of Claim.”  Subsequently, the probate court held a hearing on that motion, and entered its “Order Finding Creditor Time Barred from Challenging Denial of Claim.”

Appellee creditor timely challenged the order and argued on appeal that the probate court erred in refusing to find peculiar circumstances entitling Appellee to equitable relief from strict application of the Wyoming Probate Code’s 30-day statute of limitations under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 2-7-718 (LexisNexis 2011).

Issues: Whether the District Court erred when it declined to provide to Appellant the equitable relief available at W.S. § 2-7-703(c), which states, “This section [regarding filing claims] shall not bar: (i) Claimants entitled to equitable relief due to peculiar circumstances, if so found by the court in adversary proceedings.”  (Emphasis added.)

Holdings:  Affirmed.  The Court found no missteps or delays apparent on the part of the Estate and personal representative that would have interfered with Appellant’s ability to timely comply with the requirements of the Wyoming Probate Code in seeking a claim against the estate.  As such, the district court did not commit error when it declined to provide Appellant equitable relief due to any peculiar circumstances under § 2-7-703(c).

J. Hill delivered the opinion for the court.

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