COA affirms arbitration opinion on rehearing

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Rehearing a case at the request of the appellant, the Indiana Court of Appeals reaffirmed its original opinion that trustees are not bound by an arbitration clause that was signed by predecessors.

In Smith Barney v. StoneMor Operating LLC, et al., No. 41A04-1103-MF-96, Smith Barney requested a rehearing of a trial court’s denial of motion to compel arbitration. Affirming its original opinion, the COA held that two companies that took control of a mortuary business did not sign the original client agreements the mortuary business had with Smith Barney. Those original agreements contained an arbitration clause, which Smith Barney claims applies to StoneMor and Independence Trust Co.

A mortuary business had been placed in receivership after its owner allegedly stole millions of dollars in cemetery trust funds. StoneMor agreed to buy the company, and Independence was appointed trustee of trusts that had been administered by the receiver, along with new trusts that StoneMor established. The trial court allowed StoneMor and Independence to assert receiver’s claims against Smith Barney, which they did by filing a complaint.

A week later, Smith Barney filed a motion to compel arbitration. Smith Barney claims that with respect to contracts, trust law clearly recognizes that a successor trustee is bound by contractual obligations entered into by its predecessor trustees relating to the trust. But the COA wrote that Smith Barney had not cited a single case in support of that claim.

The appeals court held that the appellees were not parties to the client agreements executed by predecessors Community Trust and Security Financial, and therefore did not personally agree to submit to arbitration. Smith Barney asserts that Independence Trust is nevertheless bound by the arbitration clause “as a consequence of [Independence Trust] assuming the position as the successor trustee to those predecessor trustees.”

Regardless of whether a “successor trustee” may be considered a “successor in interest” for purposes of the client agreements, the fact remains that Independence Trust did not sign the agreements. Consequently, there is no basis for compelling StoneMor to arbitrate its claims, the COA held, affirming the trial court’s judgment.



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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues