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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. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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