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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. Please I need help with my class action lawsuits, im currently in pro-se and im having hard time findiNG A LAWYER TO ASSIST ME

  2. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  3. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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