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Williamson v. Brooks

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

February 28, 2017

JOANNE WILLIAMSON, as Successor Trustee, etc., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
THOMAS BROOKS et al., Defendants and Respondents.

          Filed 1/31/17 (unmodified version)

         Superior Court County Super. Ct. No. 1457582 of Santa Barbara Thomas P. Anderle, Judge

          Snyder Law, Barry Clifford Snyder and Joseph R. Billings, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

          Seed Mackall, Peter A. Umoff and Alan D. Condren, for Defendants and Respondents Barton E. Clemens, Jr., William Morgan and Connie Morgan.

          Mullen & Henzell and Jana S. Johnston, for Defendant and Respondent Thomas Brooks.

          ORDER MODIFYING OPINION AND DENYING NON-PARTY'S MOTION FOR MODIFICATION [NO CHANGE IN JUDGMENT]

          PERREN, J.

         THE COURT:

         The court, on its own motion, orders that the opinion filed on January 31, 2017 be modified as follows:

         1. Delete the first paragraph on page 1 in its entirety and replace it with the following paragraph: “The beneficiary of a trust asserts the trustees neglected to distribute trust assets to her. She claims as damages her inability to use those assets to prevent the loss of her home. We conclude the beneficiary suffered no compensable loss as a result of the trustees' alleged neglect.”

         2. The first sentence beginning with the word “Furthermore” and ending with the word “beneficiaries” of the second paragraph on page 9 is deleted and replaced with the following sentence: “Furthermore, most breaches of trust harm the trust itself and thus, to the extent that such breaches result in monetary liability for the trustee, they would result in liability to the trust and not the beneficiaries.”

         3. On page 10, of the first full paragraph, first sentence, the phrase beginning with the word “Although” and ending with the word “point, ” is deleted.

         There is no change in the judgment.

         The motion to modify the opinion filed by non-party Matthew P. Matiasevich is denied.

         The beneficiary of a trust seeks the value of “opportunities lost” resulting from the trustees' refusal or neglect to distribute trust assets to the beneficiary. Here we conclude that such conduct is not actionable. There is a difference between such a claim and an actionable claim for losses to the trust resulting from the trustees' breach of fiduciary duty.

         William Morgan (William) created an irrevocable subtrust for the benefit of his daughter, Beverly Morgan (Beverly).[1] At its creation, the subtrust had an equity value of $67, 500. Over the next four years, the cotrustees, Barton E. Clemens, Jr., and Thomas Brooks, increased the subtrust's equity value to over $725, 000. Claiming that she did not receive timely notice of the subtrust, Beverly caused the successor trustee, Joanne Williamson, to sue Clemens, Brooks, Connie Morgan (Connie) and William (collectively “respondents”) for damages. Williamson alleges that if Beverly had been made aware of the subtrust, she would have used its assets to prevent the loss of her home.

         Following a four-day trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of respondents. It found that Clemens and Brooks did not breach their fiduciary duties and that neither the subtrust nor Beverly ...


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