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Serigne v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

March 18, 2015

MARGUERITE HARTMAN SERIGNE AND CHRISTINE HARTMAN COLLIER
v.
J.P. MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., MISSISSIPPI RIVER BANK AND THE SUCCESSION OF LINDA HARTMAN DJUVE

APPEAL FROM 25TH JDC, PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES. NO. 60-381, DIVISION " B" . Honorable Michael D. Clement.

AFFIRMED.

Steven J. Koehler, THE KOEHLER FIRM, Metairie, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

John W. Hite, III, Peyton C. Lambert, SALLEY HITE & MERCER & RESOR, LLC, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Rosemary Ledet.

OPINION

Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge

[2014-0432 La. 1] Plaintiffs, Marguerite Hartman Serigne and Christine Hartman Collier, appeal the November 22, 2013 trial court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (" JPMorgan" ), and dismissing plaintiffs' claims against that defendant with prejudice.

On March 26, 2013, plaintiffs, who are sisters, filed suit against JP Morgan,[1] the trustee of trusts of which plaintiffs were beneficiaries, claiming that JPMorgan violated its fiduciary duty to them. The petition

Page 1199

alleged that the original trustee for the Christine Renee Hartman Trust and the Marguerite Laura Hartman Trust, which trusts were created in 1989, was First National Bank of Commerce. First National Bank of Commerce was later acquired by Bank One, which in turn was acquired by Chase Bank. Chase Bank later merged with JPMorgan to form the defendant company, JPMorgan Chase Bank. The petition also alleged that plaintiffs' mother, Linda Hartman Djuve, was named as an additional trustee of the Marguerite Laura Hartman Trust after Marguerite reached the age of majority.

[2014-0432 La. 2] The trusts at issue were established in plaintiffs' names while they were minors and were funded with proceeds of a settlement they received for the wrongful death of their father, Gary Paul Hartman. The suit claims that after plaintiffs reached the age of majority, their mother, Linda Hartman Djuve, forged their names on documents to JPMorgan, seeking to terminate plaintiffs' trusts and have the remaining funds wired to Djuve's personal account. JPMorgan subsequently released the money remaining in the plaintiffs' trusts to Djuve. In a supplemental and amending petition, plaintiffs alleged that JPMorgan mailed all statements related to the trusts to the home address of their grandparents, and not to the address where the plaintiffs lived with their mother.

Plaintiffs alleged that JPMorgan breached its fiduciary duty to them to use reasonable care to protect the assets of the trusts, to administer the trusts solely for the interest of the beneficiaries, to use reasonable care to prevent a breach of trust by a co-trustee, to not delegate its duties to a third person, and any other breach that may be proved at trial. Plaintiffs claimed that through various fraudulent acts, their mother terminated their trusts and instructed JPMorgan to release the remaining funds in the trusts to her and to mail the final statements for the trusts to the beneficiaries' grandparents' address, rather than to the address where plaintiffs/beneficiaries lived with their mother. They also claimed that they never received notice that their trusts had ended until after their mother died in 2012.

JPMorgan filed a motion for summary judgment, in which it claimed that its mailing of the 2005 statements to the last known address on file for the [2014-0432 La. 3] beneficiaries was a rendering of its final account, sufficient to begin one or both of the peremptive periods set forth in La. R.S. 9:2234 for the filing of a claim against a trustee. In support of its motion, JPMorgan submitted the affidavit of Elizabeth Pope, Vice President and Trust Officer at JPMorgan. Ms. Pope, who served as Trust Advisor for both trusts, stated that JPMorgan mailed all statements and tax information letters to the trust beneficiaries at the mailing address provided to JPMorgan at the inception of the two trusts, which address was 408 Schlief Drive, Belle Chasse, LA 70037 (identified by plaintiffs in this lawsuit as their grandparents' address.) JPMorgan claims that it is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiffs' claims against it are perempted under La. R.S. 9:2234.

Plaintiffs opposed the motion for summary judgment, arguing that the address to which JPMorgan sent its final account was not the beneficiaries' mailing address, so JPMorgan's final account was not sufficiently " rendered" to begin the running of either of the peremptive periods for a claim against a trustee under La. R.S. 9:2234. According to plaintiffs, JPMorgan cannot rely on the fact that it mailed the final account to the " last known address" of the beneficiaries, because JPMorgan knew or ...


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