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Baxter v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

June 6, 2018

JOHN BRANDT BAXTER, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE INDEPENDENT ADMINISTRATOR OF THE SUCCESSION OF AUGUST C. BAXTER
v.
ROBERT C. LEWIS

          APPEAL FROM THE TENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF NATCHITOCHES, NO. C-89324 HONORABLE LALA B. SYLVESTER, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Richard E. Anderson Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: John B. Baxter, Independant Administrator of the Succession of August C. Baxter

          J. Chris Guillet Corkern, Crews, Guillet & Johnson, LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Robert C. Lewis

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Billy Howard Ezell, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE

         The independent administrator of a succession (the succession) appeals the trial court's judgment sustaining an exception of prescription and dismissing its petition. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The deceased, August C. Baxter (August) died in 2005 at the age of 83. August was married three times. Of his first marriage, two daughters were born: Barbara Eve Schack and Debra A. Mulder. Of his second marriage, two sons were born, the succession administrator, John Brandt Baxter (John), and Eric Baxter (Eric). Named as a defendant is August's step-son, Robert C. Lewis (Robert), who is the child of Luella M. Lewis, August's third wife. August and Luella married in 1978 and established a separate property matrimonial regime.

         August suffered two strokes in 1997. Luella obtained a power of attorney to handle his affairs and August created a will in 1999 designating Barbara Schack executrix in the event that Luella predeceased him. In 2002, Luella died. Robert, one day prior to the death of his mother, obtained a power of attorney over the affairs of August. Two days after Luella's funeral, August executed a second codicil to his will. The codicils contain provisions relating to August's wishes during his life as to who will care for him and what nursing home he wished to be placed in. In September 2004, Robert filed a petition to have August interdicted. John and Eric contested the interdiction. Following a hearing in October 2004, August was fully interdicted with Robert named curator and Schack undercurator.

         In April 2005, Schack, a California resident, was named executrix of August's will and Schack began administering the estate. On April 13, 2006, John and Eric filed a Petition to Annul Statutory Testament of August Constantine Baxter arguing that August did not have testamentary capacity at the time he executed the will and codicils. Schack, Mulder, and Robert were named as defendants. In November 2007, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the matter was tried in June 2009. In February 2010, the trial court rendered a judgment declaring the will and codicils null, finding that August lacked testamentary capacity to execute them. Schack ceased being the executor, although she did not resign. John was appointed independent administrator of August's succession on April 14, 2014.

         In April 2017, the succession filed a petition against Robert for damages for breach of fiduciary duty. The petition alleged that Robert breached his fiduciary duties to August by self-dealing, fraud, breaching the duty of loyalty, and breach of trust. The 110-page petition sets forth detailed allegations of fraud and self-dealing. The succession urged that the prescriptive period applicable to the claims was that of ten years as found in La.Civ. Code art. 3499. It further argued that contra non valentem applied to suspend prescription and that its claims would not prescribe until April 5, 2020.

         Robert filed an exception of prescription, which the trial court took under advisement. In November 2017, the trial court sustained Robert's exception of prescription and dismissed the succession's claims. The succession now appeals.

         ASSIGNMENTS ...


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