United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are a Motion for Summary Judgment
(Rec. Doc. 32) filed by Defendant, Capital
One, N.A.; a Motion for Summary Judgment
(Rec. Doc. 33) filed by Plaintiff, Bobette
R. Szyller; and a Motion to Strike Jury
(Rec. Doc. 35) filed by Capital One. Parties
have briefed each of the Motions extensively. Having
considered the Motion and legal memoranda, the record, and
the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment should be
GRANTED and the remaining Motions should be
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
in this case is Bobette Szyller, widow to decedent Leon
Szyller. She alleges that Defendant is liable for its failure
to make payments to her from several accounts upon the death
of her husband. Mr. and Mrs. Szyller were married for 30
years before Mr. Szyller died on April 27, 2017, at the age
of 88. (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 1). Before his death Mr. Szyller
opened up several accounts with Capital One. Three accounts
maintained at Capital One (collectively the
“Accounts”), named as follows, are relevant here:
1. Bobette R Szyller OR Leon A Szyller OR Anna S Arshad,
Account Number 6607 (“Account 6607”).
2. Leon A Szyller OR Anna S Arshad POD Bobette Szyller,
Account Number ending in 6812 (“Account 6812”)
3. Leon A Szyller POD Bobette Szyller, Account Number ending
in 9983 (“Account 9983”)
(Rec. Doc. 32-2 at 2). Mr. Szyller established Account 6607
in 1999. According to a new account information card dated
November 14, 2014 (Rec. Doc. 33-10), Anna Arshad-Mr.
Szyller's daughter from a previous marriage-became a
signatory and co-owner of the account on that date. The card,
unsigned by Mrs. Szyller, designates her as “POD
BOBETTE SZYLLER.” The card further states:
BY MY (OUR) SIGNATURE(S) BELOW . . . I (WE) ACKNOWLEDGE
RECEIPT OF A COPY OF THE BANK'S “RULES GOVERNING
DEPOSIT ACCOUNTS, ” . . . AND AGREE TO THE TERMS AND
CONDITIONS OF THE ACCOUNT AS DESCRIBED IN SAID DISCLOSURES,
INCLUDING ANY AND ALL AMENDMENTS THERETO.
(Rec. Doc. 33-10). The referenced Rules Governing Deposit
Accounts (the “Rules”) (Rec. Doc. 35-4
at 66-75) clarify that “POD” means “Payable
on Death.” According to the Rules, an individual
designated as a Payable On Death or POD beneficiary is
entitled to the to the account balance upon death of the
owner of the account. (Rec. Doc. 35-4 at 71). “[O]r if
there are co-owners, upon the death of the last
co-owner.” (Rec. Doc. 35-4 at 71). The Rules make clear
that the POD beneficiary has no interest in the account until
each of the co-owners of the account have died. Up until
death, an owner may freely withdraw from the account, add
co-owners, close the account, and add or remove POD
designations. The Rules also clarify that applicable state
law governs these types of accounts and that the account
owner is “solely responsible for meeting the
requirements for establishing [the] account as a POD,
including any titling requirements.” (Rec. Doc. 35-4 at
Mr. Szyler died Capital One refused to pass the proceeds left
in Account 6607-$68, 969.42-to Mrs. Szyller on the ground
that there was a living account owner, Ms. Arshad, and
because the bank had not received an affidavit required by
state law. (Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 4). POD accounts are
specifically authorized by Louisiana Revised Statute §
6:314. However, for an account to constitute a “trust
deposit, ”- Louisiana's nomenclature for a POD
account-the law requires the “depositor [to] give to
the depository bank an affidavit in authentic form or an act
under private signature executed in the presence of an
officer or a branch manager of the depository bank and two
additional persons, stating the names of one or more
beneficiaries.” La. Stat. Ann. § 6:314. Capital
One claims it never received this authentic form affidavit
(“POD affidavit”) from Mr. Szyller, and so it was
unable to disburse the funds to Mrs. Szyller.
Szyller opened Account 6812 in 2012. A new account
information card for Account 6812 dated November 14, 2014
(Rec. Doc. 33-8) also designates Mrs. Szyller as “POD
BOBETTE SZYLLER” and Ms. Arshad as
co-owner. When Mr. Szyller died, the bank refused to
deliver the proceeds left in the account-$195, 426.22-to Mrs.
Szyller, again on the grounds that an owner of the account
was still alive and because the Defendant had not received
the POD affidavit. (Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 3).
Szyller established Account 9983 around January of 2015.
(Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 4). This account differs from the others
in that the effective new account information card lists Mr.
Szyller as the only owner and Mrs. Szyller as the POD
beneficiary. (Rec. Doc. 33-11). Nevertheless, upon Mr.
Szyller's death, Capital One also refused to grant Mrs.
Szyller access to the funds in this account-$14, 249.87- on
the sole ground that the bank had not received a POD
affidavit from Mr. Szyller.
Mr. Szyller's death, both the executor of Mr.
Szyller's estate and Mr. Szyller's adult children-the
primary beneficiaries of Decedent's will-alleged that
Mrs. Szyller was not entitled to the funds because they
properly belonged to the estate. (Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 5). Mrs.
Szyller settled with the estate and the legatees for $100,
000 of the total $278, 645.51 left by Mr. Szyller in the
Accounts. Mrs. Szyller then filed the instant lawsuit in
state court to recover $178, 645.51 from Capital
One.(Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 5). With the settlement,
this is the amount she would have received if Capital One had
delivered the funds to her following Mr. Szyller's
passing. (Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 5). Plaintiff claims Defendant
was negligent in helping Mr. Szyller to form the POD
Accounts, negligent in training its employees and that
Capital One negligently misrepresented the Accounts as POD
accounts to Plaintiff and Mr. Szyller, and that Capital One
breached its contract with Mr. Szyller. (Rec. Doc. 1-2).
Defendant then removed the proceeding to federal court and
filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff then filed
her own Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant then filed its
Motion to Strike Jury Demand.
first argues that Plaintiff cannot assert claims against
Defendant for adding Ms. Arshad as a co-owner to the accounts
because Plaintiff had no interest in the accounts before Mr.
Szyller's death. Second, Defendant relies on Louisiana
Revised Statute 6:314 and the Rules adopted by reference by
all signatories to the new account information cards.
Together, Defendant argues, the Rules and state law firmly
establish it was Mr. Szyller's responsibility to provide
Capital One with a POD affidavit in authentic form to render
the Accounts' POD designations effective. Therefore,
according to Defendant, Plaintiff's claims relating to
POD designated accounts must be dismissed. Third, Defendant
argues it owed no duty to Mr. Szyller to instruct him as to
the effect of his adding his daughter to the account or to
what effect the POD designation had. Finally, Defendant
argues it did not have a fiduciary relationship with Mr.
Szyller. Thus, Plaintiff's negligent misrepresentations
must therefore be dismissed.
counters that banks do owe a duty to third-party
beneficiaries under Louisiana law. Plaintiff relies almost
exclusively on a single case, In re Succession of
McKnight, 768 So.2d 794 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/4/2000), in
which a Louisiana appellate court recognized a bank had
assumed a duty to its customer because the bank's
signature card “purported to provide the rules
applicable to a joint-tenant account, with a right of
survivorship.” Plaintiff argues that the Rules, which
are incorporated by the new account information cards by
reference, describe the function of a POD account as one
which pays the designated beneficiary upon death of the
owner. Moreover, Plaintiff argues that Defendant breached its
duty to the Szyllers in four different ways:
(1) by misrepresentation about the proper establishment of
the POD designations, (2) by failing to follow its own
procedures and appropriate banking practice in the creation
of the POD designations, (3) by failing to properly train its
bankers on the creation and maintenance of the POD accounts,
and (4) by failing to follow its own policy and reasonable
banking practices when ...