Summary judgment for plaintiff in conversion case affirmed.

Where defendant in a conversion case admitted all of plaintiff’s statement of facts and only asserted in his additional facts that he acted in good faith and honesty, summary judgment for plaintiff on the conversion claim was affirmed.

In Melton v. Melton, No. E2023-00649-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 27, 2023), plaintiff was the personal representative of his mother’s estate, and he filed this breach of fiduciary duty and conversion claim against his brother both in his capacity as personal representative and his individual capacity. The facts showed that a few months before the mother’s death, defendant had traveled to her home in Tennessee and had the mother execute a power of attorney naming defendant her attorney-in-fact. In the weeks before the mother’s death, defendant drained the mother’s bank accounts, purchasing multiple vehicles and a recreational vehicle for himself, cashing checks to himself, and only paying one small bill for the mother. One of these accounts was payable to plaintiff brother on death, and the others would have gone to the estate.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment supported by a detailed statement of material facts. Defendant responded by admitting all of plaintiff’s facts, and filing only one additional material fact which stated that defendant “at all times acted with the utmost good faith, honesty, and loyalty to his mother…” The trial court ruled that defendant had not created an issue of material fact and granted plaintiff summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Court of Appeals first addressed defendant’s assertion that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Defendant relied on the fact that the power of attorney used was a Texas form and was governed by Texas law, but the Court rejected this argument. The mother had been a resident of Tennessee for years, and the plaintiff was not seeking any Texas property in the case. The Court found that “the fact that the power of attorney form is a Texas form and the powers granted to [defendant] are further explained in the Texas Estate Code does not strip the Chancery Court of Knox County, Tennessee, of subject matter jurisdiction to determine whether [defendant] breached the fiduciary duties he owed to his mother.” (internal citation omitted).

Moving to the conversion and breach of fiduciary duty claims, the Court wrote that the additional fact submitted by defendant was a “mere conclusory statement” and that whether defendant acted in good faith was a question of law. Summary judgment on both claims was appropriate, as the conversion claim was supported by the finding that defendant removed the money from the mother’s accounts intentionally and was not entitled to the funds. The trial court’s ruling was therefore affirmed.

This opinion was released three weeks after this case was assigned on briefs.


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