Estate Planning, Trusts
And Probate

Real Estate Transactions


How To Get Rid Of A Meritless Lawsuit Quickly And Inexpensively

September 2003

Problem: A client of our firm is a sweet lady in the “prime” of her life. She lived in her home for over 25 years with her husband. After her husband recently passed away, her stepson (who was also the trustee and a beneficiary of her husband’s trust), filed a lawsuit to try to take his stepmother’s house away from her. He argued that even though the house had been owned by his father and stepmother as joint tenants (which resulted in ownership of the home passing to his stepmother by operation of law under the right of survivorship), his father “intended” to transfer title to the house back to his trust (it had been in his trust before he had converted ownership to tenants in common), under which she had no right to the home. The stepson alleged no basis for his deceased father’s intent except for the fact that his father had told him (and apparently only him) about this plan before he died.

Solution: We firmly believed the stepson’s case had no merit. The law and the facts were solidly on our side. After extensive discussions with opposing counsel, we rejected any settlement that would compromise our client’s ability to live in, and have complete control over, her home. We not only filed a demurrer attacking the complaint, we also made clear to opposing counsel that we would ask the court to impose monetary sanctions against both the attorney and his client for pursuing what we deemed a frivolous lawsuit. We won our demurrer but the court gave the plaintiff another opportunity to amend his complaint to try to state a claim. Instead of pursuing his claim, the plaintiff dismissed his lawsuit, leaving our client comfortably to live at peace in her home. Our client was so appreciative, she not only paid her bill with a smile and a warm hug, but also with a nice big bag of apples off her tree. Lesson: When you are confronted with a frivolous lawsuit, attack the pleadings aggressively out of the box-it is your best and least expensive opportunity to get rid of it.

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