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Eckhardt v. Nesrsta

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 5, 2017

Carl D. ECKHARDT, Appellant
v.
Darnell NESRSTA, Appellee

         From the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2014 CI 10204 Honorable Gloria Saldaña, Judge Presiding

         REVERSED AND REMANDED

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Carl Eckhardt appeals the trial court's summary judgment awarding his sister, Darnell Nesrsta, damages on her conversion claim. Eckhardt argues he raised a fact issue as to his affirmative defense of quasi-estoppel and conclusively established Nesrsta's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         Background

         When Eckhardt and Nesrsta's father died in 2006, he owned a house in San Antonio and jointly owned three accounts at a credit union with Eckhardt and Nesrsta. The three joint accounts were multi-party accounts with rights of survivorship. In April of 2009, Eckhardt closed the three joint accounts and transferred the funds into his separate, solely owned account at the credit union. And also in 2009, as independent executor of his father's estate, Eckhardt signed an executor's deed conveying the San Antonio house to Nesrsta.

         According to Eckhardt, he transferred the funds to his account because Nesrsta wanted to avoid the tax implications of receiving a large cash payment, and she agreed to take the San Antonio house in lieu of her one half of the funds in the three joint accounts. According to Nesrsta, there was no such agreement, and Eckhardt transferred the funds without her knowledge. It is undisputed that during 2010 and 2011, Eckhardt withdrew money from his newly opened, separate account and disbursed funds to Nesrsta on several occasions upon her request. But in January 2014, Eckhardt refused to pay Nesrsta the amount she requested.

         In June 2014, Nesrsta filed suit against Eckhardt, alleging she was entitled to one half of the total amount held in the three joint accounts at the time of their father's death. Nesrsta alleged Eckhardt's refusal to disburse money to her constituted conversion. In his answer, Eckhardt pled several affirmative defenses, including quasi-estoppel and statute of limitations.

         Nesrsta filed a traditional motion for summary judgment on her conversion claim. In his response, Eckhardt presented only his affirmative defense of quasi-estoppel and attached his affidavit and the executor's deed for the San Antonio house. Eckhardt swore in his affidavit that Nesrsta did not want to receive substantial cash payments because she had problems with the Internal Revenue Service, and Nesrsta agreed to take the San Antonio house in lieu of her one half of the funds in the three joint accounts. Eckhardt further swore he conveyed the San Antonio house to Nesrsta pursuant to this agreement, and allowing her to claim she is also entitled to one half of the funds would allow her to unfairly receive more than her one-half, entitled share of her father's estate. Nesrsta filed an affidavit, denying making any such arrangement with Eckhardt and having problems with the IRS. She also swore she did not know Eckhardt had transferred all the funds to a separate account solely in his name.

         Eckhardt did not raise his affirmative defense of statute of limitations in his response to Nesrsta's traditional motion for summary judgment. However, he did file a traditional motion for summary judgment arguing Nesrsta's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. Eckhardt argued Nesrsta's cause of action accrued when he withdrew all of the money from the three accounts in 2009, and she filed suit in 2014, which is outside the applicable two-year limitations period. Nesrsta's posited the limitations period on her conversion claim began to run at the time Eckhardt first refused her request for money from his separate account in January 2014.

         The trial court granted Nesrsta's motion for summary judgment, denied Eckhardt's competing motion, and rendered a $64, 227.13 judgment against Eckhardt. Eckhardt filed a motion for new trial and a motion for leave to file additional summary judgment evidence. The trial court denied Eckhardt's motion for new trial, but did not rule on his motion to file additional evidence. Eckhardt appeals.

         Discussion

         "We review a summary judgment de novo." City of San Antonio v. San Antonio Express-News, 47 S.W.3d 556, 561 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2000, pet. denied). To prevail on a traditional motion for summary judgment, the movant must show "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the [movant] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); accord Nixon v. Mr. Prop. Mgmt. Co., 690 S.W.2d 546, 548 (Tex. 1985). We take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant, resolve all conflicts in the evidence in the non-movants' favor, and "indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor." Rhône-Poulenc, Inc. v. Steel, 997 S.W.2d 217, 223 (Tex. 1999); San Antonio Express-News, 47 S.W.3d at 561. When parties file competing motions for summary judgment, and the ...


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