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Schlittler v. The Estate of Meyer

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

June 21, 2018

PHILLIP R. SCHLITTLER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS INDEPENDENT EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF CHARLES A. TISDALE, Appellant
v.
THE ESTATE OF ADRIAN F. MEYER, Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law Austin County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 14PR-9813

          Panel consists of Justices Boyce, Jamison, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          William J. Boyce Justice

         Phillip R. Schlittler, individually and as independent executor of the estate of Charles A. Tisdale, sued the estate of Adrian F. Meyer, and alleged that Meyer misappropriated assets while serving as executor of Charles A. Tisdale's estate. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Meyer's estate, holding that Schlittler's claims were barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations.

         We conclude that the summary judgment evidence failed to establish as a matter of law the date on which Schlittler's claims accrued. We reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Background

         I. Facts

         Schlittler is the grandson of Charles A. Tisdale, who died in 2005. Charles left the entirety of his estate to his daughter Connie Tisdale, who was Schlittler's mother.[1] Connie was named executor of Charles's estate but died before Charles's will was admitted to probate.

         A probate court in Iberia Parish, Louisiana oversaw the probate of Charles's estate. Meyer, Connie's husband and Schlittler's step-father, was appointed executor of Charles's estate after Connie's death.

         In January 2006, Meyer filed with the probate court a petition to appoint a notary to list the contents of Charles's safe deposit box located at a Regions Bank branch in New Iberia, Louisiana. The probate court granted the petition and a notary opened Charles's safe deposit box in Meyer's presence on January 31, 2006. The notary filed with the probate court a "Return of Notary" listing the safe deposit box's contents, including seven Certificates of Deposit ("CDs") in the name of "C.A. Tisdale or Connie L. Meyer." Schlittler alleges that Meyer subsequently misappropriated three of the CDs found in Charles's safe deposit box.

         In December 2012, Schlittler mailed a letter to the probate court asserting that Meyer "abandoned [Charles's estate] for nearly 7 years." Schlittler claimed that Meyer failed to provide any annual accountings for Charles's estate and asserted that Meyer's current location was unknown.

         Schlittler mailed a second letter to the probate court in January 2013, again asserting that Meyer had abandoned Charles's estate. Schlittler's letter discussed his attempt to complete a partial accounting of Charles's estate:

Even with the court order I was not able to conduct a partial accounting on my own. Regions Bank informed me there are banking privacy rules and regulations that prevented disclosure of [Charles's] account information. I would need to be the succession representative to be given account information.

         In January 2013, the probate court removed Meyer as executor of Charles's estate and appointed Schlittler as executor.

         Schlittler received an email from Regions Bank on January 28, 2013, showing that three of the seven CDs found in Charles's safe deposit box were "closed" on February 1, 2006, one day after Charles's safe deposit box was opened. On January 28, 2013, Schlittler sent a letter to Meyer's attorney demanding the proceeds from the CDs. He received no response.

         Meyer died on March 10, 2014. His wife, Shirley Poppe Meyer, was appointed executor of his estate.[2]

         II. Procedural History

         Schlittler sued Meyer's estate on March 13, 2015, requesting declaratory relief and asserting a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. Schlittler's first amended petition asserts that the discovery rule tolls the statute of limitations applicable to his claims. Schlittler served process on Shirley in her capacity as independent executrix of Meyer's estate. Shirley answered as executrix of Meyer's estate and counterclaimed for conversion.[3]

         Shirley filed a traditional summary judgment motion entitled "Defendant's Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Statute of Limitations)."[4]Shirley's summary judgment motion asserted that Schlittler's suit is barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.004(a)(5) (Vernon 2002).

         Schlittler argued in response that the statute of limitations was tolled by the discovery rule and asserted that Shirley failed to "prove as a matter of law that there is no genuine issue of fact about when [Schlittler] discovered or should have discovered the nature of the injury." Schlittler stated that he was unable to discover Meyer's misappropriation of the CDs until after he was appointed executor of Charles's estate in January 2013, thereby tolling the applicable four-year limitations period and making his March 2015 lawsuit timely for limitations purposes.

         The trial court signed an order granting Shirley's traditional summary judgment motion on June 22, 2016. The order did not specify the grounds on which the trial court granted Shirley's summary judgment motion. Shirley filed a notice of nonsuit of her ...


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