The undisputed facts reveal that the total conduct of the Defendant, Benedict J. Shedlock, which Plaintiff would have us find was tantamount to undue influence, amounted to three telephone calls from his home in Colonia, New Jersey, to his mother in Duryea, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff attempts to couple these three telephone calls with the fact of her age, (84 at the present time), and her physical condition to make out her case.
There is not even a hint of evidence in this case that the other Defendant, Joseph B. Shedlock, in any way exercised any influence over his mother which had any bearing on the transfer of the property.
There is no dispute in this case, of course, as to the Plaintiff's age, but that alone is certainly insufficient to conclude that she was the subject of undue influence. Indeed, her own deposition reveals that she is a woman of strong conviction and determination and able to understand her own business affairs. The undisputed facts again reveal that she was able to get to her lawyer's office on February 8, 1985, with the help of a neighbor who provided transportation; that she gave specific and direct instructions to the lawyer as to what she wanted to do with her properties in spite of his admonitions that perhaps such a move would not be wise or economically appropriate; and that she had the specific intention to transfer the property involved in order to avoid the payment of any taxes to the state in the event of her death or in order to evade any hospital or nursing care expenses in the event of her illness. (See Deposition of Frances Shedlock at pages 18 to 20; Deposition of Attorney Vincent M. Quinn, page 7 to 9; and Deposition of James Ridolfi, pages 4 and 5).
The undisputed facts also reveal that at no time did Benedict Shedlock ever direct or advise the Plaintiff to transfer the property to him. At the very best, the facts show that the Defendant advised his mother to get her "name off these two homes", because "they" might put her in a nursing home and at that time the Government would take everything from her, including her properties. The facts further reveal that there were a number of children in this family besides the Defendants and that at no time did the Defendants suggest transfer of the property to themselves or to anyone else in particular. The facts further reveal that the Plaintiff was counseled by her lawyer about the propriety of such a transfer and informed her that any potential savings to be accomplished by the transfer would be minimal. (See Quinn deposition at p. 7)
There are no facts, at all, upon which any finding or inference could be made that either of the Defendants made any promises to return the property to the Plaintiff once she had deeded the property to them. The concept of proof of any confidential relationship is completely undershot by the Plaintiff's own undisputed testimony that the Defendant, Benedict Shedlock, lived in New Jersey, and the Defendant, Joseph Shedlock, lived in Tennessee, and that she heard from each of them only two or three times yearly. (See Deposition of Frances Shedlock at p. 42).
The same undisputed operative facts in this case considered most strongly against the moving party, reveal that one of the Defendants, Benedict Shedlock, had several telephone conversations with his mother, the Plaintiff, in which he discussed the possibility of the "state" taking his mother's property either for nursing care expenses or taxes. They further show that the Plaintiff was determined not to allow that to happen and decided to transfer her property to others in the family to prevent that possibility.
There is nothing upon which a finding could be made by the Court (since this matter is in Equity it would be a non jury trial) that there was any undue influence exercised by either of the Defendants to accomplish the transfer of these properties, nor is there anything in the record that would establish that a confidential relationship existed between the Defendants and the Plaintiff which played any role whatsoever in the Plaintiff's determination to transfer this property. A verdict, therefore, could not reasonably be found in Plaintiff's favor.
Surely, one has to be moved by this melancholy family situation and the hope is always that matters such as these could be resolved in the privacy of the family circle, but this is an imperfect world and sadly these matters often become public fare. In this particular case, however, the law as applied to the facts outlined for the Court do not allow for the result sought by the Plaintiff and we are commanded therefore to enter judgment, as sought, on behalf of the Defendants.
DATE: February 4th, 1988
ORDER - February 4, 1988, Filed
NOW, February 4, 1988, in view of the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED as follows:
1. The motion of Defendants, Benedict J. Shedlock, and Joseph B. Shedlock, for summary judgment is hereby granted.
2. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in this case in favor the Defendants, Benedict J. Shedlock, and Joseph B. Shedlock.
3. The Clerk is directed to close this case.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.