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Grossman v. Grossman

February 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pratter, J.


Family financial fights rarely shine a flattering light on anyone. This dispute is unlikely to prove to be an exception. This Court, however, declines a ringside seat to this brotherly battle, but, instead, grants the Defendant brother's motion to dismiss the claim due to the unambiguous language of the trust agreement at issue.

Dennis Grossman*fn1 brought suit against his brother and co-trustee, Lawrence Grossman, and Thomas J. Judge, the recorder of deeds of Delaware County, Pennsylvania,*fn2 alleging that Defendant Grossman engaged in various activities contrary to the terms of a revocable trust that was created by Florence Grossman, the brothers' mother, in Florida in 1997 ("Grossman Trust"). Plaintiff Grossman seeks various relief, including the invalidation of a deed for real property held in the Grossman Trust, an accounting of the trust account, and damages for allegedly improper diversion of funds from the trust. Such claims will require interpretation of the Grossman Trust Agreement and consideration of Defendant Grossman's actions as a trustee under that governing document.

Defendant Grossman has moved to dismiss all claims in order to enforce the forum selection clause in the underlying Grossman Trust. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Grossman's Motion is granted.


Florence Grossman, Plaintiff and Defendant's mother, was a citizen of Florida who, in 1997, created the Grossman Trust, an inter-vivos trust. Complaint ¶¶ 3, 6. See Compl., Ex. 1 ("Grossman Trust Agreement"). Upon her death on March 3, 2008, the trust became irrevocable. Dennis and Lawrence Grossman are the only trustees, and they are equal beneficiaries of the trust. Id. ¶ 17.

Plaintiff Grossman summarizes his claims by alleging that "this is a dispute between 2 brothers concerning ownership of trust-owned real estate in this District and what appears to be the improper diversion of trust funds and other funds maintained at accounts in this District." Compl. ¶ 12. Plaintiff Grossman alleges that Defendant Grossman "has been exercising control of the trust accounts and other accounts" and "has not been forthcoming in providing information concerning the accounts under his control." Id. ¶ 19. He maintains that Defendant Grossman unilaterally executed and filed a deed for certain real property in Pennsylvania in violation of the Grossman Trust. Id.

The Grossman Trust Agreement contains the following provision: "This Agreement shall be construed, enforced and regulated in all respects by the laws of the State of Florida and in the Courts of the State of Florida." Compl. Ex. 1, Art. I.B.*fn3


A. Standard of Review

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1964-65 (citations omitted). Specifically, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Id. at 1965 (citations omitted).

To make such a determination, courts "must only consider those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of those allegations as true." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)). See also Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (stating that courts must assume that "all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)"). The Court also must accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989).The Court, however, need not accept as true "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences," Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 n.13 (3d Cir. 1998)), or the plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d. 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

To evaluate a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record and records of which the Court may take judicial notice. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rts., 127 S.Ct. 2499, 2509 (2007); Pension ...

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