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Hazen v. Hazen

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

June 13, 2017

STEVEN KELSEY HAZEN, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM HAZEN, MARY ELIZABETH OSGOOD, RODERIC OSGOOD, ROBERT E. MacDONALD, trustee for the PRUDENCE ELEANOR HAZEN TRUST, Defendants, and, RODERIC OSGOOD, trustee for the THE FRANKLIN GRAHAM HAZEN REVOCABLE TRUST, MICHAEL FRANKLIN HAZEN, Party-in-Interest.

          ORDER ON ALL PENDING MOTIONS

          LANCE E. WALKER, JUSTICE MAINE SUPERIOR COURT

         Presently before the Court are the following Motions: (1) Plaintiff Steven Kelsey Hazen's Motion for Leave to file a Second Amended Complaint; (2) Plaintiffs Partial Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts VI and VII of Plaintiff s Complaint; and (3) Defendants Franklin Graham Hazen, et al.'s Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Counts of Plaintiff s Complaint. Each party filed Statements of Material Fact, Oppositions, and Reply Statements of Material Fact, in support of their Cross Motions for Summary Judgment, collectively laid out in over one-hundred-and-fifty pages. In their Statements of Material Facts, the parties rely heavily upon the extensive deposition testimony taken in this case, which, taken together, number over eight-hundred-and-fifty pages. Also filed are the pertinent estate planning documents, emails, other correspondence, and the arguments themselves, which, in combination with the previous documents, constitute well over a thousand pages of related material that the Court has considered in deciding the pending Motions. After carefully considering the parties' voluminous filings, the Court denies Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint, and grants in part and denies in part the parties' Cross Motions For Summary Judgment for the reasons stated below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Franklin and Prudence Hazen were married for 65 years. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. S.M.F. ¶ 1.) During their lifetime, they acquired the following relevant real property assets: a seasonal camp on Thomas Pond (the "Camp"); a house on route 302 in Casco, Maine (the "Kelsey House"); a partially completed seasonal camp on Thomas Pond (the "Deck"); and undeveloped land adjacent to the Kelsey House (the "Tree Farm"). (Pl's Mot. Partial Summ. J. S.M.F. ¶ 13.) They also had four children, Steven, Michael, Mary, and Susan. (Id. ¶ 2.) At a suggestion of one of their children, Franklin and Prudence retained an Attorney, Jacqueline Rider, to construct and implement their own respective trusts. (Mary Hazen Dep. 65.)

         Franklin requested that Steven, with appropriate input from Mary and Michael, put together a draft of recommendations for his parents' estate plan. (Pl's Mot. Partial Summ. J. S.M.F. ¶ 12.) Steven contacted Attorney Rider and received information pertaining to his parents' real property. (Id. ¶ 25.) He used that information to conduct a detailed analysis, which is captured within a report that was eventually entitled, "Report of Recommendations Regarding the Estates of Franklin G. and Prudence E.K. Hazen." (Id.) Franklin and Prudence Hazen signed the front page of the report, and Franklin wrote "Prudence and I discussed this today [and] we both agree with it." (Report of Recommendations, Pl's Compl. Ex. C.)

         With the assistance of Attorney Rider, Prudence and Franklin executed their respective Trusts, known as the Prudence Eleanor Hazen Revocable Trust Agreement ("Prudence Trust") and the Franklin Graham Hazen Revocable Trust Agreement ("Franklin Trust"). (Pl's Mot. Partial Summ. J. S.M.F. ¶ 33.) The Prudence Trust was funded with the Camp, the Deck, and the Tree Farm, while the Franklin Trust was funded with the Kelsey House and $ 275, 000 in cash and securities. (Id. ¶ 34.) Attorney Rider served as the Trustee for the Prudence Trust. (Id. ¶51.)

         Regrettably, Prudence passed away on October 7, 2009. (Id. ¶ 50.) Both parties dispute the ensuing events, but suffice it to say that after this time Plaintiff and Defendants viewpoints on how to utilize the real property assets in the Prudence Trust began to diverge. Plaintiffs approach favored liquidating the Tree Farm and the Deck in order to provide liquidity to Prudence's Trust and also to provide enough funds to maintain the Camp, which approach he thought would be consistent with Prudence's wishes. (Steven Hazen Dep. 18, 20, 34, 81, 97-98, 150-51.) On the other hand, Defendants denied the existence of a liquidity dilemma and preferred to retain all the real property in the Prudence Trust, and, in accordance with Franklin's wishes, to personally undertake repair services and to fund any potential liquidity issues with capital infusions from Mary, Michael, and Steven. (Franklin Hazen Dep. 6; Mary Hazen Dep. 13-19, 27, 72, 90, 94-96; Michael Hazen Dep. 35, 38, 55-57, 98; Mary Hazen Aff ¶¶ 2-3.)

         These differences of opinion culminated in significant family discord, in the removal of Attorney Rider as the Trustee of the Prudence Trust, and in the eventual ostracization of Plaintiff from the other members of his family. (Pl's Mot. Partial Summ. J. Ex. H. at 5-6, 11; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Exs. X, 19; Steven Hazen Aff. 27-35.) Plaintiff ultimately filed his six Count Complaint on September 28, 2015 alleging in Count I) breach of contract with respect to Defendant, Franklin Hazen; in Count II) breach of an implied contract with respect to Defendant, Franklin Hazen; in Count III) interference with contractual relations as to Defendants, Franklin Hazen, Michael Hazen and Mary Osgood; in Count IV) tortious interference with expected inheritance as to Defendants, Mary Osgood and Michael Hazen; in Count V) undue influence with respect to Defendants, Mary Osgood and Michael Hazen; and in Count VI) a declaratory judgment that the Report of Recommendations is a valid contract. On October 20, 2015, Defendants, Mary Osgood and Michael Hazen, and, separately, Defendant, Franklin Hazen, answered Plaintiffs Complaint and asserted a Counterclaim for a declaratory judgment that the Report of Recommendations is not a valid contract.

         Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on May 12, 2016, which added Count VII) declaration of trustee's authority with respect to Defendant, Trustee of the Prudence Trust Robert McDonald, as well as attached Roderic ("Rick") Osgood as a Defendant with respect to Counts III, IV, and V. On May 20, 2016, Defendants Mary and Rick Osgood, Michael Hazen, and separately on May 23, 2016, Defendant, Franklin Hazen, filed answers and a counterclaim to Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint, and restated their counterclaim for a declaratory judgment that the Report of Recommendations is not a contract. On May 31, 2016, Defendant, Trustee of the Prudence Trust Robert McDonald, filed his answer to Plaintiffs Complaint.

         On September 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. In his proposed amendments, Plaintiff seeks to change the party status of Defendant, Michael Hazen, to a party-in-interest, and to make other minor changes. Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiffs Motion on September 22, 2016, arguing that Plaintiffs Motion was (1) untimely, (2) that undue prejudice would result to Defendants, and (3) that Plaintiffs amendments would be futile.

         On September 30, 2016, while his Motion to Amend his Complaint was pending with the Court, Plaintiff moved for Partial Summary Judgment concerning Count VI) declaratory judgment that the Report of Recommendations is a valid contract, Count VII) declaration of trustee's authority with respect to Defendant, Trustee of the Prudence Trust Robert McDonald, and for the dismissal of Defendants' Counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that the Report of Recommendations is not a valid contract. On the same day, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Counts of Plaintiff s Complaint.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

         A. Standard of Review

         When confronted with "both a motion for a summary judgment and a Rule 15(a) motion to amend pleadings, considerations of finality and judicial economy suggest that a court should dispose of the pending Rule 15(a) motion prior to entertaining a summary judgment." Kelly v. Michaud's Ins. Agency, 651 A.2d 345, 346 (Me. 1994); Dunelawn Owners' Ass'n v. Gendrau, 2000 ME 94, ¶ 6 n.6, 750 A.2d 591 ("we stress once again that a court should explicitly rule on a pending motion to amend a complaint prior to ruling on a pending motion for summary judgment."). Rule 15(a) provides that leave to amend "shall be freely given when justice so requires." M.R. Civ. P. 15(a). The motion will not be granted when the moving party is acting in bad faith or for delay, or where there exists the presence of undue prejudice. Kelly, 651 A.2d 345 at 346.

         B. Discussion

         In support of their argument, Defendants argue, inter alia, that Plaintiffs proposed Second Amended Complaint comes almost six-months after the deadline established for amendments to pleadings. (Defs.' Joint Opp. to Pl's Mot. to file a Second Am. Compl. 3.) Plaintiff legitimately retorts that through the process of discovery, he has discovered new evidence that warrants an amendment to his Complaint. (Pl's Reply to Def.'s Opp. to file Second Am. Compl. 1-2.)

         Plaintiff, however, concedes that the substantive changes of his proposed amendment only reflect the fact that Michael Hazen's party status is changed from "defendant" to "party in interest, " and that the claims for tortious interference and the declaration of trustee authority will incorporate the fact that Defendant, Mary Osgood, allegedly acted through fraud. (Id. at 1.)

         The Court is not satisfied that these exiguous amendments warrant the filing of a Second Complaint. Plaintiff is not adding any new claims, facts, or parties, and his admitted purpose is to rename a current defendant and to add language to his existing claims highlighting the existence of fraudulent conduct. Furthermore, claims of fraud, even within the confines of intentional interference with an advantageous relationship, must be plead with particularity, M.R. Civ. P. 9(b); James v. MacDonald, 1998 ME 148, ¶ 8, 712 A.2d 1054; Levesque v. Lilley, No. CV-13-206, 2014 Me. Super. LEXIS, at *7 (June 9, 2014) (citing to James).

         The Court is not aware that Plaintiffs proposed Complaint would satisfy these heightened requirements of Rule 9(b). Moreover, at this stage in the litigation, Plaintiffs admittedly slight amendments are outweighed by the undue delay that would result from a filing of a second amended complaint. The Court would have to postpone its consideration of both parties' Motions for Summary Judgment, and the size of the already voluminous file would only continue to increase. The Court is satisfied that the purposes behind Plaintiffs Motion can be accomplished without an amendment to Plaintiffs Complaint. The Court will consider fraud in its analysis of the Cross Motions for Summary Judgment, and Defendant, Michael Hazen, will hereinafter be made a party-in-interest.[1] Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion is unnecessary, and the Court denies Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to Amend his Complaint.

         III. CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Standard of Review

         Cross motions for summary judgment "neither alter the basic Rule 56 standard, nor warrant the grant of summary judgment per se." F.R. Carroll, Inc. v. TD Bank, N.A.,2010 ME 115, ¶ 8, A.4d 646. Under M.R. Civ. P. 56, summary judgment is appropriate when review of the parties' statements of material facts and record evidence to which the statements refer, considered in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact that is in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Beal v. Allstate Ins. Co.,2010 ME 20, ¶ 11, 989 A.2d 733. A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case, and there is a genuine issue when there is sufficient evidence for a fact-finder to choose between two competing versions of the facts. Stewart-Dore v. Webster Hosp. Ass 'n,2011 ME 26, ΒΆ 8, 13 A.3d 773. The evidence offered to establish a dispute as to a material fact, submitted in opposition to a motion for ...


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