Justia Non-Profit Corporations Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trusts & Estates
Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association
“Breathe” was previously known as the American Lung Association of Los Angeles County, affiliated with the national organization, ALA, and the American Lung Association in California (ALAC). Breathe’s predecessor entered into annual agreements with ALAC and the ALA that provided for “income sharing” between Breathe and ALAC, except for “funds restricted in writing by the donor, not later than the date of donation, to exclude or limit sharing, such restriction not having been invited by the donee association.” ALA sued ALAC and its affiliates, including Breathe, for trademark infringement and related causes of action. Under a 2006 Consent Judgment, Breathe disaffiliated from the ALA and ALAC and was renamed. The parties agreed to a process for settling their outstanding accounts.In 2015, ALAC moved to enforce the Consent Judgment by compelling Breathe to share three bequests that were created but not distributed before the Consent Judgment. The trial court ruled in favor of the ALA, concluding the restricted funds exception of the Affiliate Agreement was ambiguous and that the bequests were shareable. The court of appeal reversed. The plain language of the bequests indicates the testators' intentions to benefit only the organization now known as Breathe. Sharing the bequests with the ALA is incompatible with those intentions and is not required under the Affiliate Agreement. View "Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association" on Justia Law
In re Trust of Mary Baker Eddy
The Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Melbourne (Australia) appealed a circuit court order denying it standing to request affirmative relief and enforce certain charitable trusts created by the will of Mary Baker Eddy. Mary Baker Eddy founded the Church of Christian Science and, upon her death in 1910, her will established two testamentary trusts, known as the Clause VI Trust and Clause VIII Trust. In previous litigation concerning these trusts, we upheld the validity of the trusts and established that the bequest in Clause VIII was to be held in trust for two purposes, church building repair and “promoting and extending the religion of Christian Science as taught by [Mrs. Eddy].” The underlying litigation commenced in 2015, when Second Church, an alleged qualified beneficiary of the Clause VIII Trust, sought to review, and potentially object to, the annual accounting filed by the trustees. In March 2018, the trial court issued an order finding that Second Church failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that it had standing. The trial court acknowledged the general rule that when a trust is determined to be charitable, it becomes the duty of the attorney general to ensure that the rights of the public in the trust are protected and that the trust is properly executed. The court further noted that New Hampshire law was unclear as to whether a possible beneficiary of a charitable trust, like Second Church here, had standing. Looking to other jurisdictions for guidance, the trial court determined that most jurisdictions have ruled that a possible beneficiary is generally not entitled to sue for enforcement of the trust. After considering how other courts have applied the doctrine of special interest standing, the trial court applied a five-factor test, often referred to as the Blasko test. The trial court found that none of the factors weighed in favor of granting Second Church standing. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's judgment and affirmed Second Church lacked standing. View "In re Trust of Mary Baker Eddy" on Justia Law
Alabama et al. v. Boys And Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc. ("BGCSA"), sought a writ of mandamus to order the Baldwin Circuit Court to dismiss a declaratory-judgment action filed against it and The Community Foundation of South Alabama by the attorney general of Alabama, Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Programs, Inc. ("Rotary Inc."), and Ruff Wilson Youth Organizations, Inc. ("Wilson Inc.") In 1996, B.R. Wilson, Jr., one of the incorporators and a principal benefactor of BGCSA, executed a deed transferring to BGCSA approximately 17 acres of real estate. Contemporaneously with the execution of the deed, Wilson gave a letter to BGCSA that stated Wilson's intentions and stipulations concerning his gift of the property. The letter stated that BGCSA was "'free to ultimately dispose of this property,'" but that it was Wilson's "'desire and understanding that [BGCSA] will use the proceeds from any such disposition for [BGCSA's] facilities and/or activities in the Fairhope–Point Clear area.'" Wilson died in 1997. In 2010, the Eastern Shore Clubs filed an action in the Baldwin Circuit Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against BGCSA. The Eastern Shore Clubs alleged that BGCSA "ha[d] used," or, perhaps, was "anticipat[ing] using," the proceeds from the sale of the property for its own operations, rather than for the benefit of the Eastern Shore Clubs. In 2012, the Baldwin Circuit Court entered a judgment concluding Wilson's intent was that the Wilson funds should be used for the "exclusive benefit of the Fairhope and Daphne Clubs." The Baldwin Circuit Court ordered the disbursal of the remainder of the Wilson funds. This case was the third action that has come before the Supreme Court arising out the dispute between BGCSA and the Eastern Shore Clubs over the Wilson funds. The Supreme Court concluded Section 6-5-440 compelled dismissal of this case because another action involving the same cause and the same parties ("the Mobile action") was filed first. Therefore, the Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its most recent order in this case, and to enter an order dismissing this case. View "Alabama et al. v. Boys And Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc." on Justia Law
Hope Presbyerian v. Presbyterian Church
The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court in this case was whether a local church or the national church from which it sought to separate owned certain church property. Hope Presbyterian Church of Rogue River (Hope Presbyterian) had been affiliated with the national Presbyterian Church organization since its founding in 1901, most recently affiliating with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA), and its regional presbytery, the Presbytery of the Cascades. In 2007, the congregation voted to disaffiliate from PCUSA. The corporation then initiated this lawsuit, seeking to quiet title to certain church property and to obtain a declaration that PCUSA and the Presbytery of the Cascades had no claim or interest in any of the real and personal property in Hope Presbyterian's possession. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court quieted title in favor of Hope Presbyterian and declared that PCUSA and the Presbytery of the Cascades had no beneficial interest in any of Hope Presbyterian's property. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Hope Presbyterian held the property in trust for PCUSA. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed its decision. View "Hope Presbyerian v. Presbyterian Church" on Justia Law
Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc. v. Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Programs, Inc.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc. ("the Club"), a nonprofit corporation, appealed a judgment entered in favor of the Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Programs, Inc. ("Rotary Inc."), and the Ruff Wilson Youth Organization, Inc. ("Wilson Inc."), in their action against the Club seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In 1996, B.R. Wilson, Jr., one of the incorporators of the Club and a principal benefactor, executed a "gift deed," transferring to the Club approximately 17 acres of real estate ("the property"). In March 2000, the Club sold the property and deposited the proceeds into three separate accounts, two of which were separately earmarked for the Daphne Club and for the Fairhope Club. However, in 2009, the Club discontinued its operations in Daphne and Fairhope, citing "operating deficits" as a contributing factor. It transferred the remainder of the proceeds from the sale of the property to an account in the Community Foundation of South Alabama ("the bank"). Later that year, the facilities in Daphne and Fairhope were reopened by volunteers and former Club personnel, who began operating the youth centers under their own independent management structures. Subsequently, some of these individuals incorporated Rotary Inc. and Wilson Inc., under which they continued to operate the facilities in Fairhope and Daphne, respectively. Rotary Inc. and Wilson Inc. sued the Club, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the Club "ha[d] used," or, perhaps, was "anticipat[ing] using," the proceeds for its own operations, rather than for the use of the facilities then being operated by Rotary Inc. and Wilson Inc. They sought a judgment: (1) declaring that the "desire and understanding" of B.R. Wilson expressed in the letter controlled the disposition of the funds, and (2) enjoining the use of the proceeds for anything but the benefit of the youth facilities as operated by Rotary Inc. in Fairhope and by Wilson Inc. in Daphne. The court ordered the termination of the "trust" and the disbursal of the remainder of the proceeds to Rotary Inc. and Wilson Inc., respectively. The Club appealed, challenging, among other things, the standing of Rotary Inc. and Wilson Inc. to sue over distribution of the proceeds of the sale of the property. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Rotary Inc. and Wilson Inc. failed to show that they had standing to challenge the Club's disposition of the proceeds of the sale of the property donated to the Club by B.R. Wilson, Jr. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court vacated the judgment and dismissed the case and the appeal. View "Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc. v. Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Programs, Inc." on Justia Law
Center for Special Needs, etc. v. Olson, etc.
This case addressed the effect of a pooled special-needs trust created by an over-65-year-old beneficiary on his medicaid benefits. The Center for Special Needs Trust Administration appealed a summary judgment in favor of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. Invoking 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, the Center alleged that North Dakota's demand for reimbursement and its state regulations violated a paragraph of the Medicaid Act, 42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(4)(C). The court held that the district court properly determined that section 1396p(d)(4)(C) afforded the Center a right of action under section 1983; that North Dakota did not waive its claim to recover for reimbursements and should not be estopped from making that claim; that the Center's claim was without merit; and that preemption did not apply. View "Center for Special Needs, etc. v. Olson, etc." on Justia Law
Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. Austin
In 2009, a car collided with a bus driven by Angela Austin, causing several passengers' deaths and serious injuries to others. Austin drove the bus as a transport vehicle for a nonprofit called Focus. Focus was insured by appellant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company, who filed a complaint for interpleader indicating its willingness to pay insurance-policy proceeds in the total amount of $1 million as per its policy and requesting to be discharged from further liability. The circuit court entered an order interpleading appellant's funds. Appellees, the injured passengers and administrators of the deceased passengers' estates, filed counterclaims against appellant, alleging that Focus negligently failed to restrict Austin from using her cell phone while driving and arguing they were entitled to a judgment against appellant for a share of the interpleaded funds. Appellant filed a motion for declaratory judgment and a motion to dismiss, stating it had paid the full amount as stated in the insurance policy. The circuit court denied appellants' motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly concluded that the language of the policy was ambiguous. View "Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. Austin" on Justia Law