Beyer v. Beyer, C. A. CPU6-19-000032

CourtCourt of Common Pleas of Delaware
Writing for the CourtThe Honorable Rae M. Mims, Judge
PartiesWILLIAM BEYER, Plaintiff, v. ERIC BEYER, Defendant.
Decision Date18 October 2021
Docket NumberC. A. CPU6-19-000032

WILLIAM BEYER, Plaintiff,
v.

ERIC BEYER, Defendant.

C. A. No. CPU6-19-000032

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware

October 18, 2021


Submitted: September 3, 2021

James Gaspero Jr., Esquire

Ferry Joseph

Attorney for Plaintiff

Dean A. Campbell, Esquire

Georgetown Professional Park

Attorney for Defendant

DECISION AFTER TRIAL

The Honorable Rae M. Mims, Judge

Plaintiff William Beyer brings two claims against Defendant Eric Beyer. The parties are in dispute over who is the rightful owner of a Deputy Sheriffs badge, a family heirloom. The first claim is asking for a Writ of Replevin while the second a claim for Conversion. Plaintiff alleges he is entitled to possession of the Deputy Sheriffs badge as it is his property. The Court held a bench trial on September 3, 2021, and at the close of trial reserved decision. Based on the testimony of the parties, the Court's independent research and the record, this Court cannot find Plaintiff has met his burden of proof. For the reasons below, the Court finds for Defendant.

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FACTUAL BACKGROUND

After hearing testimony at trial, the Court finds the following facts:

William Beyer ("Plaintiff) is the uncle of Eric Beyer ("Defendant"). Defendant is currently in possession of a Deputy Sheriffs badge ("badge") given to him by his grandmother (Plaintiffs mother), Lorraine Beyer on his twenty-fifth birthday. Ms. Beyer passed away January 22, 2016. Plaintiff recalled hearing stories from his grandmother while she babysat him about her father/ Plaintiffs great-grandfather who served as a Sheriff in Staten Island, Richmond County, New York in the 1930s. Plaintiff alleges seeing the badge in his maternal grandmother, Mae Schnurr's, safe many times. According to Plaintiff, Schnurr promised him when he was about 10 years of age, he could have the badge when she passed away.[1] Plaintiffs mother, Ms. Beyer, came into possession of the badge when Ms. Schnurr was moved into a nursing home in the mid 1970's. At this time Ms. Beyer/Plaintiffs mother lived in Staten Island, New York. Ms. Schnurr's belongings were split between Ms. Beyer and her sister, Audrey R. Billis. According to Plaintiff, he next saw the badge at his mother's home while he was visiting from college. Plaintiffs mother asked Plaintiff if she could hold onto the badge until she passed away. Plaintiff told his mother she could keep the badge in her possession. During this time Plaintiff was under the assumption he was going to receive the badge and he was the rightful owner. Plaintiffs parents moved to Delaware around 1980, bringing with them Ms. Schnurr's possessions, including the Sheriffs badge.

Defendant's testimony at trial indicated he has been in possession of the badge since his twenty-fifth birthday in 2011. Since then, he has kept the badge in a lockbox in his home. Defendant lived with Ms. Beyer for twenty-one years. The two developed a strong relationship as

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she raised him since he was a young child. At no point was Defendant aware of the badge nor who his great-great grandfather was until his grandmother gave it to him on his birthday. Lorraine Beyer offered no background concerning the badge. Defendant testified he only knew it was precious to her and she was giving it to him which made it precious to him. Defendant indicated the badge was not listed in either Ms. Schnurr or Ms. Beyer's will.[2] Defendant brought the badge to trial. Further, Defendant was in possession of the badge during a deposition taken for another cause of action surrounding Ms. Beyer's estate. A photo of the badge was taken at the deposition.[3]During testimony, Plaintiff indicated he has only seen the badge once or twice since the 1970's when he saw it at his mother's house on Staten Island. This includes seeing the badge during the litigation surrounding his mother's estate. Plaintiff testified he knew of no special insignia or markings and that his great-grandfather was a Sheriff. The front of the badge states Deputy Sheriff, Richmond County NY and Ms. Schnurr's father put an inscription on the back that stated, "To my daughter from R.E. Kaltenmeier, Sheriff Richmond County, NY. Upon Lorraine Beyer's death, Plaintiff learned the badge was not with her belongings. Defendant observed a large family argument about many items allegedly missing among Lorraine Beyer's belongings and chose not to disclose he had the badge in his possession.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs Attorney filed a Complaint for Writ of Replevin on January 14, 2019. Defendant filed an answer on February 22, 2019. A pretrial conference was scheduled for April 4, 2019. A joint pre-trial worksheet was filed by the parties on March 27, 2019. A pre-trial conference was held via phone by Commissioner Bucklin on April 4, 2019. On May 21, 2019, Defendant filed a

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Motion for Summary Judgment. Commissioner Bucklin denied the Motion for Summary Judgment on October 24, 2019. Plaintiff requested a trial date to be scheduled on October 29, 2020.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges two causes of action: count one a Writ of Replevin and count two Conversion. Plaintiff has the burden of proving the elements of the underlying actions by a preponderance of evidence. "Proof by preponderance of the evidence means proof that something is more likely than not."[4] Therefore, "the side on which the greater weight of the evidence is found is the side on which the preponderance of the evidence exists."[5] The parties are in dispute over who is the rightful owner of the Deputy Sheriffs badge. Plaintiff alleges he has held possession of the badge for the last 50 years. However, Defendant was gifted the badge for his twenty-fifth birthday in 2011 and has held the badge in his exclusive possession since that time.

Writ of Replevin

The first issue pending before the Court is whether Plaintiff is entitled to a Writ of Replevin. It is Plaintiffs...

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