Boyd v. LaMaster

Decision Date29 November 1990
Docket NumberNos. 89-6471,89-6500,s. 89-6471
PartiesSara Louise Hickey BOYD and James Hickey, Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees, v. Elaine LaMASTER, Defendant-Appellee, Cross-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Joseph L. White, Louisville, Ky. and William H. LeVitus (argued), Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs-appellants, cross-appellees.

Robert C. Hobson, Richard H.C. Clay, Joseph L. Lenihan (argued), and Joseph L. Lenihan, Woodward, Hobson & Fulton, Louisville, Ky., for defendant-appellee, cross-appellant.

Before NELSON and RYAN, Circuit Judges, and EDWARDS, Senior Circuit Judge.

DAVID A. NELSON, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a grant of summary judgment for the defendant in a diversity action brought to recover trust assets allegedly transferred to the defendant improperly.

The plaintiffs' mother had a life interest in the trust, and the plaintiffs had the remainder interest. The mother served as co-trustee with her daughter, Sara Boyd, who is one of the plaintiffs. Sara Boyd and her brother, who is the other plaintiff, alleged in their complaint that shares of stock belonging to the trust had been put in their mother's name individually, and that shortly before her death the mother had wrongfully conveyed the stock to the defendant. The plaintiffs sought equitable relief on a constructive trust theory or, in the alternative, restitution. The defendant denied that the plaintiffs were entitled to the stock, but the defendant took the precaution of filing a counterclaim against Sara Boyd for alleged failure to fulfill her fiduciary duty as a co-trustee.

The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the grounds that she was an innocent recipient of a gift and that the plaintiffs had an adequate remedy against their mother's estate. The defendant was not a bona fide purchaser for value, however, and we find nothing in the applicable law that would bar the plaintiffs from tracing the trust assets and recovering them from the defendant. Accordingly, and because we conclude that the plaintiffs' claims were not barred by the pertinent statute of limitations or by laches, we shall reverse the judgment.


Plaintiffs Sara Boyd and James Hickey are the only children of the late Rollin and Sara Hickey. The defendant, Elaine LaMaster, is Mrs. Hickey's niece.

The elder Mr. Hickey, a resident of Illinois, died in 1959. His will, which named Mrs. Hickey as executrix, contained a marital deduction provision under which the bulk of the estate was to be distributed to two trusts: a marital deduction trust, known as "Trust A," and a family trust, known as "Trust B." Mrs. Hickey was named the income beneficiary of Trust B for her life, with the property to go to Mrs. Boyd and her brother in equal shares at Mrs. Hickey's death.

Mr. Hickey's estate included, among other things, 200 shares of common stock in Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. It took the executrix more than a decade to distribute the property to the trusts, and by that time a series of stock splits had turned the 200 shares into 880 shares. The 880 shares were among the assets selected for inclusion in Trust B.

Acting as co-trustees of Trust B, Mrs. Hickey and Mrs. Boyd signed a document acknowledging receipt of the 880 shares of Anheuser-Busch stock. Mrs. Boyd testified in her deposition, however, that she signed the receipt in California, where she lived, and that the shares were delivered to her mother in Chicago.

Although Mrs. Boyd was apparently unaware of it at the time, Anheuser-Busch transferred the 880 shares to Mrs. Hickey in her individual name and not in her capacity as co-trustee. Eight days later--on April 28, 1971--the company declared a two-for-one stock split, leaving Mrs. Hickey as the registered owner of a total of 1760 shares.

Mrs. Hickey transferred half of the newly-split shares to Trust B in November of 1971. The remaining 880 shares were retained in her own name. It is the remaining shares--which have now increased to 5280 shares by virtue of still more stock splits--that are the subject of this appeal.

In February of 1986 Mrs. Hickey caused a brokerage account to be opened for defendant LaMaster, a resident of Kentucky. Soon thereafter Mrs. Hickey caused the transfer to Ms. LaMaster's account, as a gift, of all of the Anheuser-Busch stock then standing in Mrs. Hickey's individual name.

Mrs. Hickey died on August 7, 1986. It was in the course of a telephone conversation with Ms. LaMaster in November of that year, according to subsequent deposition testimony, that Mrs. Boyd learned of the transfer to Ms. LaMaster.

In February of 1988 Mrs. Boyd and her brother, James Hickey, filed a four-count complaint against Ms. LaMaster in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Counts one and two sought to have a constructive trust declared. Counts three and four prayed for replevin. Ms. LaMaster answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim against Mrs. Boyd for indemnification. The theory of the counterclaim was that Mrs. Boyd's failure to fulfill her fiduciary duties as co-trustee of Trust B had allowed Mrs. Hickey to take the shares out of the trust in the first place.

The district court entered judgment in favor of defendant LaMaster on cross-motions for summary judgment. The counterclaim was dismissed as moot. The plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which motion was denied. This appeal followed.


In exercising its diversity jurisdiction a federal district court must apply the choice-of-law rules of the state in which it is located. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Manufacturing Co., Inc., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 1021-22, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941). Under Kentucky's choice-of-law rules a testamentary trust of personal property is governed by the substantive law of the state in which the testator was domiciled at the time of his death--unless, of course, the governing instrument contains express language to the contrary. Santoli v. Louisville Trust. Co., 550 S.W.2d 182, 183 (Ky.App.1977). Rollin Hickey was domiciled in Illinois at the time of his death. Accordingly, and because the will contains no contrary language, the plaintiffs' claims are governed in their substantive aspect by the law of Illinois. For reasons to which we shall turn shortly, however, it is Kentucky's statute of limitations that is pertinent here.

Illinois law does not require that there be wrongful conduct by the person in possession before a constructive trust can be declared. See Estate of Polley v. Citizens and Southern National Bank of Macon, Georgia, 111 Ill.App.3d 873, 67 Ill.Dec. 478, 444 N.E.2d 714 (1982), which is directly on point. The testatrix in that case left her husband a life interest in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 cases
  • Apex Tool Grp., LLC v. Dmtco, LLC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • November 7, 2014
    ...the choice of law rules of the State in which it sits. Klaxon v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 491 (1941); Boyd v. LaMaster, 927 F.2d 237 (6th Cir. 1991); Macurdy v. Sikov & Love, P.A., 894 F.2d 818 (6th Cir. 1990). A federal court exercising diversity subject matter jurisdiction......
  • Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. LaSalle Bank Nat. Ass'n
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • July 8, 2009
    ...the State in which it sits. Klaxon v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 491, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941); Boyd v. LaMaster, 927 F.2d 237 (6th Cir.1991); Macurdy v. Sikov & Love, P.A., 894 F.2d 818 (6th Cir.1990). Ohio recognizes the validity of contractual choice of law claus......
  • McKinnie v. Lundell Mfg. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee
    • June 25, 1993
    ...1020, 1021, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941); Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 58 S.Ct. 817, 822, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938); Boyd v. LaMaster, 927 F.2d 237, 239 (6th Cir.1991); MacDonald v. General Motors Corp., 784 F.Supp. 486, 490 (M.D.Tenn. 1992). Tennessee tort law provides that, in strict li......
  • Barge v. Jaber
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • August 27, 1993 applied in this case. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 1021, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941); Boys v. LaMaster, 927 F.2d 237, 239 (6th Cir.1991). While traditionally under Ohio choice of law principles, Ohio courts have applied the law of the state where the insurance co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT