In re Castelli, 155 WDA 2021

CourtSuperior Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtMcLAUGHLIN, J.
PartiesIN RE: TRUST AGREEMENT OF JAMES CASTELLI, DATED OCTOBER 9, 1985 APPEAL OF: SAMUEL F. NAPOLI, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ANITA CASTELLI NAPOLI
Docket Number155 WDA 2021,J-A18035-22
Decision Date22 November 2022

IN RE: TRUST AGREEMENT OF JAMES CASTELLI, DATED OCTOBER 9, 1985 APPEAL OF: SAMUEL F. NAPOLI, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ANITA CASTELLI NAPOLI

No. 155 WDA 2021

No. J-A18035-22

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 22, 2022


NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION - SEE SUPERIOR COURT I.O.P. 65.37

Appeal from the Order Entered January 5, 2021 In the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County Orphans' Court at No(s): No. 63-15-0083

Joseph D. Seletyn, Esq.

BEFORE: STABILE, J., MURRAY, J., and McLAUGHLIN, J.

MEMORANDUM

McLAUGHLIN, J.

Samuel F. Napoli, Personal Representative of the Estate of Anita Castelli Napoli,[1] appeals from the order removing Anita Napoli ("Napoli") as trustee of the Trust of James Castelli, Dated October 9, 1985 ("Trust"). The order also enjoined the dissipation and spoliation of assets and former assets of the Trust. Napoli argues the court erred in permanently removing her as trustee, issuing an injunction sua sponte and without considering the preliminary injunction factors.

We dismiss Napoli's challenge to her removal as trustee as moot. We conclude the court improperly issued a preliminary injunction and therefore

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reverse the portion of the order that enjoined transfer, dissipation, or spoliation of trust assets.

In April 2016, Victor Castelli, Jr., ("Victor") filed a petition to remove Napoli as trustee of the Trust.[2], [3] Victor alleged, among other things, that Napoli had engaged in self-dealing and transferred assets from the Trust to a company she owned with her sister, Darietta Oliverio.

The court held a non-jury trial on January 28, 29, 30, and 31, with an additional day scheduled for March 5, 2020. The trial was limited "solely to the ultimate issue of Anita Napoli's removal as trustee." Order, Jan. 17, 2020. In February 2020, Napoli voluntarily submitted her resignation, eliminating the need for the last day of testimony. On March 5, 2020, the court entered an order removing Napoli as trustee:

AND NOW, this 5th day of March, 2020, based on the testimony and evidence heard, and the resignation submitted and filed by trustee Anita Napoli executed February 26, 2020, and filed with the Register of Wills on February 27, 2020, the Court hereby accepts the resignation, and hereby permanently removes Ms. Napoli as a trustee of the trust under the agreement of James Castelli dated October 9, 1985
The Court further orders that Ms. Napoli hereafter shall not be considered as a trustee of that family trust
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Order, Mar. 5, 2020.

The order appointed AmeriServ Trust & Financial Services as corporate trustee and stated that in a separate order, the court would appoint "an appropriate member of the bar as a co-trustee." Id. It also placed restrictions on the trust property:

The Court orders that Anita Napoli deliver all trust property forthwith to AmeriServ Trust & Financial Services, that she provide an accounting within sixty (60) days of today's date of all trust assets, and that no other assets be subject to spoliation or dissipation, including but not limited to the assets now or formerly of Super Outdoor Theaters, until such time as the accounting can be resolved in any remaining matters in that regard.

Id.

In May 2020, Victor filed a motion to clarify and amend the order. Victor argued, among other things, that the court should have included a finding that Napoli breached her duties as trustee and included "additional language to prevent any further spoliation or dissipation of assets of all Castelli family entities." Brief in Support of Motion to Clarify and Amend the March 5, 2020 Order, filed June 19, 2020, at 7. Napoli filed a response to Victor's motion and a cross-motion to modify the order, asking the court to remove certain language: "based on the testimony and evidence heard," "permanently removes," and "including but not limited to the assets now or formerly of Super Outdoor Theaters." Napoli's Response to Petitioner's Motion to Clarify and Amend the March 5, 2020 Order of Court and Respondent's Cross Motion to Modify, filed July 27, 2020, at ¶ 31.

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The court heard argument and issued an amended order. The order contained the following paragraph accepting Napoli's resignation and "permanently" removing her as trustee:

Based on the testimony and evidence presented, and the resignation submitted by trustee Anita Napoli, executed February 26, 2020 and filed with the Register of Wills on February 27, 2020, the Court hereby accepts the resignation and permanently removes Ms. Napoli as a trustee of the trust under the Trust Agreement of James Castelli, dated October 9, 1985; Anita Napoli shall not be considered a trustee of said trust hereafter.

Order, dated Oct. 9, 2020.[4]

It further ordered that assets and former assets of the trust not be subject to spoliation or dissipation, and enjoined the transfer, dissipation, and spoliation of assets or former assets of the trust:

It is further ORDERED that Anita Napoli deliver all trust property forthwith to the successor trustees, AmeriServ and [Nora Gieg] Chatha, and ORDERS that no other assets of the trust and assets formerly of the trust be subject to spoliation or dissipation, and that all such assets, including but not limited to any Castelli family entity, Super Outdoor Theaters, Inc., Castelli Brothers Company, LP, or any successor entities to the aforementioned, are hereby enjoined from transfer, dissipation or spoliation until such time as the accounting of the former trustee and any remaining matters relating to the trust property are resolved, and further order of court.

Id. Napoli filed a notice of appeal.

Napoli raises the following issues:

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1. Whether the Lower Court erred in sua sponte entering an injunction and purporting to enjoin entities that are not parties to these proceedings?
2. Whether the Lower Court [e]rred in Ordering that Anita Napoli is "permanently removed" as Trustee "based on the testimony and evidence presented" after Anita Napoli had already resigned as Trustee before the factual hearing was concluded and therefore the Petition to remove her as Trustee was moot?
3. Whether the Lower Court erred in (a) entering the January 17, 2020 Order of Court which granted Petitioner, Victor Castelli's, pretrial (i) Motion in Limine to Limit the Scope of Trial To Petitioner's Amended Petition and May 13, 2016 Citation Issued to Trustee Anita Napoli by the Washington County Clerk for the Orphans' Court and Proposed Order of Court, and (ii) Petitioner's Motion in Limine to Exclude from Trial the Testimony and Reports of Richard F. Brabender, JD, CVA and Proposed Order of Court, and (b) denying Anita Napoli's Motion to Frame Issues for Trial and to Limit Testimony Regarding Damages?
4. Whether this appeal is timely?

Napoli's Br. at 5-6 (suggested answers omitted).

We will address Napoli's second, third, and fourth claims first, for ease of disposition. In her second claim, Napoli challenges the...

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