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Kingston of Miamisburg v. Maute

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

July 20, 2018

KEVIN MAUTE, et al. Defendant-Appellee

          Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Trial Court Case No. 17-CV-1394

          W. CORY PHILLIPS, and JOSEPH F. PETROS, III, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          GARY C. SHAENGOLD, Attorney for Defendant-Appellee.


          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} Kingston of Miamisburg appeals from a judgment of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which granted summary judgment to Kevin and Ann Maute ("the Mautes") on Kingston's claims of fraudulent transfer, promissory fraud, civil conspiracy, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment will be affirmed.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Kingston, the record establishes the following facts.

         {¶ 3} Kingston of Miamisburg operates a licensed skilled-nursing facility in Miamisburg, Ohio. On August 6, 2015, Kevin Maute's mother, Macushla Maute, entered into an agreement with Kingston to reside and receive services there. Macushla [1] passed away on October 26, 2015. At the time of her death, she owed a principal balance of $11, 206.77 to Kingston.

         {¶ 4} According to Janet Reitz, central billing specialist for Kingston, on November 16, 2015, Kingston "sent a notice of its claim" to Ann Maute, Kevin's wife and Macushla's daughter-in-law.[2] On January 22, 2016, Ann "represented to [Kingston] via telephone that she and/or the family of Macushla Maute would be opening an estate for Macushla Maute in March or April, 2016, and that [Kingston] would be notified once an estate was opened." On February 15, 2016, Ann told Kingston by telephone that she had received Kingston's "notice of its claim" and that she and/or the family "intended to pay" the claim from Macushla's estate. Neither Kevin, Ann, nor Kingston opened an estate in the probate court within six months of Macushla's death.

         {¶ 5} On July 13, 2016, Kevin, the sole child of Macushla, filed an "application to relieve estate from administration" with the Montgomery County Probate Court. The application indicated that the estate had total assets of $24, 948.47. The assets were later transferred to Kevin. Reitz states that Kingston was not notified that an estate had been opened, and its claim was not paid from Macushla's estate.

         {¶ 6} Counsel for the Mautes stated in his affidavit in support of summary judgment that the docket records of the Montgomery County Probate Court do not reflect any other estate proceedings for Macushla. Kingston alleged that it had relied on Ann's representations in failing to take such action.

         {¶ 7} On March 20, 2017, Kingston filed an action in the General Division of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas against the Mautes, alleging that the assets of Macushla's estate were fraudulently transferred to them. The Mautes denied the allegations and moved for summary judgment. Kingston subsequently filed an amended complaint, which raised claims of (1) fraudulent transfer against Kevin and Ann, (2) promissory fraud against Ann, (3) civil conspiracy to commit promissory fraud against Kevin, (4) promissory estoppel against Ann, and (5) unjust enrichment against Kevin and Ann. Kingston sought damages of $11, 206.77. The Mautes again denied the allegations and renewed their motion for summary judgment.

         {¶ 8} In their renewed summary judgment motion, the Mautes argued that Kingston was trying to circumvent the six-month statute of limitations for presenting claims against an estate, set forth in R.C. 2117.06. They noted that, even if Kingston's allegations were true, Kingston had two months from Ann's last representation to take appropriate action to protect its claim. They further argued that no assets were transferred during Macushla's lifetime to trigger the applicability of R.C. Chapter 1336, the Ohio Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, and that Kingston's attempt to have the Mautes answer for the debt of Macushla violated the Statute of Frauds.

         {¶ 9} Kingston opposed the summary judgment motion. It argued that the Statute of Frauds did not apply, because Ann promised to pay the debt from the estate's assets, not her own, and that the transfer of assets under R.C. Chapter 1336 includes transfers during the probate process. Finally, Kingston argued that the Mautes presented no evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact that they did not administer Macushla's estate with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud Kingston.

         {¶ 10} On August 10, 2017, a magistrate ruled in favor the Mautes, focusing on Kingston's obligations under R.C. 2117.06. The magistrate concluded:

In the case at bar, construing the evidence in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, Plaintiff gave notice of its claim to a person who was not the administrator. It is undisputed that an estate was not opened within the six-month statutory time. It [is] also undisputed that Plaintiff at no time initiated an estate and for the appointment of an administrator. All of Plaintiff's contact was with Defendant Ann Maute who was not responsible for the bill nor has she been appointed as administrator in the estate. It was Plaintiff's obligation to protect its own interests. Plaintiff had no contact with Defendants after February 2015 [sic]. With the six-month statute ticking away, Plaintiff still failed to initiate the filing of an estate.
As a result, Plaintiffs claims must fail pursuant to O.R.C. 2117.06.
Defendant Ann Maulte [sic] owed no duty to Plaintiff. Plaintiff relies on Defendant Ann Maute's statement that an estate would be opened and the claim paid to attempt and establish there was an attempt to hinder or delay payment of the claim. Even if, arguably, this were true, Plaintiffs remedy, and in fact its obligation, was to file to open the estate itself. Having found Plaintiffs own inaction to be the cause of its damage, there remains no genuine issue of material fact on Plaintiffs claims, and Defendants are entitled to Judgment as a matter of law.

         {¶ 11} Kingston objected to the magistrate's ruling. On January 9, 2018, the trial court overruled Kingston's objections, affirmed the magistrate's findings of facts and ...

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