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Cook v. Everhart

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 25, 2019

JOHN COOK, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MAXINE EVERHART, ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Probate Court Division Case No. 2017 ADV 224817

          Marc L. Stolarsky Law, L.L.C., and Marc L. Stolarsky, for appellant.

          A. Sirvaitis & Associates, Algis Sirvaitis, and Brenda T. Bodnar, for appellees.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, JUDGE

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, John Cook, appeals from the probate court's judgment granting the motion for summary judgment of defendant-appellee, Maxine Everhart, as executor of the estate of Roosevelt Striggles. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} Striggles died on October 18, 2016, and his Last Will and Testament, dated December 13, 2014 (the "Last Will"), was admitted to probate court.

         {¶ 3} Cook, who was a friend of Striggles, filed a complaint challenging the Last Will and seeking a judgment that the Last Will was not valid in light of Striggles's mental incapacity. Cook attached to his complaint a copy of a will that Striggles had executed on April 19, 2006 (the "2006 Will"). Item III of the 2006 Will bequeathed the real property at 17607 Harvard Avenue to Cook, subject to a life estate in the property by Striggles's wife.

         {¶4} Cook then filed a motion asking the court to order Everhart, as executor of Striggles's estate, to sign a HIPPA authorization for the release of Striggles's medical records. Everhart filed a brief in opposition in which she asked the court to delay ruling on Cook's request for the HIPPA authorization pending the filing of her motion for summary judgment.

         {¶ 5} Everhart then filed a motion for summary judgment. She attached to her motion copies of a will that Striggles executed on June 30, 2014 (the "Interim Will"). The Interim Will did not name Cook as a beneficiary of the real property on Harvard Avenue; in fact, Cook was not named at all in the Interim Will. Everhart also attached to her motion for summary judgment a copy of the Last Will. As with the Interim Will, the Last Will did not name Cook as a beneficiary of the Harvard Avenue real property nor mention him at all. In light of the Interim Will and the Last Will, both of which were executed after the 2006 Will, Everhart argued that Cook lacked standing to challenge Striggles's Last Will and therefore, his complaint should be dismissed.

         {¶ 6} Everhart also attached to her motion for summary judgment a copy of a Transfer on Death Affidavit, executed by Striggles on December 13, 2014, and filed with the Office of the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer on February 13, 2015. The affidavit showed that Striggles was the sole owner of the Harvard Avenue property, and that it was to pass to Everhart as sole beneficiary upon his death. Accordingly, Everhart argued that the Harvard Avenue property was not even part of Striggles's estate after his death.

         {¶ 7} The trial court subsequently granted the motion for summary judgment and dismissed Cook's complaint, ruling that Cook did not have standing to contest the Last Will. The court also ruled that in light of its ruling on the summary judgment motion, Cook's motion for an order compelling the HIPPA authorization was moot. This appeal followed.

         II. Law and Analysis

         {¶ 8} We review a trial court's decision on a motion for summary judgment de novo. Grafton v. Ohio Edison Co., 77 Ohio St.3d 102, 105, 671 N.E.2d 241 (1996). Summary judgment is appropriate when, construing the evidence most strongly in favor of the nonmoving party, (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (3) reasonable minds can only reach a conclusion ...


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