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11-cv-10483-DJC

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Case Summary: Samuel Berkowitz v. Bonnie Berkowitz, 11-cv-10483-DJC (D. Mass.)

Plaintiff Samuel Berkowitz filed this diversity action in the District of Massachusetts against Defendant Bonnie Berkowitz, his daughter, alleging breach of fiduciary duty in relation to a trust agreement.

Plaintiff was diagnosed with cancer in 1995. In an effort to set his affairs in order, Plaintiff gave a general power of attorney to Defendant. A year later, Plaintiff conveyed his interest in three parcels of real estate to Barbara Berkowitz, Plaintiff’s ex-wife, and Defendant with “express oral instructions” that if he were to die, Defendant was to take care of Barbara during her lifetime and share any remaining value of the assets transferred to her control with Defendant’s brother. Plaintiff alleges that these instructions created an express oral trust.

According to the complaint, Defendant and Barbara subsequently sold the three parcels of real estate for $1.7 million and transferred securities totaling over $1 million from Plaintiff’s control. Once Plaintiff learned of these transactions, he revoked the power of attorney, remarking that he felt “swindled.” On March 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant’s transfer and sale of the securities and real estate breached the fiduciary duty owed to Plaintiff, a tort claim governed by Massachusetts state law.

On February 11, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, alleging that Samuel’s claims were barred by (1) the statute of frauds, (2) the statute of limitations, (3) judicial estoppel, and (4) the doctrine of laches. This video shows the hearing on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. On September 20, 2013, the court issued an order denying the motion. A month later, the court issued an order referring the case to alternative dispute resolution, but no settlement was reached and the ADR provider recommended restoring the case to the court’s trial list.

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Case Highlights

  • Complaint filed 3/22/2011 (Doc #1)
  • Answer filed 3/16/2012 (Doc #15)
  • Defendant filed Motion for Summary Judgment 2/11/2013 (Doc #25)
  • Hearing held on Motion for Summary Judgment 7/24/2013 (Doc #33)
  • Order entered denying Motion for Summary Judgment 9/20/2013 (Doc #34)

 

Case-related documents, including those referenced above, are available via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service. For more information, visit Pacer.gov.