CONTRACTS: Barnett v. Community Trust Bank, Inc. (COA 12/18/2009)

Barnett v. Community Trust Bank, Inc.
2009-CA-000164 12/18/2009 2009 WL 4877691

Opinion by Judge Lambert; Senior Judge Harris concurred; Judge VanMeter dissented by separate opinion. The Court vacated and remanded a summary judgment entered by the circuit court dismissing appellant’s claims of negligence, breach of contract and unjust enrichment filed against the appellee bank and appellant’s brother’s ex-wife. The claims arose after a bank employee changed the death beneficiary on a CD jointly owned by appellant and his brother without inquiring as to whether the brother wished to remove appellant as a joint owner and did not follow bank policy by cashing out the jointly-owned CD and opening a new individually-owned CD. The Court held that there was a genuine issue of material
fact as to whether the brother would have actually consented to or authorized the transaction in question if the bank employee had verified ownership of the CD and then properly discerned the brother’s intent by adhering to bank policies. The bank’s acknowledgment that it failed to follow its own policies and procedures, as well as the employee’s testimony that he would have executed the transaction differently had he known about the joint ownership, supported the conclusion that the bank breached its duty of care. The Court then held that the record was sufficient to allow a jury to decide whether appellant’s brother intended to completely divest him of any ownership or beneficial interest in the CD. The Court also held that if a jury should find in appellant’s favor and then erroneously distributed the funds to his brother’s ex-wife, then viable claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment still existed.

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