Bank of Am. v. Eisenhauer No. 14-0486

Case Summary written by Frederick C. Hutterer, Staff Member.

PER CURIAM.

Lorene and Harley Walter possessed a survivorship account with the Bank of America. This account was also a payable on death account. After the transfer of funds from one spouse to the other following one’s death, the Walters intended for the funds to be transferred to Dwight Eisenhauer and Jo Ann Day as beneficiaries. Eisenhauer had Ms. Walter’s power of attorney.

Mr. Walter died in 2004. Day showed Mr. Walter’s death certificate to the bank, and asked it to pay out the funds in the payable on death account. The bank complied, presenting both Eisenhauer and Day with checks, despite the fact that Mrs. Walter was still alive.

Eisenhauer informed the bank that Mrs. Walter was living. He then deposited his funds into an account belonging to Mrs. Walter. The bank requested that Day return her share of the funds. A temporary guardian watching over Mrs. Walters signed an indemnity agreement permitting Day to keep her funds.

Mrs. Walter died in 2005, and the bank did not reimburse the Walter estate for the amount distributed to Day. Eisenhauer sued the bank, and the jury found that while it breached its agreement with Mrs. Walter, her estate did not incur any damages. The trial court granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Eisenhauer, awarding damages in the amount of the funds the bank issued to Day. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Issue: Whether the trial court erred by granting Eisenhauer’s JNOV motion.

The Court held that the trial court erred by granting Eisenhauer’s JNOV because Mrs. Walter’s estate was not damaged by Day’s conduct.

The Court reasoned that the funds promised to Day were never a part of Mrs. Walter’s estate. Mrs. Walter may have experienced damages had she tried to access the funds after Day withdrew them, but the evidence did not indicate that Mrs. Walter ever attempted to doso. Given the evidence, regardless of whether the bank distributed the funds before Mrs. Walter’s death, her estate would have received nothing, exactly as she intended. The bank breached its agreement with Mrs. Walter, but her estate did not suffer any harm.

In this case, the Court reversed the court of appeals decision, ordering that Eisenhauer take nothing.