ESTATE OF ELLA MAE HAIRE, ET AL.
SHELBY J. WEBSTER, ET AL.
September 12, 2017 Session
from the Chancery Court for Knox County No. 191583-2 Clarence
E. Pridemore, Jr., Chancellor
appeal arises from a family dispute over joint bank accounts.
Phillip Daniel Haire ("Danny Haire") sued First
Tennessee Bank National Association ("the Bank") in
the Chancery Court for Knox County ("the Trial
Court") alleging, among other things, breach of
contract. The Bank had allowed Danny Haire's late mother
Ella Mae Haire ("Decedent") to remove him
unilaterally as joint tenant with right of survivorship from
certain accounts. The Bank filed a motion to dismiss, which
the Trial Court granted. Danny Haire appealed. We hold,
inter alia, that Danny Haire's complaint failed
to identify which contract term the Bank allegedly breached,
and that Decedent could have removed all of the funds from
the account, thus effectuating the same practical result as
that which actually occurred. We affirm the judgment of the
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
M. McNabb, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Phillip
Daniel Haire, individually and as personal representative of
the Estate of Ella Mae Haire.
Michael Winchester and E. Brian Sellers, Knoxville,
Tennessee, for the appellee, First Tennessee Bank National
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Charles D. Susano, Jr. and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ.,
Michael Swiney, C.J.,
appeal involves a family dispute over Decedent's bank
accounts. Danny Haire, Decedent's son, is the personal
representative of Decedent's estate. According to Danny
Haire, the Bank wrongly allowed his siblings to alter for
their benefit pay-on-death beneficiaries and survivorship
status on Decedent's checking and savings account with
husband died in 2008, and Decedent became the sole owner of
the property she had held jointly with her husband. Joyce
Heath, Danny Haire, Shelby Webster, and David Haire are
surviving children of the deceased. Danny Haire took care of
his widowed elderly mother. Decedent added Danny Haire as a
joint tenant with right of survivorship to her checking and
savings accounts with the Bank. Danny Haire also served as
Decedent's attorney-in-fact for financial matters from
August 2005 through October 2012.
2012, a family disagreement arose. Consequently, Danny
Haire's siblings David Haire and Shelby Webster assumed
management of Decedent's affairs. In October 2012,
Decedent executed a new durable power of attorney designating
David Haire as her attorney-in-fact. Signature cards executed
in 2012 purportedly removed Danny Haire as joint tenant with
right of survivorship from the accounts he shared with
Decedent. In November 2013, Decedent died. Upon
Decedent's death, the funds in Decedent's checking
account, around $11, 500, were paid to David Haire and Shelby
Webster, and the funds in the savings account, around $129,
000, were paid to Shelby Webster alone. Danny Haire never
received any funds.
2016, Danny Haire filed suit, individually, and as personal
representative of Decedent's estate, against the Bank and
a number of family members. This appeal, however, concerns
only the Bank. Danny Haire's original complaint alleged
breach of contract and conversion. In July 2016, the Bank
filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. In October 2016, Danny Haire
filed a motion to amend his complaint, this time dropping the
conversion claim and adding negligence and breach of bailment
contract claims. The Bank did not oppose the amended
complaint, but the Trial Court did not enter an order
allowing the amended complaint until some months later in
March 2017. Danny Haire's amended complaint stated, in
part, as follows:
57. Beginning in June of 2012, David Haire and Shelby
Webster, through various signature cards, changed the account
owners, authorized account signatories, and pay-on-death
beneficiaries for Decedent's Checking Account and Savings
Account. (collectively the "Accounts") for the
benefit of David Haire and Shelby Webster.
58.Although some of the signature cards might have been
signed by Decedent, Decedent was either incompetent or under
the undue influence of David Haire and Shelby Webster at the
time the signature cards were executed and presented to First
59.A copy of the void or voidable signature cards for the
Checking Account are attached hereto and incorporated herein
as Collective Exhibit F.
60. A copy of the void or voidable signature cards for the
Savings Account are attached hereto and incorporated herein
as Collective Exhibit G.
61. Upon information and belief, David Haire and/or Shelby
Webster (collectively, the "Fiduciaries") also
forged the signature of account co-owner Danny Haire on some
of the signature cards.
62.In particular, upon information and belief, the
Fiduciaries forged Danny Haire's signatures on the
Checking Account signature card dated June 7, 2012, and the
Savings Account signature card dated June 7, 2012, which
resulted in Danny Haire being removed as a co-owner from both
63. The Fiduciaries made these changes without Danny
Haire's knowledge or permission.
64. Danny Haire did not sign any of the signature cards at
65.The Fiduciaries also changed the addresses for the
accounts from Decedent's address to David Haire's
66.At all times relevant to this action, including the dates
on which the signature cards were purportedly signed by
Decedent and/or the Fiduciaries, Decedent lacked the legal
capacity to execute or understand the nature of those
67. The end result of the wrongful acts of the Fiduciaries
was that the balance of the Checking Account (approximately
$11, 500.00) was paid to David Haire and Shelby Webster upon
Decedent's death, and the balance of the Savings Account
(approximately $129, 000.00) was paid to Shelby Webster upon
68. No funds were paid to Danny Haire, who was a co-owner on
both accounts in early 2012 prior to the Fiduciaries'
69. Danny Haire did not become aware of the changes until
some time after Decedent's death, when he expected that
he would have been contacted by First Tennessee Bank as the
surviving co-owner of the Checking Account and Savings
70. The changes made by the Fiduciaries through those
signature cards from and after June 2012 are void or voidable
due to Decedent's lack of capacity or undue influence.
71.The signature cards dated June 7, 2012, are also void or
voidable due to the forged signature of Danny Haire.
72.The Court should impose a constructive trust upon the
assets of the Accounts for the benefit of Decedent's
Estate and/or Danny Haire personally (as co-owner of the
73. To the extent that the Account funds are not traceable or
recoverable, the Plaintiffs request a judgment for money
damages for the benefit of Decedent's Estate and/or Danny
Haire personally (as co-owners of the Accounts), plus
Ill: Breach of Contract by First Tennessee Bank for Changing
Ownership of Jointly Titled Bank Accounts
74. Paragraphs 1 through 73 of this Complaint are
incorporated herein as if set forth verbatim.
75. Danny Haire had signed many signature cards for First
Tennessee Bank prior to 2012, including signature cards for
several certificates of deposit and bank accounts owned
jointly with Decedent.
76. First Tennessee Bank knew or should have known that the
signature of Danny Haire on the June 7, 2012, signature cards
had been forged.
77. First Tennessee Bank breached its contract with Decedent
and Danny Haire by removing Danny Haire as a co-owner of the
Savings Account and Checking Account without the valid
signature or express authorization of Danny Haire.
78. First Tennessee Bank deprived Danny Haire of co-ownership
and the use of funds in the accounts by accepting the forged
signature on the signature cards and removing Danny Haire as
a co-owner of the Savings Account and Checking Account.
79. The actions of First Tennessee Bank constitute a breach
of contract, for which Plaintiffs are entitled to damages.
IV: Action for Damages for Negligence by First Tennessee Bank
for Changing Ownership of Jointly Titled Bank Accounts
80. Paragraphs 1 through 79 of this Complaint are
incorporated herein as if set forth verbatim.
81.First Tennessee Bank owed Danny Haire a duty of care as a
co-owner of the Savings Account and Checking Account.
82.First Tennessee Bank breached that duty of care by
accepting the forged signature on the signature cards and
removing Danny Haire as a co-owner of the Savings Account and
83. Danny Haire suffered damages as a result of First
Tennessee Bank's actions.
84. The actions of First Tennessee Bank constitute
negligence, for which Plaintiffs are entitled to damages.
V: Breach of Bailment Contract by First Tennessee Bank for