Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jarnigan v. Moyers

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 2, 2018


          Session Date: September 13, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Hamblen County No. 2016-CV-143 Douglas T. Jenkins, Chancellor

         This case involves allegations of fraud and undue influence with respect to the estate of Brenda Vargo (the deceased). Following the deceased's death, four surviving family members discovered that they were no longer designated as "payable-on-death" beneficiaries on several of the deceased's bank accounts. These family members filed suit against Claude Moyers (Mr. Moyers), alleging that Mr. Moyers's wife, Wanda Moyers (Mrs. Moyers), persuaded the deceased, "through fraud or undue influence, " to close some of her bank accounts and to name Mr. Moyers as the sole payable-on-death beneficiary on the remaining accounts. Following a bench trial, the court determined that Mrs. Moyers had a confidential relationship with the deceased; hence, creating a rebuttable presumption of undue influence. The trial court imputed the undue influence of Mrs. Moyers to Mr. Moyers. Ultimately, the trial court determined that Mr. Moyers failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence by clear and convincing evidence. Consequently, the court divested Mr. Moyers of his interest in the disputed funds. Mr. Moyers appeals. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed; Case Remanded

          Link A. Gibbons, Morristown, Tennessee, and Katherine A. Young, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Claude Moyers.

          Mark A. Cowan, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellees, Barbara Jarnigan, Wanda Lovin, Mattie Noe, and Peggy Light.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.




         The deceased first met Mrs. Moyers in 2005 or 2006 when Mrs. Moyers began preparing the Vargos' taxes. However, the parties agree that Mrs. Moyers did not become a close friend of the deceased until the deceased's husband passed away in March 2014. Thereafter, Mrs. Moyers spent significantly more time with the deceased. The two women spoke over the telephone frequently. Mrs. Moyers also began driving the deceased to the grocery store and doctor's appointments.

         Mr. Moyers did not develop a personal relationship with the deceased until the early months of 2015. He testified that he began visiting the deceased at home in January 2015. The plaintiffs contend that Mr. Moyers did not begin spending time with the deceased until after March 31, 2015. According to Mr. Moyers, he spent considerable time sitting and talking with the deceased, taking her out to eat, and helping her around the house. At least one plaintiff testified that the deceased "loved" both Mr. and Mrs. Moyers. Before this litigation ensued, plaintiffs also asked Mr. Moyers to be a pallbearer at the deceased's funeral.

         On April 23, 2015, Mrs. Moyers drove the deceased to the TVA Employees Credit Union, where she helped the deceased open several new bank accounts. At that time, the deceased listed the plaintiffs, in various combinations, as payable-on-death beneficiaries on different accounts. On May 11, 2015, the deceased executed a new general membership agreement with the bank in which she designated Mr. Moyers as the payable-on-death beneficiary. The execution of that document revoked and superseded all prior agreements between the deceased and the bank, thus extinguishing any legal interest the plaintiffs had in the funds. Sometime later, the deceased closed three of the accounts on which most of the plaintiffs had originally been named as beneficiaries. Only four accounts remained open at the time of the deceased's death. Of those four accounts, only one account had previously listed any of the plaintiffs as beneficiaries. Plaintiff Brenda Jarnigan was the original beneficiary on that account.

         Mr. and Mrs. Moyers both testified that they had absolutely no involvement with the deceased's decision to name Mr. Moyers as a beneficiary or her decision to close some of her accounts. According to Mr. and Mrs. Moyers, they did not drive the deceased to the bank when she made those changes; nor did they provide the deceased with certain personal information (such as Mr. Moyers's Social Security Number) that would have been required. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Moyers claim they were unaware that the deceased had named Mr. Moyers as a beneficiary until after the deceased's death. Plaintiffs offer no direct evidence that Mr. and Mrs. Moyers had personal knowledge of the deceased's desire to name Mr. Moyers as a payable-on-death beneficiary. Nor do the plaintiffs offer evidence that Mrs. Moyers provided the deceased with transportation on her May 11, 2015 trip to the bank. Instead, plaintiffs merely assert that "[Mrs. Moyers] started moving money around and had her husband's name put on a document purporting to trump all of the plaintiffs' beneficiary designations." The plaintiffs also claim that "[i]n all likelihood" the deceased would not have closed some of her other accounts "had [Mrs. Moyers] not interfered."


         Mr. Moyers raises four issues on this appeal, which we have restated slightly:

Whether the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case because of the plaintiffs' alleged lack of standing.
Whether the trial court erred in declining to grant Mr. Moyers's motion for a directed verdict.
Whether the trial court erred in finding that Mrs. Moyers exerted undue influence over the deceased.
Whether the trial court erred in imputing the undue influence ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.