Court upholds sanction against estate trustee for misrepresenting values
AnnMarie Siwik was the trustee of her father's estate when she and her sister became embroiled in a dispute over their inheritance. Ultimately, they participated in a Case Evaluation that provided a formula for settlement. Both siblings agreed to the Evaluation, however, Siwik did not make the payments required of her. When Trombly objected, Siwik claimed there was never enough money in the Estate to comply with the Case Evaluation, so she was powerless to comply. The trial court ultimately ruled that Siwik and her attorney should pay sanctions of $30,000.00 for "filing inconsistent and inaacurate accounts, pleadings, and testimony...fraught with fabrication of facts, figures and distorted values." The attorneys joined in Siwik's appeal, arguing that he simply relied upon Siwik's information.
The Court of Appeals upheld the award in its entirety. It noted that the sanctions were not payable because Siwik did not pay the Case Evaluation she agreed to, but rather because her subsequent accounting showed that she had filed false pleadings that damaged the integrity of the litigation. For example, she had falsely claimed to have taken only $5,000.00 out of the father's bank account at a time when she had actually removed the entire balance of nearly $125,000.00 .
As for the trustee's attorney being jointly liable for the sanction, the opiniondoesn't have much to say. It does note, however, that he "knew or should have known" of his client's improper behavior.