Widow's challenge of Operating Agreement, as Personal Representative of Estate, not frivolous
Claudette Reaume was appointed the Personal Representative of her husband, Jeffrey's Estate. On Jeffrey's death, his partner, Steven Matta, notified her of his plan to purchase the decedent's interest in the PLC. She attempted to block the sale through an action in Probate Court. The Defendant partner sought summary disposition and won. He then asked the Court to award sanctions for the pursuit of a frivolous claim.
The Court held a hearing and concluded that while the widow/PR's objections to the sale were frivolous, her objections to the Defendant's valuation were not. He relied in part on the fact that the Defendant presented expert testimony on the issues, while the widow did not. The trial judge awarded sanctions of just over $20,000.00 against the widow and her attorney, jointly and severally. They appealed.
The Court of Appeals overturned the sanction award, finding that the widow had raised a legitimate question of law which--although ultimately mistaken--was properly decided by the Court and not by the parties' expert witnesses. This was particularly true give the Personal Representative's fiduciary duty to act in the interest of the Estate and the heirs and interested persons.