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Green v. Green

Supreme Court of Idaho

January 23, 2017

DWIGHT RANDY GREEN, as an individual, as the son of Ralph and Jeanne Green, and as Shareholder of Green Enterprises, Inc.; KATHY LEFOR, as an individual, as the daughter of Ralph and Jeanne Green, and as a Shareholder of Green Enterprises, Inc.; and GARY GREEN, as an individual, as the son of Ralph and Jeanne Green, and as a Shareholder of Green Enterprises, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
JAMES GREEN, as an individual, as Trustee of the Ralph Maurice and Jeanne Green Revocable Inter Vivos Trust, as Conservator for Jeanne Green, and as President of Green Enterprises, Inc.; RALPH MAURICE AND JEANNE GREEN REVOCABLE INTER VIVOS TRUST; and GREEN ENTERPRISES, INC., an Idaho corporation, Defendants-Respondents.

         2017 Opinion No. 4

         Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Silvey Law Office, LTD, Star, for appellants. Greg Silvey argued.

          John F. Magnuson, Coeur d'Alene, for respondent.

          HORTON, Justice

         This is an appeal from the district court's order granting summary judgment and dismissing a lawsuit brought by Dwight Randy Green, Kathy Lefor, and Gary Green (collectively, "Siblings") against James Green ("James"). Siblings brought this action to challenge the Sixth Amendment to the Ralph Maurice and Jeanne Green Revocable Inter Vivos Trust ("the Trust"), alleging it was the product of undue influence. The Trust was amended from an equal distribution between all of Ralph and Jeanne Green's children to a 100% distribution to James to the exclusion of the Siblings. The district court granted summary judgment after determining that Siblings had failed to show a genuine issue of material fact which would support a finding of undue influence. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In 1965, Jeanne Green inherited approximately 400 acres of property on Lake Pend Oreille in Bonner County. The property consists of timberland and includes 3, 500 feet of shoreline. In 1976, Ralph and Jeanne formed Green Family Enterprises, Inc. ("the corporation") and Jeanne conveyed the property to the corporation. The corporation's property includes four cabins and leasable sites for about 16 other cabins. The corporation's income comes from leasing property and logging operations.

         Ralph and Jeanne have five children, Siblings, James, and Sheila Green ("Sheila"). Sheila is disabled and not a party to this action. By 1998, Ralph and Jeanne had gifted a 10% interest in the corporation to each of the Siblings and James. In 1998, Ralph and Jeanne created the Trust to hold their remaining 60% interest in the corporation. The Trust was to be distributed equally among their children upon Ralph and Jeanne's death.

         On April 2, 2010, the corporation held a shareholder meeting at which Siblings expressed the desire to use the property to generate revenue. Later in 2010, the corporation's bylaws were amended to reduce the number of directors from six to three and Siblings were not elected to the board of directors. During this later meeting, Siblings opposed a proposition to give James a long term lease of a cabin site on the property for a reduced price as they felt it would be an unequal distribution to shareholders. Siblings felt the long term lease at a greatly reduced rate could be viewed as self-dealing and jeopardize the tax status of the corporation. Following this meeting, Ralph and Jeanne expressed to Tevis Hull, the corporation's attorney, their desire to amend the Trust to make James first successor trustee in the place of Gary Green. Hull stated that he was not comfortable making this amendment and suggested they seek the help of another attorney.

         On April 18, 2011, John Finney, counsel for Siblings, sent a letter to the corporation's tenants. The letter provided in part:

This letter is to inform you and to put you on notice that my clients have concerns involving conduct of certain shareholders, directors and/or officers of the Corporation, specifically including but not limited to Ralph Green and Jeanne Green. The concerns involve, but are not limited to, the competency and/or legal capacity of Ralph Green and/or Jeanne Green to negotiate and/or enter into new leases or renewals of your leases and also the legal authority for anyone to purport to negotiate and/or enter into longer term leases on the property.
Steps are underway to address my clients [sic] concerns, but any purported efforts to enter into long term leases or other purported leases, contrary to the existing annual leasing system terms, will be subjected to severe scrutiny, and if necessary, legal action….

         On April 29, 2011, Ralph and Jeanne met with Richard Wallace, an estate attorney in northern Idaho. Ralph and Jeanne had been referred to Wallace by Steve Klatt, who began working for the ...


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