JIMMIE HODGE, as Guardian, for and on behalf of PAUL R. WELCH, an incapacitated person, Interpleader/Defendant-Cross Claimant-Appellant,
KATHY WAGGONER and TERESA VITEK, Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of BARBARA SUE CHITWOOD, deceased, Interpleader/Defendants-Cross Defendants-Respondents.
from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Twin Falls County. Hon. Randy J. Stoker, District
court grant of summary judgment, affirmed.
Randslaw, PLLC, Twin Falls, for appellant. Kirk A. Melton
Williams, Meservy & Lothspeich, LLP, Jerome, for
respondents. John B. Lothspeich argued.
BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE.
estate of Paul Robert Welch (Welch) appeals the Twin Falls
County district court's grant of summary judgment to the
estate of Barbara Sue Chitwood (Chitwood). Chitwood was
murdered in August 2015, at which time a dispute arose over
ownership of funds Chitwood and Welch held at Farmers Bank in
two bank accounts designated as "JOINT - WITH
SURVIVORSHIP (and not as tenants in common or community
property)[.]" Farmers Bank interpled the funds with the
district court and initiated this action to resolve the
dispute. Law enforcement's investigation into
Chitwood's death led to Welch being charged with
murdering Chitwood. Accordingly, in the interpleader action,
Chitwood asserted Idaho's slayer statute, Idaho Code
section 15-2-803, precluded Welch from taking the funds.
district court ruled on summary judgment that the funds went
to Chitwood, concluding Chitwood's slayer statute defense
was dispositive. Welch appeals the district court's
ruling concerning the funds. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
wife, Lillian, died in December 2012. Lillian and Welch never
divorced, but they separated several years before Lillian
died. Indeed, in 2005, Welch began cohabiting with Chitwood,
with whom Welch had an intimate relationship. Chitwood and
Welch never had a ceremonial marriage, but they cohabited and
dated until Chitwood's death in August 2015.
Lillian and Welch's marriage, they maintained a joint
checking account at Farmers Bank. The checking account was
designated "JOINT - WITH SURVIVORSHIP (and not as
tenants in common)[.]" In July 2012, Welch opened a
savings account with Farmers Bank. He designated the savings
account as a "pay-on-death" account and identified
Chitwood as the beneficiary in the event of Welch's
Lillian's death in December 2012, Welch modified the
checking and savings accounts (collectively, the Joint
Accounts). He first modified the savings account.
Specifically, in January 2013, Welch added Chitwood to the
savings account and changed the designation from
"pay-on-death" to "JOINT - WITH SURVIVORSHIP
(and not as tenants in common or community property)[.]"
Six months later, in June 2013, Welch modified the checking
account by removing Lillian and adding Chitwood as a
joint-account holder. Welch did not otherwise change the
checking account, leaving in place the "JOINT - WITH
SURVIVORSHIP" designation that had been in place from
when Welch held the account with Lillian. Though Chitwood was
designated as a joint-account holder, Welch contributed 100%
of the Joint Accounts' funds.
was murdered on August 21, 2015, at the home where she
resided with Welch. Detective Rick Van Vooren investigated
the murder. In doing so, Van Vooren interviewed Welch. Welch
"initially claimed that two intruders came into the home
seeking to rape [Chitwood] and demanded money." Welch,
however, "eventually confessed to shooting Chitwood
twice in the head with the .22 pistol located in the master
bedroom of the residence." Welch then "shot himself
in the face with the .22 pistol" and was admitted to the
hospital. Welch confirmed that "his statements of
intruders was [sic] untrue." Ultimately, based on
Welch's confession and "the evidence adduced from
[Van Vooren's] investigation, [Van Vooren] concluded that
Paul Welch murdered Barbara Sue Chitwood." Thereafter,
Welch was indicted for first-degree murder.
after Chitwood died, her children claimed ownership of the
funds in the Joint Accounts-then totaling over $130, 000.
Farmers Bank placed a hold on the Joint Accounts and
initiated this interpleader action to determine ownership of
the funds. Chitwood answered the interpleader complaint by
alleging, as her first and only affirmative defense, that
Welch "is not entitled to the joint accounts'
proceeds identified in the Farmers Bank Complaint because of
Idaho Code Section 15-2-803[, ]" which is Idaho's
"slayer statute." Welch, by contrast, answered the
interpleader complaint by alleging that the slayer statute
did not apply. Neither party requested a jury trial.
first moved for summary judgment in November 2015, arguing he
owned 100% of the Joint Accounts and the slayer statute did
not cause him to forfeit his property. The district court
disagreed, concluding that triable questions of fact
surrounded whether the slayer statute precluded Welch from
taking the Joint Accounts.
filed a renewed motion for summary judgment in June 2017.
Again, Welch argued he owned 100% of the Joint Accounts and
the slayer statute did not cause him to forfeit his property.
The district court again disagreed and, this time, granted
summary judgment to Chitwood as the non-movant. The district
court specifically held that the slayer statute precluded
Welch from taking the Joint Accounts and, as such, awarded
the Joint Accounts to Chitwood.Welch timely appeals the grant of
summary judgment to Chitwood concerning ownership of the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court has explained that, when it reviews a summary judgment
it does so under the same standards employed by the district
court. "The fact that the parties have filed
cross-motions for summary judgment does not change the
applicable standard of review, and this Court must evaluate
each party's motion on its own merits." Summary
judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." Idaho R. Civ. P. 56(c). Where the case
will be tried without a jury, "the trial court as the
trier of fact is entitled to arrive at the most probable
inferences based upon the undisputed evidence properly before
it and grant the summary judgment despite the possibility of
conflicting inferences." This Court freely reviews the
entire record that was before the district court to determine
whether either side was entitled to judgment as a matter of
law and whether inferences drawn by the district court are
reasonably supported by the record.
Borley v. Smith, 149 Idaho 171, 176-77, 233 P.3d
102, 107-08 (2010) (citations omitted).
appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to
Chitwood, as the non-moving party, concerning the Joint
Accounts. "This Court has determined '[s]ummary
judgment may be rendered for any party, not just the moving
party, on any or all the causes of action involved, under the
rule of civil procedure,' thus allowing trial courts
flexibility in determining the form of relief granted in
summary judgment orders." Harwood v. Talbert,
136 Idaho 672, 677, 39 P.3d 612, 617 (2001) (citations
omitted). "The party against whom the judgment will be
entered must be given adequate advance notice and an
opportunity to demonstrate why summary judgment should not be
entered." Id. at 678, 39 P.3d at 618
(quoting Idaho Endowment Fund Inv. Bd. v. Crane, 135
Idaho 667, 671, 23 P.3d 129, 133 (2001)). "In instances
where summary judgment is granted to the non-moving party,
this Court liberally construes the record in favor of the
party against whom summary judgment was entered."
Id. at 677-78, 39 P.3d at 617-18.
asserts the district court erred in two primary ways: (1) by
finding that Welch was a "slayer" under the slayer
statute; and (2) by ...