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Morris v. Morris

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

March 5, 2015

GEORGE H. MORRIS, JR., APPELLANT,
v.
KENNETH MORRIS and KEITH MORRIS, APPELLEES

Submitted November 18, 2014

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-2304-12). (Hon. Maurice A. Ross, Trial Judge).

So ordered.

Kenneth C. Crickman and Robert Clayton Cooper for appellant.

Kevin Zieleniewski for appellees.

Before GLICKMAN and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

OPINION

McLeese, Associate Judge.

Appellant George H. Morris, Jr. (" George Morris" ) challenges the trial court's finding that he defrauded appellees Kenneth and Keith Morris. We conclude that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of fraud. We therefore reverse the finding of fraud and the accompanying award of damages.

I.

After a bench trial, the trial court found the following facts. Virginia Morris, the mother of George, Kenneth, and Keith Morris, died in 2006 with no living spouse. Her estate included a home in Washington, D.C. The parties produced copies of two wills purportedly executed by Ms. Morris, one from 2003 and the other apparently from 2004. The 2003 will gave the family home to George Morris and appointed George Morris as the personal representative of the estate. The 2004 will gave the family home jointly to George and Kenneth Morris. The parties did not produce an original of either will.

In 2003, Ms. Morris signed a deed conveying the family home to George Morris and herself as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. In 2004, Ms. Morris and George Morris signed another deed conveying the family home to themselves and Kenneth Morris as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. In 2007, George Morris alone signed and recorded a deed in which he purported to convey the family home to himself.

Page 1274

Kenneth and Keith Morris subsequently sued George Morris, claiming among other things that George Morris had committed fraud and unlawfully converted property. Kenneth and Keith Morris sought rescission of the 2007 deed, a determination that the 2004 deed was valid, and an award of money damages.

Because no original of Ms. Morris's will could be found, the trial court concluded that Ms. Morris died intestate. Noting that George Morris did not defend the validity of the 2007 deed, the trial court gave effect to the 2004 deed and determined that Kenneth and George Morris jointly owned the home. On the claim of unlawful conversion, the trial court found George Morris liable for converting personal property of the estate and awarded Kenneth and Keith Morris $32,000 in damages. With respect to the fraud claim, the trial court concluded that George Morris had committed fraud by filing the 2007 deed. The trial court awarded Kenneth and Keith Morris $96,000 in damages on the fraud claim. The trial court based that award on the " delay in ...


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