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Mazor v. Farrell

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

June 21, 2018

John Mazor, et al., Appellants,
v.
Elizabeth Farrell, Appellee.

          Argued December 7, 2017

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (LIT-19-12) (Hon. Gerald I. Fisher, Trial Judge) (

          Daniel Morris, with whom David I. Ackerman was on the brief, for appellants.

          William E. Davis for appellee.

          Before Glickman, Fisher, and McLeese, Associate Judges.

          MCLEESE, ASSOCIATE JUDGE

         Appellants John and William Mazor ("the Mazor brothers") sued their father Julian Mazor ("Mr. Mazor") and their father's second wife, appellee Elizabeth Farrell, to recover funds misappropriated from the estate of their grandmother Esther Mazor. The trial court found Ms. Farrell liable to the Mazor brothers for unjust enrichment of over $300, 000. In the present appeal, the Mazor brothers challenge the trial court's decision that they were not entitled to prejudgment interest on that award under D.C. Code § 15-108 (2012 Repl.) (in action to recover "liquidated debt on which interest is payable by contract or by law or usage, " judgment shall include award of prejudgment interest). We affirm.

         I.

         The following facts either are undisputed or were found by the trial court. Ms. Mazor died in 1993. Mr. Mazor was a co-trustee of two trusts (Trust A and Trust B) to be funded equally from Ms. Mazor's residuary estate, valued at over $3 million. Trust B was established for the benefit of the Mazor brothers and Trust A would benefit Mr. Mazor during his lifetime with any remainder going to Trust B.

         Neither trust was initially funded. Instead, funds from the estate were placed into an account owned and controlled by Mr. Mazor. Mr. Mazor used the funds for himself and Ms. Farrell, without regard to whether the funds belonged to Trust A or Trust B.

          The Mazor brothers eventually sued Mr. Mazor and Ms. Farrell to recover funds misappropriated from the estate. Mr. Mazor defaulted on the Mazor brothers' claims against him, but Ms. Farrell contested her liability.

         Mr. Mazor and Ms. Farrell were married in 1999. By marrying Mr. Mazor, Ms. Farrell forfeited alimony payments she had been receiving from her previous marriage. Until the Mazor brothers filed suit, Ms. Farrell did not suspect, and had no reason to suspect, that Mr. Mazor had misappropriated estate funds to support their marriage.

         Ms. Farrell benefited from Mr. Mazor's misuse of estate funds in several ways. She drew from accounts containing funds traceable to estate funds for daily household and living expenses throughout the marriage. In 1999, the couple used approximately $1 million traceable to estate funds to purchase and improve a house in Washington, D.C. In 2005, Mr. Mazor provided $330, 000 to Ms. Farrell for the down payment on a house in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, $234, 000 of which was traced to estate funds. Mr. Mazor also provided Ms. Farrell with approximately $86, 000 traced to estate funds to cover mortgage payments for the Cape Cod house.

         The Mazor brothers sued Ms. Farrell for unjust enrichment, seeking among other things repayment of funds traceable to the estate, title to and rents from the Cape Cod house, and prejudgment interest. The trial court granted summary judgment on the issue of liability, concluding that it was undisputed that Ms. Farrell benefited from funds misappropriated from the estate. The ...


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