William C. Lewis, Sr., et al., Appellants,
Estate of Robert A. Lewis, et al., Appellees.
Submitted December 12, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(LIT51-13) (Hon. Gerald I. Fisher, Trial Judge)
William C. Lewis and Esther Y. Lewis, co-personal
representatives of the Estate of Amos W. Lewis, Jr., pro se.
C. Morrison and Lilia C. Machado were on the brief for
Glickman, Thompson, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
THOMPSON, ASSOCIATE JUDGE.
William C. Lewis, Sr. ("William"), and Esther Y.
Lewis ("Esther"), co-personal representatives of
the Estate of Amos W. Lewis, Jr.,  appeal from December 8,
2015, and December 11, 2015, judgments of the Superior Court,
entered upon the verdict in a bench trial, declaring that the
real property located at 638 Quebec Place N.W. (the
"Quebec Place property") is an asset of the estate
of Robert A. Lewis rather than belonging to the estate of
Amos W. Lewis, Jr. Plaintiffs/appellants also contend that
the trial court erred in ruling that they were not entitled
to a jury trial on their claims. For the reasons that follow,
litigation arose out of competing claims to real properties
once owned in their entirety by decedent Amos W. Lewis, Jr.
("Amos"), who died intestate in 1992.
Plaintiffs/appellants — Amos's estate and William
and Esther, two of Amos's surviving children, who sued in
their capacity as personal representatives of Amos's
estate — alleged in their complaint that two 1987 deeds
fraudulently conveyed title to the Quebec Place property, and
to another property located on North Capitol Street, N.W.
(the "North Capitol property"),  to Amos and his
son Robert A. Lewis.
pertinent background is as follows. After Robert A. Lewis
died intestate on August 25, 2013, his son, appellee Robert
T. Lewis, who was appointed to administer the estate, listed
the Quebec Place and North Capitol properties as assets of
the estate of Robert A. Lewis. That prompted William and
Esther, who believed that the properties had belonged to Amos
alone (after the death of Amos's wife in 1986), to
petition for probate of Amos's estate. After their
appointment as personal representatives of Amos's estate,
William and Esther listed the two properties as assets of
on November 1, 2013, William and Esther caused the instant
suit to be filed in the Superior Court on behalf of
Amos's estate, alleging fraudulent conveyance, wrongful
withholding of estate assets, and unjust enrichment. The crux
of appellants' allegations was that the December 1987
deeds purporting to transfer interests in the Quebec Place
and North Capitol properties to Robert A. Lewis were
fraudulent because "the signature[s] conveying title to
the properties . . . [were] not Amos W. Lewis's
signature." Plaintiffs/appellants alleged that
"Robert A. Lewis either forged or caused his
father's signature to be forged on the [d]eeds[, ]
vesting title in himself."
in the matter began on October 26, 2015, and the trial court
heard from several witnesses. In the summary that follows, we
focus on the testimony the court heard that was relevant to
whether the signature on the December 8, 1987, deed conveying
the Quebec Place property was Amos's
signature. Naomi Williams ("Naomi"),
another one of Amos's surviving children, testified that
"from about August 1987 to the day [Amos] died [in
1992] he was totally with [her]" in Detroit, Michigan.
She further testified that after Amos suffered a stroke in
November 1987, she went to stay with him in the house he
owned in Detroit. She told the court that Amos thereafter had
four additional strokes, in 1988, 1989, 1991, and 1992, and
potentially "little mini strokes in between." After
the second stroke in 1988, Naomi told the court, she
"brought [Amos] into her house" where he stayed,
and where someone was present with him "24/7,"
until his death in 1992. Naomi testified that her father
"couldn't travel by himself, and [she and her
husband] were both working." Naomi further testified
about Amos's signature, stating that "he wrote
big" as he "moved his whole arm" when signing
documents. Referring to the signature on one of the December
1987 deeds, Naomi told the court that she had "never
seen a signature [by Amos] this small." She opined that
there was "no way" that Amos "could have
personally appeared before [Bernice Stone, the notary who
notarized the 1987 deeds]" because he was in Detroit on
the date the deeds were executed.
Lewis ("Gordon"), another of Amos's surviving
offspring, told the court that "after [his] mother
died" in October 1986, "to [his] knowledge,"
his father never "c[a]me to the District of Columbia
again." William testified that while the signatures on
the deeds "appear to be similar to [his] father's
signature, . . . [they are] not [his] father's
handwriting." William explained that his father
"wrote big." William also told the court that Amos
"wasn't [in the District of Columbia] on those dates
[December 7 and 8, 1987] to sign that signature" and
instead "was in Detroit."
testified that after her father got sick, she and William
attempted to get him moved from a hospital in Detroit to a
hospital in the District of Columbia but were unable to
successfully move him because "he wasn't able to
travel" between 1987 and 1991. She further stated that
the signatures on the December 7 and December 8, 1987, deeds
"do not appear to be [Amos's] signature" and
that "[i]t was . . . impossible for [her] father to be
[in the District] during that time."
trial court announced its verdict with respect to the Quebec
Place property on December 8, 2015. The court explained that,
in reaching its verdict, it gave little weight to trial
testimony recounting statements that family members
purportedly made about who owned or would own the property.
Rather, the court stated, the "real key to th[e] case .
. . [wa]s the examination of the signatures" on the deed
and "the question of whether plaintiffs ha[d] proven by
clear and convincing evidence that Amos Lewis was not in the
District of Columbia on December 7th and 8th of 1987."
The court found that plaintiffs/appellants had not met their
burden of showing by clear and convincing ...