McGimsey v. GrayAnnotate this Case
In appeal no. 1161016, Margaret McGimsey, Cathy Cramer, Barbara McCollum, and Marilyn Busch (referred to collectively as "the nieces") appealed the grant of summary judgement entered in favor of Lynda Jeanette Gray, individually and as the personal representative of the estate of Thomas Leonard Pitts, deceased, in a will contest they initiated following Pitts's death; the nieces also challenged the trial court's order directing them to reimburse Gray $8,393 for court costs and certain litigation expenses. In appeal no. 1161055, Gray cross-appealed, arguing that the trial court exceeded its discretion by not also entering an award of attorney fees in her favor. The Alabama Supreme Court was satisfied the nieces identified evidence indicating: (1) Gray assisted Pitts in an initial attempt to revise his existing will sometime in 2010; (2) that Gray gave conflicting accounts regarding her presence in Pitts's meeting with hospice services that led to Howard contacting Pitts; (3) Gray helped with the scheduling of the meeting at which the November 2010 will was executed and arranged for the witnesses to be at that meeting; (4) that Gray was in the house both times Howard met with Pitts; and (5) that the nieces were not told about the November 2010 will when it was executed. This evidence was sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact with regard to whether there was undue activity on Gray's part in procuring the execution of the November 2010 will. Inasmuch as the nieces put forth substantial evidence of all three elements of an undue-influence claim, the trial court erred by entering a summary judgment in favor of Gray on that claim, and that judgment was reversed. Moreover, inasmuch as section 43-8-196 Ala. Code 1975 provides that a will contestant is liable for the costs of the contest only if the contest "fails," the trial court's judgment was also reversed to the extent it ordered the nieces to reimburse Gray $8,393.