Rollins v. RollinsAnnotate this Case
This trust management dispute has made a repeat trip to the Georgia Supreme Court. In their complaint, the plaintiffs raised claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of trust against the defendants by:(1) allegedly failing to make proper accountings to plaintiffs with respect to certain S-Trusts and family entities; (2) by making trust investments in illiquid family-owned entities (leaving the plaintiffs with unmarketable assets when the S-Trust assets are distributed free of trust to each beneficiary upon reaching the mandated age); (3) by creating a distribution scheme that imposes a code of conduct upon each beneficiary to qualify for distributions from trust investments; by creating a conflicts of interest; and (4) by failing to maximize income distributions in favor of growing trust principal. Plaintiffs also asserted claims for an accounting; constructive fraud/recision for failure to disclose and fraudulent misrepresentation regarding certain transactions allegedly improperly obtained the plaintiffs’ written consent; and for attorney fees. Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants as to each of plaintiffs’ claims, with the exception of the breach of trust claim for the defendants’ failure, at any time prior to the filing of the lawsuit, to make required periodic accountings to the plaintiffs for the assets held in the trusts. The Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals erred with respect to its ruling that defendants owed the plaintiffs an accounting of the family entities, concluding that the Court of Appeals failed to give due deference to the trial court’s discretion to grant or deny the equitable relief sought in the prayer for an accounting. The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals for it to reconsider the accounting issue. Upon remand, the Court of Appeals again found fact issues remain for jury determination with respect to whether the defendants breached their fiduciary duty or committed a breach of trust. Court of Appeals also remanded to the trial court the issue of whether the defendants owed the plaintiffs an accounting of the family entities held as trust assets so the trial court could reconsider its decision and exercise its discretion in light of the Court of Appeals’ opinion. Defendants petitioned for certiorari. The Supreme Court directed the parties to address the question of whether a jury had to determine which fiduciary duty applied to the various decisions and transactions made by the defendants. The Supreme Court again reversed the Court of Appeals, concluding that the trial court properly ruled with respect to its summary judgment decision.