GALA JOHNSON-MURRAY ET AL. V. RODNEY BURNS ET AL. - Articles

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Posted by: Landry Butler on Mar 14, 2017

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Jonathan L. Miley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Gala Johnson-Murray and Bertha Mary Murray.

Attorneys 2:

J. Timothy Street, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellees, Rodney Burns and Aretha Kaye Burns.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

Nieces of the decedent contest the validity of a quitclaim deed and the decedent's will on the ground they were the result of undue influence exerted upon the decedent by her stepson and his wife. The quitclaim deed conveyed the decedent's real property to herself, her stepson, and his wife as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The will bequeathed the decedent's entire estate to her stepson. Following a jury trial, the jury found that the deed and will were both valid. The nieces appeal, contending there is no material evidence to support the jury's verdict. They also contend the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the stepson, who was the decedent's attorney-in-fact, had the authority to sign the will and deed on behalf of the decedent. We have determined that the record contains material evidence to support the jury's verdict. As for the jury instructions, the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the stepson had the authority to sign the will on behalf of the decedent as her attorney-in-fact because it would not comply with mandatory requirements of the Tennessee Execution of Wills Act. With regard to whether the stepson could sign the deed on behalf of the decedent, the answer and jury instruction were incomplete to such an extent as to constitute an erroneous instruction. Nevertheless, having considered the jury instruction in its entirety, we are unable to conclude that these errors more probably than not affected the outcome of the verdict. Therefore, we affirm.