Friday, December 27, 2013

Bernhard v. Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association case brief

Bernhard v. Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association case brief summary
122 P.2d 892 (Cal. 1942)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff administratrix of a decedent's estate brought an action against defendant bank to recover a bank deposit, claiming that the decedent never authorized its withdrawal. The administratrix appealed from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which entered judgment for the bank on the grounds of res judicata because ownership of the money had been conclusively established by an earlier finding of a probate court.

CASE FACTS
The executor of an estate filed an account in probate court accompanied by his resignation. Beneficiaries under the will, including plaintiff, filed objections to the account alleging that money was improperly transferred to the former executor. The probate court settled the account and declared that the decedent made a gift of the amount of the deposit in question to the executor. Plaintiff was subsequently appointed as administratrix and instituted an action to recover the deposit against defendant bank on the grounds that defendant was indebted to the estate for the amount of the deposit because decedent never authorized its withdrawal.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court's ruling that the plea of res judicata was available against plaintiff as a party to the former proceeding, despite her formal change of capacity. 
  • Plaintiff represented the same persons and interests that were represented in the earlier hearing on the executor's account.
CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the judgment for defendant in plaintiff administratrix's action to recover a bank deposit, because the plea of res judicata was available against plaintiff as a party to the former proceeding despite plaintiff's formal change of capacity.

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